Say good-bye to the cubicle and hello to sitting next to the boss.
Welcome to the workplace of tomorrow, one in which we’re more likely to sit closer to our co-worker neighbors, but be able to move to a more comfortable lounge space to concentrate and complete projects….(An excerpt from an article by Amy Hoak a MarketWatch reporter based inChicago).
The high-walled cubicle is quickly becoming a relic in the modern workplace. It’s also becoming more common for executives to move out of their offices and sit with the rest of the workers.
And the actual size of our workspaces is shrinking, as employees increasingly split their time between working remotely and in the office. In fact, at some point in the future, you may not even have your own desk — you’ll just reserve a space to work on days when you come into the office.
Welcome to the workplace of tomorrow, one in which we’re more likely to sit closer to our co-worker neighbors, but be able to move to a more comfortable lounge space to concentrate and complete projects. Space will be allocated where we can make private phone calls or meet with small groups of co-workers. There may even be places to exercise on the job or take a short nap if you need one.
The focus of it all: Fostering an environment where workers are more productive and collaborative, where ever-important natural light shines on the masses and workers are generally happier at work.
During the recession, many companies downsized the space they occupied, even if that left them with a surplus of empty space they still owned or leased, said Richard Kadzis, vice president of strategic communications for CoreNet Global, a professional association for corporate real-estate and workplace executives
“In central business districts, historical vacancy rates usually average around 22% to 23% but now they are around 31% or so,” he said in an email. “Outside the central business district, the historical average is usually around 17% but it’s more like 25% today.”
The upside is that companies hoarded cash during the downturn, which, in turn, is enabling them to invest in future growth.
“The trend today isn’t so much toward new buildings as improving what you already occupy,” he said. “So it’s safe to say interior designers are getting a lot more work than corporate architects who do trophy buildings.”
And as firms make decisions on how to remake their workplaces, they’re looking to companies that have been forward-thinking with their workplace designs, notably tech firms like Google and Microsoft.
“Real-estate and facility management has been looked at exclusively as cost in corporations,” said John Pursell, vice president of corporate real estate for Diageo, a spirits company. “Now, there seems to be recognition from the executive suites … that the workplace does have an impact on employee engagement and performance.”
Tear down these walls
At Diageo’sManhattan office, construction is underway to create a more open, collaborative space for the marketing group, one that will encourage “constructive eavesdropping,” and perhaps help the company get ideas to the marketplace faster, Pursell said. Already, perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a bar in the office where workers can mingle after hours.
In other parts of the world, Diageo offices are even more progressive.
“InSao Paulo, they have the ‘Star Trek table,’ where executives sit together in an open plan. Adjacent to the table, they have a room they can go in for private conversations,” Pursell said. “They see it as a tremendous benefit. It encourages more dialogue and more feedback.”
At the Jones Lang LaSalle headquarters in Chicago, an area resembling a Starbucks café — complete with casual tables and access to vending machines — provides employees a relaxed kind of workspace they’re encouraged to use throughout the day. The open floor plan means that everyone has access to natural light from the windows — as well as glimpses of Chicago’s Millennium Park. Jones Lang LaSalle is a real-estate services firm.
When moving to an open plan, a major fear that employees have is that there will be increased noise and distractions when the walls are taken down. But that may just be an urban workplace myth.
Once the walls come down, ”we have found that, without exception, the noise level goes down,” said Matthew J. Fanoe, vice president of real estate for Coca-Cola and chairman of Core Net Global.
Cubicle walls don’t block sound, he said. But when you see the person next to you, you’re more likely to keep your volume down. And advances in white noise systems break down frequencies of the human voice, Fanoe said. “You see that people are talking, but it’s harder to hear,” he said.
Jones Lang LaSalle is currently working with a client that is going from 100% private office space to 95% open office environment, including areas ranging from a living room-like setting, to work tables and a cafe bar.
Other types of office spaces are quiet zones where cell phones aren’t allowed, and where employees who want absolute quiet can sit down and concentrate on a task. Or they don’t have to sit at all — they can take a slow walk on a treadmill as they work, she said.
“The trend is to get people moving around the office so they get to see and connect with each other, and provide variety to stimulate creativity and innovation,” said Tish Kruse, senior vice president for strategic consulting at Jones Lang LaSalle, in an email.
Shrinking personal space
There’s also a trend of companies using the spaces they have more efficiently, Kadzis said. The average space per person in an office has fallen below 200 square feet in theUnited States; it’s as low as 100 square feet inEurope, he added.
Driving this is mobile technology that has allowed people to easily work offsite. Many workers like having flexibility in where they work and the option to occasionally work from home. But when they do come into the office, a priority is to interact with their co-workers, putting the emphasis not on personal spaces but areas where collaboration can thrive.
“The personal space gets smaller, and that gets put back into more collaborative spaces,” Fanoe said. “You couldn’t have done it 20 years ago, because the technology wasn’t there to support it.”
And more companies have adopted hoteling setups, where employees don’t have a designated space but check in with a concierge and get an assigned desk for the workday, he added.
But even as firms become more efficient with their spaces, it’s not likely they’ll give up their offices completely, Kruse said.
“We believe that regardless of the technologies and innovations that the modern era introduces, the workplace will always have a ‘place,’ since humans by their very nature are social animals and need to feel that they are part of a community,” she said.
- Amy Hoak’s Home Economics: Better offices for a better bottom line (marketwatch.com)
- Jones Lang LaSalle merges with King Sturge to become UK’s biggest property agent (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jones Lang LaSalle Fills Out Bracket, Already Screwed (observer.com)
- Office space rebound still on hold (ajc.com)
- Tech jobs near all-time highs, fuel office-space boom (sfgate.com)
- U.S. Office Market Tightening with Third Consecutive Quarter of Net Absorption, Jones Lang LaSalle’s Fourth Quarter United States Office Outlook (prweb.com)