CCIM Institute: “How Much Space Do We Need?”

| June 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

I just read one of the most detailed and relevant articles I’ve seen on the topic of space utilization and shrinking per-employee allotments (thanks to my colleague Kevin Manning for forwarding).   Published in the CCIM Institute’s CIRE Magazine, the authors show in great detail the very different allocation of space per worker by industry– most articles I’ve read on the topic seem to suggest that entire corporate world functions like a start-up.

Though the article doesn’t make any definitive predictions, it does reference some research suggesting a push towards aggressively shrinking elbow room.  I’m not convinced.  “…corporate executives indicated they expect to reduce the amount of space they lease in the next five years to less than 100 sf of dedicated space per worker”– that’s well below the current average for Call Centers.   That is simply not realistic.

Companies that actively support telecommuting and flexible scheduling can certainly squeeze their footprint by replacing dedicated work stations with a hoteling program for a portion of their team.  I think there’s been an assumption for a long time that there was no limit to the growth of the remote workforce, but recent policy changes by some large companies suggests otherwise.  The overwhelming majority of office workers need a seat every day.

I still see a lot of cubicle farms getting deployed, even in new workplaces.   Still, “benching” is the right solution for many, and I expect it to remain and probably grow, possibly even breaking out of its tech-space home.  Clearly, an 8-station bench is smaller than two pods of 4 cubes.  But, while early stage startups will shoehorn as many coders as they can into their first office space, an important part of the successful collaborative space is a generous allocation for common area.  Most successful, mature tech companies execute their space planning with this in mind– the bench may be cozy, but it is surrounded by ample  break-out areas.  A great example of this can be found with this article highlighting DropBox’s very cool San Francisco HQ (and many other photo spreads on the Office Snapshots blog).   Anyone who has walked through a 2500 square foot space with 30 employees wedged in  every corner knows that the main type of collaboration happening there involves bumping into 5 people on the way to get a cup of coffee.

Throw in mundane stuff like HVAC loads, parking concerns (even the most aggressive and successful pubic transportation plan has practical limits), and so on, and I think its clear that changes in per-employee allotment will be incremental.

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