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

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>05/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Child and Family Social Work
Issue number2
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)209-217
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date17/02/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English


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.