When you’re at work, do you ever feel like the walls of your office cubicle are closing in on you? The good news is, you’re not losing your mind. The average space allotted to an office worker is shrinking … and has been since the beginning of time. (Which, for the work world, is either the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750 or the invention of the cubicle by Robert Propst in 1967, depending on who you ask.)
Here’s what your work space would look like at various points in time:
Unless you were the boss, you’d probably be in a typing pool, which means that you’d have just as much space as your typewriter and desk allowed. Depending on how your employers set things up, you could have been working in a very cramped situation. Certainly, you’d have very little in the way of privacy or a sense of ownership over your work space.
1967 – 1997:
If you worked in an office cubicle in the ’90s, you had about 115 square feet to call your own. This might not seem like a lot, especially compared to the 246 square feet allotted to senior management. However, it still beats the work space of average call center worker: they had about 52 square feet to call their very own.
By 2010, those 115 square feet seemed positively expansive. Work spaces shrank to 96 square feet, on average, in part due to a bad economy (more workers, in less space = more money) and in part due to improved mobile technology (more workers, working at home = more money.)
Eventually, we may be looking at zero square feet of work space. That’s because companies are increasingly scrapping the idea of personal space altogether, in favor of collaborative areas and expanded telecommuting policies. In an open plan office, where everyone from the CEO to the summer intern sits and works in the same area, it’s hard to say where one worker’s area begins and another ends. Whether this is good news or bad news depends largely on how you feel about group projects, privacy … and your old, ever-shrinking office cubicle.