Published April 17th, 2009 by Jennifer LeClaire
Are executive offices getting smaller? Indeed, they are, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). Since 1987, executive offices have been slowing shrinking. The average square footage of 291 in the late 80s steadily shrank to 241 square feet by 2007.
That may sound like a huge office if you are an employee who has about 50 square feet of space in a cubicle, but the incredible shrinking office is an interesting trend. How this shrinkage is affecting collaboration is also noteworthy.
“There has been a strong overall trend to reduce square footage and most companies that had the opportunity, through drivers such as relocations or major reorganizations, have taken advantage of this,” says Melodee Wagen, president of Workspace Strategies Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts.
“However, space reduction can only be taken to a certain point and have the individual workspace remain functional. In many situations, the square footage per person hasn’t gone down as much, but the ratio of individual space to collaborative and common space has changed.”
Collaborative Workspace Grows
Although office sizes are smaller than they used to be, one category that is growing is collaborative space and amenities. Since 2002, the amount of space devoted to conference, training and break out areas has increased more than 17 percent.
According to IFMA, workers have also benefited by gaining access to expanded amenity areas such as cafeterias, fitness facilities and day care centers. While you won’t find day care facilities and exercise gear in most executive office suites, you will find conference room – and large ones. You’ll also find kitchens and break rooms.
“The expansion of collaborative space has been driven both by management’s desire for increased teamwork, but also forced by the reduction of individual workspace and the trend away from private offices,” Wagen says. “If we can’t meet in an individual workspace, whether open or private, then we have to go somewhere—hence the rise in collaborative space.”
The New Generation Worker
How do new generation workers view shrinking offices and enlarged collaboration areas? As more individuals have choices about working in ‘third places’ such as the local coffee shop, the home office or a coworking facility, the idea that an organization can provide some of those casual spaces, supported by technology, makes the organization more appealing to the younger generation of workers.
That’s because, unlike the Baby Boomer generation, these young workers expect choice and freedom to work, according to Barbara Armstrong, principal/corporate team leader with Kahler Slater Architects Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
What about storage? With the trend toward shrinking individual space, it’s difficult to store everything. Despite the movement toward a paperless office, space devoted to storage, records and libraries has increased by 25 percent, according to IFMA.
“As much as the paperless world is desired, there will always be a need for the hard copy—at least for several more decades,” Reid says. “Again, depending on the environment, personal space is used for personal items, snacks and entertainment gear.”
Despite the movement to home offices and virtual work, there are more people than ever working in buildings. Survey results indicate 41 percent of reporting organizations are planning expansion. Hospitals and clinics, energy companies, educational institutions, and airports such are some of the industries planning to build or lease more space.
Where do serviced offices fit into this trend? All of these represent opportunities for serviced office industry growth. The recession may see companies purposely downside their space, but not necessarily for the sake of smaller offices. Rather for the sake of fewer of them. Serviced offices offer the flexibility companies need to survive and thrive in any economy.