How small is too small? Businesses used to assume that each worker needed 500 to 700 square feet of work space to be productive – but those days are long gone. Today, office managers assume that they need less than 200 feet per worker – and many make employees get by on much less than that; the space allocation could hit a mere 50 square feet by 2015, said Peter Miscovich, who studies workplace trends as a managing director at brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, and was quoted in this article in the LA Times. This is the total for each employee, which includes break room space, etc. The actual work station could be as small as 36 feet, with the miniaturized 6X6 cubicle gaining in popularity with business owners hard hit by expensive square footage. White-collar workers are being hit harder than ever with rising costs and smaller work spaces. However, infinitely tiny cubicles is not the future, say many who track office design.
The insane mazes common with cubicle farms and the isolated primness of private offices will soon no longer define workplace as they have for the last few decades. “We’re at a very interesting inflection point in real estate history,” Miscovich said. “The next 10 years will be very different than the last 30.” There are plenty of new ways to speed productivity, attract talent and cut costs, and there are multiple factors at play that are changing how the modern office operates – and this in turn affects how the space is used.
Many companies are focusing on small teams of workers who collaborate. The young generation is happy to eschew the barren office and work in a pod with others. Technologies such as laptop computers, cellphones and videoconferencing are affecting the way offices are laid out as well, changing the floor layout, reducing paper file storage space and introducing smaller, uniform workstations with an emphasis on mobility and the expectation that the average worker may be in the field or assigned to multiple locations.
Instead of old fashioned three-sided cubicles with walls too high to see over, typical modern cubicles now have lower walls, smaller electronics, little or no paper files, and additional tech or docks for charging mobile devices. These more compact standardized workstations work well both for those who spend their days in the office and those who may be in or out. For primarily mobile employees, wide workstations with multiple cables slots and ports face the windows, taking up the coveted space previously assigned to high level execs. Employees come and go, using space as needed. Many offices also have “Teaming” rooms, like small conference rooms, where small groups can work together, or conference with team members in other locations via video or Skype.
Do your cubicles best serve your employees? Or is it time for an upgrade?