Changing academics’ ways of working: towards a distributed university campus


Multi-local Work
Distributed Campus

How to Cite

Migliore, A., Tagliaro, C., & Ciaramella, A. (2022). Changing academics’ ways of working: towards a distributed university campus. The Academic Research Community Publication, 6(1), 59–73.


Academics are a peculiar category of knowledge workers whose work, by nature, is characterized by undefined time and space and includes individual and collaborative activities. Over the past decades, academics have progressively evolved their typically university-centric way of working towards a hybrid, spatially distributed model that includes home and other spaces. The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the redrawing of the geography of workspaces for academics and has opened up opportunities to enable creative, innovative and socially sustainable ways of working. Indeed, working from other spaces than the official workplace can not only have positive impacts on productivity, creativity, and collaboration of academics and staff, but also increase the attractiveness and inclusivity of university campuses by proposing a campus model that is spread across the territory according to the individual needs of its users.  While there are already some cases where university campuses accommodate coworking spaces, libraries and innovation hubs within them, evidence of academics using other spaces off-campus is scarce. This research investigates whether, and to what extent, the use of off-campus spaces by Italian academics is a likely and desirable prospect for the future, based on how much their way of doing research has evolved during the Covid-19 pandemic towards a multi-local way of working. A questionnaire was distributed among Italian tenured academics. This chapter presents a quantitative and qualitative interpretative analysis of the data collected from 1,199 answers to this questionnaire. Results describe different profiles of multi-local Italian academics, in relation to the types of location they work from, the experience they had during the Covid-working period and the future they wish for at university campuses. The evidence on multi-local work presented in this chapter shows implications both for academic staff and for university management. The former could approach work in a more distributed way such as it would extend university campuses to an urban and extra-urban dimension. The latter are called upon to meet the needs of their staff using socially sustainable ways of managing their facilities within and beyond campus boundaries.


Baldry, C., & Barnes, A. (2012). The open-plan academy: space, control and the undermining of professional identity. Work, Employment and Society, 26(2), 228–245.

Brown, J. (2017). Curating the “Third Place”? Coworking and the mediation of creativity. Geoforum,82,112-126.

Burchell, B., Reuschke, D., & Zhang, M. (2021). Spatial and temporal segmenting of urban workplaces: The gendering of multi-locational working. Urban Studies, 58(11), 2207-2232.

Chapman, M.P. (2006). American places: In search of the twenty-first century campus. American Council on Education. Series on Higher Education. Praeger.

Clifton, N., Fuzi, A., & Loudon, G. (2022). Coworking in the Digital Economy: Context, Motivations, and Outcomes. Futures, 135(102439).

Collins, D. (2003). Pretesting survey instruments: an overview of cognitive methods. Quality of Life Research, 12(3), 229–238.

Cui, R., Ding, H., & Zhu, F. (2021) Gender Inequality in Research Productivity During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, 24(2), 707-726.

De Valderrama, N.M.F., Luque-Valdivia, J. & Aseguinolaza-Braga, I. (2020). The 15 minute-city, a sustainable solution for post COVID19 cities? Ciudad y Territorio Estudios Territoriales, 52(205), 653-664.

den Heijer, A.C. (2011). Managing the university campus: Information to support real estate decisions. Eburon Academic Publishers.

den Heijer, A.C., & Curvelo Magdaniel, F.T.J. (2018). Campus–City Relations: Past, Present, and Future. In P. Meusburger, M. Heffernan L. Suarsana (Eds.), Geographies of the University. Knowledge and Space, (p. 439-459). Springer.

Di Marino, M. & Lapintie, K. (2015). Libraries as transitory workspaces and spatial incubators. Library & Information Science Research, 37(2), 118–129. Di Marino, M., & Lapintie, K. (2018). Exploring multi-local working: challenges and opportunities for contemporary cities. International Planning Studies, 1-21.

Dowling, R. & Mantai, L. (2017). Placing researcher identifications: labs, offices and homes in the PhD. Area, 49(2), 200–207.

Gornall, L. & Salisbury, J. (2012). Compulsive working, ‘hyperprofessionality’ and the unseen pleasures of academic work. Higher Education Quarterly, 66(2), 135–54.

Hampton, K.N. & Gupta, N. (2008). Community and Social Interaction in the Wireless City: Wi-Fi Use in Public and Semi-public Spaces. New Media & Society, 10(6), 831–850.

Haugen, T.I. & Aasen, T.M. (2016). Campus alive: Transformation and integration of university work and campus space. In Proceedings of CFM’s second nordic conference: Facilities Management Research and Practice. Does FM contribute to happiness in the Nordic Countries (pp. 8-15).

Hislop, D. & Axtell, C. (2009). To infinity and beyond?: workspace and the multi-location worker. New Technology, Work and Employment, 24(1), 60–75.

