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Open spaces, supple bodies?: considering the impact of agile working on social work office practices

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2014
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Number of pages9
Early online date17/02/14
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

There has been a shift towards social workers in many areas of the UK
being based in large open plan offices and working more flexibly and
remotely in space. This approach is commonly referred to as ‘agile
working’. The paper explores the impact of agile working on social
workers’ practices and experiences in office spaces. It discusses data
from an ethnographic study of children’s safeguarding social work
teams in two locations. One team was based in a large open plan
office and was engaged in agile working, the other team was located
in a much smaller office and was not using this approach. Data from
observations of practice, analysis of material spaces, and interviews
with social workers and those responsible for planning office space
are examined. The paper concludes that there are qualitative differences
between such spaces which are due to agile working arrangements
and which are likely to impact significantly on social workers’
experiences of practice, interactions with colleagues and development
of practice knowledge. The data also suggest a lack of understanding
in social work of the spatial requirements of practitioners
and the significance that private and open space has for children’s
social work in the current UK context.