Social sciences board urges complaining employees to be patient

06 Oct 2021

Employees of the Faculty of Social Sciences complain about noise and excessive transparency in their new building. The faculty board knows about the complaints and is, where possible, working on solutions. ‘But let’s give the building a shot as well.’

It came as no surprise to the faculty board that the participation council of the social sciences addressed all kinds of complaints about working in the Maria Montessori building in a letter two weeks ago. ‘We see the same problems’, says Arjen Peters, director of operations.

According to the ‘Onderdeelcommissie’ (the OC is the representative body for employees within the faculty, MN), the excessive transparency in the new building leads to an unpleasant working atmosphere and a lot of distraction. People feel watched while working – women wouldn’t even dare to wear skirts anymore. There are also noise complaints and reports of poor air quality and a shortage of workplaces.

Net curtains

‘We are working on many of the issues raised by the OC’, Peters responds. For example, net curtains were ordered last year for the offices located on the atrium side. ‘We didn’t think it would take so long for those to be delivered. That is also very frustrating for us.’

But some complaints are not solved by hanging up net curtains. Take the noise for example. Peters: ‘Those complaints are passed on to Campus and Facilities (responsible for maintaining university buildings, MN). They did a number of acoustic measurements and those say: the building is up to code.’

It’s only in the laboratories where action had to be taken to prevent excessive noise. Those same laboratories flooded last June, after heavy rainfall. Peters: ‘There was already some work to be done there because of the water damage. So, it was nice to be able to combine that with this work.’

Air quality is another subject where the employees’ experience differs from reality. Campus and Facilities also researched that. ‘There is nothing wrong with the air quality, is what they tell us’, says Peters.

Luxury position

According to Peters, some of the complaints can be traced back to where the employees come from: the Spinoza building. ‘In the Spinoza building, a lot of employees had their own rooms with a door they could close whenever they wanted to. That is different now and employees have to share rooms more often.’

The Spinoza building also had substantially more working spaces than the Montessori building. ‘We know that the occupancy rate (the amount of working space actually being used, MN) in the Spinoza building was low: around 40 percent on busy days’, says Peters. That’s why the amount of working space was dialed back drastically when designing the new accommodation. ‘You do not want to build empty space.’

A consequence is departments having to come up with how they want to divide available space on their own. That results in working space not being assigned to one employee but being used flexibly. ‘If departments think it will help, we could make a reservation system.’

The director of operations wants to emphasize that employees’ complaints are being taken seriously. The OC says the board barely communicated about the problems employees experienced in the building. ‘We might have made some errors there’, Peters says. ‘But at the same time, it’s hard to react to complaints in a building that is barely being used.’

Together with the architect, the faculty board has decided to give the building – now it’s becoming busier on campus – another half a year. A thorough evaluation will be conducted in February to determine which problems have not been taken care of yet. If needed, the faculty will go to the executive board of the university, that owns the building. ‘But first we’ll try to work everything out with Campus and Facilities.’

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