Ivaldi, S., & Scaratti, G. (2019). Coworking hybrid activities between plural objects and sharing thickness. TPM: Testing, Psychometrics, Methodology in Applied Psychology, 26(1), 121-147.

Kojo, I.V.I. & Nenonen, S. (2015). Places for multi-locational work – opportunities for facilities management. Facilities, 33(1/2), 20-37.

Kornberger, M. & Clegg, S. (2003). The architecture of complexity. Culture and organization, 9(2), 75-91.

Koroma, J., Hyrkkänen, U. & Vartiainen, M. (2014). Looking for people, places and connections: hindrances when working in multiple locations: a review. New Technology, Work and Employment, 29(2), 139–159.

Kuntz, A.M. (2012). Reconsidering the workplace: faculty perceptions of their work and working environments. Studies in Higher Education, 37(7), 769-782.

Liegl, M. (2014). Nomadicity and the Care of Place—on the Aesthetic and Affective Organization of Space in Freelance Creative Work. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 23, 163–183.

Mokhtarian, P.L. & Salomon, I. (1994). Modeling the Choice of Telecommuting: Setting the Context. Environment and Planning A, 26(5), 749–766.

Nadler, R. (2016). Plug and Play Places: Subjective Standardaztion of Places in Multilocal Lifewords. In P. Pucci, M. Colleoni (Eds.), Understanding Mobilities for Designing Contemporary Cities (p. 109–128). Springer.

Nag, R., Corley, K.G. & Gioia D.A. (2007). The Intersection of Organizational Identity, Knowledge, and Practice: Attempting Strategic Change Via Knowledge Grafting. Academy of Management Journal, 50(4), 821–847.

Ojala, S. & Pyöriä, P. (2017). Mobile knowledge workers and traditional mobile workers: Assessing the prevalence of multi-locational work in Europe. Acta Sociologica, 61(4), 402-418.

Oldenburg, R. (1989). The great good place: Café, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, general stores, bars, hangouts, and how they get you through the day. Paragon House Publishers.

Pyöriä, P. (2003). Knowledge Work in Distributed Environments: Issues and Illusions. New Technology, Work and Employment, 18(3), 166–180.

Rajalo, S. & Vada, M. (2017). University-industry innovation collaboration: Reconceptualization. Technovation, 62-63, 42–54.

Rytkönen, E. (2015). University campuses in spatial transformation. Facilities, 33, 794 – 818.

Sargent, A.C., Yavorsky, J.E. & Sandoval, R.G. (2020). Organizational Logic in Coworking Spaces: Inequality Regimes in the New Economy. Gender & Society, 35(1):5-31.

Seddigh, A., Berntson, E., Danielson C.B. & Westerlund, H. (2014). Concentration requirements modify the effect of office type on indicators of health and performance. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 167-174.

Spinuzzi, C. (2012). Working Alone Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26(4), 399–441.

Spivack, A.J. & Milosevic, I. (2018). Perceived Location Autonomy and Work Environment Choice: The Mediating Influence of Intrinsic Motivation. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 54(3), 325–348.

Tagliaro, C. & Migliore, A. (2021) “Covid-working”: what to keep and what to leave? Evidence from an Italian company, Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 24(2), pp. 76-92.

Temple, P. (2009). From Space to Place: University Performance and its Built Environment. Higher Education Policy, 22(2), 209 – 223.

The Economist (2020, May 30). Working life has entered a new era. The Economist.

Townsend, A., Forlano, L. & Simeti, A. (2011). Breakout! Escape from the Office: Situating Knowledge Work in Sentient Public Spaces. In M. Shepard (Ed.), Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space. MIT Press.

Vilhelmson, B. & Thulin, E. (2016). Who and where are the flexible workers? Exploring the current diffusion of telework in Sweden. New Technology, Work and Employment, 31(1), 77–96.

Watson, L. (2007). Building the future of learning. European Journal of Education, 42(2), 255-263.

Wheatley, D. (2021). Workplace location and the quality of work: The case of urban-based workers in the UK. Urban Studies, 58(11), 2233-2257.

Wissema, J.G. (2009). Towards the third generation university: Managing the university in transition. Edward Elgar.

Ylijoki, O.H & Mantyla, H. (2003). Conflicting time perspectives in academic work. Time & Society, 12(1), 55-78.

 Creative Commons License

  • The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
  • Attribution: other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;

With the understanding that the above condition can be waived with permission from the Author and that where the Work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.

  • The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
  • Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a pre-publication manuscript (but not the Publisher's final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access). Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
  • Upon Publisher's request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author's own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
  • The Author represents and warrants that:
  • The Work is the Author's original work;
  • The Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
  • The Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
  • The Work has not previously been published;
  • The Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
  • The Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
  • The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author's breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 7 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher's use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.