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Inc 5000 Great Places to Work

How Much Space Do You Really Get at the Office?


If it feels like the walls are closing in on you at your office, you’re not going crazy: today’s offices are smaller than ever before.

When we say “office,” of course, we mean workspace. Companies these days have a lot of options when it comes to designing their floor plans, and they take advantage of every variation to maximize productivity and minimize cost. For some organizations, this means an open plan office, filled with long tables and floating workers with mobile devices. But even if your company opts for the traditional cubicle set-up, you’re likely to have a lot less office space than workers had even a decade ago.


Let’s look at some facts:

Recent data from CoreNet Global, a corporate real estate association, shows that workers currently have an average of 176 square feet to call their own.

– That’s down from a palatial 225 square feet per worker in 2010.

– In the same survey, respondents indicated that they were anticipating providing 151 square feet on average five years from now.

– 40 percent of American companies surveyed indicated that by 2017 they would probably offer less than 100 square feet per worker. In fact, 24 percent allocate less than 100 square feet per worker today.

– European companies are already on board with the shrinking office, with many hitting the under-100-square-feet mark in the past several years — a fact that surprises those of us who think of Europe as being a bastion of higher quality of life. (Of course, the press release we found this info in expressed this as “individual space utilization,” which makes the shrinking office sound more like an efficient way to do business than an exercise in worker deprivation.)


“The main reason for the declines,” said Richard Kadzis, CoreNet Global’s Vice President of Strategic Communications, “is the huge increase in collaborative and team-oriented space inside a growing number of companies that are stressing ‘smaller but smarter’ workplaces against the backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty and cost containment.”

Even cubicles are feeling the pinch. In a recent article in Tampa Bay Business Journal, President of Florida Business Interiors Kevin Baker said he’s seen the average cubicle size shrink from 8 x 8 feet in 2007 to 6 x 6 feet today. It makes those open offices seem positively spacious in comparison.

But there is good news. Thanks to mobile technology and wireless networking, you don’t need as much space as the workers of yesteryear. So while your cubicle or workspace might look tiny on a blueprint, you probably have a lot more usable space than you would have in the days of giant CRT monitors and paper files.

Images: quinet/Flickr, topyli/Flickr, charles_hudson/Flickr

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