Valentina Poletti 0

Informatics building and lab building open-space reorganization

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Dear President, dear Faculty, dear Administration,

We, the signing Ph.D. students and Post-docs using the open spaces in the black building and the LAB, would like to express our concerns about the current reorganization plans for the open space working areas, i.e. the reorganization of the tables in the black building and the decision to place more than two persons per cubicle in the LAB building.

In our field of computer science research, a quiet and supporting working environment is an essential precondition for our daily work. The open spaces as applied in the black building and the LAB already do not suit our type of work well at all, leading to distractions and disturbances during the average work day. Moreover, the buildings themselves are not designed in a sound-absorbing way: the few walls do not cancel out even soft-spoken conversations. Placing more people into the existing spaces will lead to a situation that is unbearable for all of us.

According to the Segreteria di Stato dell'economia of Switzerland there is a directive for offices hosting several people. In the "indicazioni relative all’ordinanza 3 concernente la legge sul lavoro, Capitolo 2: Esigenze particolari relative all’igiene, Sezione 3: Posti di lavoro, Art. 23 Esigenze generali", it is written:

"Uffici per più persone/ uffici per gruppi: Per calcolare la superficie necessaria negli uffici occupati da più di due persone, bisogna calcolare 18 m2 per le prime due persone, più 6 m2 per ogni altra persona."

The current situation is more or less according to this directive:
* The designated workspace including passages on each floor of the LAB building is about 85 square meters. This is sufficient space for at most 13 persons on each floor, with 12-13 currently being there (Ph.D. students and Post-docs).  We are aware of the fact that according to the administration, the LAB building is allowed to host 24 people per floor. However, this amount of people would yield to a space per person that is only about half as large as recommended by the directive cited above. This might be adequate for undergraduate students, but it is unbearable as offices for PhD students and Post-docs.
* In the open space in the black building, each cubicle hosting 4 people has a size of 23 square meters, including the furniture. This means that there are 5.75 square meters per person, not including passages used by people in the offices, which are partially already occupied by more students. Hence also in the open space in the black building, the space per person is currently just within minimum requirements.

Apart from being concerned about our performance and well-being, we feel that the current policy of minimizing space and hence material costs per employee is economically inefficient. The more uncomfortable and inconvenient the work place is, the less productivity is to be expected by each employee. We thus doubt that the current solution effectively decreases long run costs.

Instead, we kindly ask to rent further office space temporarily, while the new building is being constructed to host USI employees in 2014. We believe that although this will clearly induce material costs, ultimately this effort will be more than compensated by allowing USI to continue its current growth policy uninterrupted, without undermining the current level of quality of our work. As an alternative, home-office times may help to ease the currently unfavorable situation at our designated workspace.

We all share the common goal of establishing and expanding USI’s reputation as a hotspot for advanced informatics and computational science in Switzerland. We clearly acknowledge the fact that growth is a key component for this process, but we also would like to emphasize that another important aspect is a productive, healthy and comfortable research and teaching environment for all employees. We believe that good and supporting working conditions are essential to attract high-potential colleagues and Professors. With highly competitive universities in Switzerland and Italy, USI’s growth and reputation are inherently linked to its attractiveness as an employer.

Therefore, in the interest of our common goal, our work and well-being, we kindly ask you to consider alternative and sustainable solutions.

Thank you for your comprehension.

Yours sincerely,

The signing Ph.D. students and Post-docs


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