Last year marked the strongest year for hiring since 1999, but rather than expanding their offices, many U.S. employers have started fitting more employees into less space as they seek to reduce their real estate expenses and embrace the open-office model.
The average amount of space allocated to a North American office worker dropped from 225 square feet in 2010 to 176 in 2012, a decrease of more than 20 percent, according to CoreNet Global, a corporate real estate association. Businesses that were forced to reduce their footprint during the recession are now choosing to lease less space, even as their employee count returns to pre-recession levels, a trend that has ignited a debate over how small is too small when it comes to individual workspaces.
While employees may not be able to avoid cramped workspaces entirely, there are several steps they can take to cope with a small office:
- Utilize common areas: As private offices have disappeared, conference rooms, lounges and other team-oriented spaces have become more common as employers seek to promote teamwork and collaboration in the workplace. While these breakout spaces are ideal for group work, they can also provide a retreat for employees who work elbow-to-elbow with their colleagues at desks or shared workstations.
If workers are unable to alter their physical workspaces, taking advantage of common areas and other "office alternatives," whether it be a shared office, home office or coffee shop, allows them to maximize flexibility and choose a space that best accommodates whatever task they're trying to complete.
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Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Solutions, a Chicago-based real estate provider specializing in office solutions for companies requiring up to 10,000 square feet of office space.
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