Watch this space…Blog post #3

During the observation of the staff common room during the Monday morning meeting, the discomfort with the space was evident, and others expressed their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the meeting.  Many staff were quite neutral in their reactions and demeanour. You go, you listen, you eat, you leave. Although the initial problem was to consider the practicalities of getting a coffee and finding a seat without bumping into people, the process has me thinking about the use of the space and its potential to help nurture better relationships amongst staff.

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So a second problem emerges, for the time staff are not obliged to use the room. The space should be a welcoming place for over 100 staff, where they can have food and drinks, be comfortable, and interact, within the dynamic of the meeting, in a way that doesn’t crowd each other. My awareness that the space is used so little emerged after a further observation later in the day, where the only occupants were a couple of IT staff and a lone, separated grounds person, seated at the other end of the room. The room is neutered, so the redesign needs to incorporate the possibility of making it more attractive when there aren’t meetings. It must be adapted to both imperatives – when staff have to be there, and when they might choose to be there. Contentment in the staffroom is an untapped market.

The design brief, according to Brown (2009, p21) is not a set of instructions, but an attempt at allowing for serendipity, unpredictability and possible breakthrough ideas. He also suggest we need to regard the design as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a series of orderly steps (op.cit, p22)


  • The need to have a common staff space.
  • The distance from the other faculty offices which make the walk (up to 200 metres for some) in the cold, less than inviting.
  • The costs associated with physical redesign and new furniture.
  • The time factor; in considering the concept, gathering ideas and implementing changes.


 …achieve the following?

  • make the staff common room more warm and inviting so as to improve connections between staff?
  • get the community to see the inherent value in this communal space?
  • get the staff talking, draw them in, rethink the space and gather their ideas?
  • encourage school leaders to see the value in making changes?
  • consider different ways to disseminate information apart from meetings, considering the demand on staff time?
  • consider the repurposing of the space to nourish staff relationships?
  • create a “demand out of a need”? (Peter Drucker , quoted in Brown, 2009)

In short, how might we reconfigure this space, so it does well and warmly what it does badly now, and be an appealing forum for staff to gather, and so defeat the 95% redundancy factor?

So let’s start by..

  • investigating costs associated with new benches, seating, coffee machines, new furniture, new layout, whatever it takes
  • creating the opportunity for staff to add ideas for their own desire lines -setting the desire paths, where they choose to go
  • creating an online space to disseminate information to free up staff time together for more productive and engaging activities




Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness


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Comment on Yvette’s design brief


3 thoughts on “Watch this space…Blog post #3

  1. Hello Deborah,

    Very interesting brief!

    I perceive that the HMW, “get the community to see the inherent value in this communal space?” as essential to the success of this redesign. therefore, your willingness to embrace the staff “draw them in, rethink the space and gather their ideas” is a credit to your willingness ‘repurpose the space’ in response to user-centred feedback.

    The question that needs to be answered is…. “Is there a need to have a common staff space?” If the user-centred feedback is a clear and decisive “No”, the repurposing of the space could perhaps open up a whole host of new possibilities.

    Best Wishes,

  2. It’s a good question Greg. Like “is there a need for a communal library?” For me it’s like a house without a lounge room. There are communal spaces that are vital in the sense of relationship building. We know we need it, and perhaps virtual spaces are just not enough. Working out how we make the best of it is the most important aspect.

  3. Hi Deborah,
    I’ve also looked at our staff common room – it’s amazing the different ways it can be used / envisioned! We can get into ruts at schools – both the general staff and the executives as well, assumng things must stay the same. One thought for you to consider is (as IDEO puts it in Rethinking design for educators), to generate ways that staff can “discover” the community possibilities of the space, by providing a positive way to start rethinking the space. For example, by having a morning tea / lunch (at my school if it’s for a charity, everyone’s willing to get involved!), that creates the community atmosphere. That can operate as a launchpad to start the conversations and generate the interest needed to create commitment to change.

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