Office Spaces Focusing More on Communal Areas
Businesses are beginning to design offices spaces that are increasing the amount of square footage per employee when shared work settings are taken into account.
That is one of the conclusions of a new report by architecture and design firm Ted Moudis Associates, which analyzed 2.4 million square feet of Ted Moudis’ office projects. Many companies are expanding the selection of alternative places to get work done such as cafe and kitchen areas, informal living room spaces and quiet zones, according to a 2017 Workplace Report.
“Five to 10 years ago it was all about how many people can I get in this space,” said Jamie Feuerborn, associate director of workplace at Ted Moudis. “Now some of that efficiency is a given, and everyone from the top level executive down is focused on the employee experience.”
The amount of space at average assigned workstations hasn’t increased. But the study says that the average “seat” has increased from 142 square feet in 2016 to 165 square feet in this most recent study. Seats include workstations and other office spaces like conference rooms and living room-style seating areas.
These days, seating in these shared work settings has overtaken the number of traditional, assigned workstations. In the offices analyzed, 52% of the seats were devoted to these alternative work settings and 48% to assigned workspaces.
Office space designers and planners say they are seeing this shift across a wide range of industries. The Boston Consulting Group, an international management consulting firm, has outfitted its new Manhattan office at 10 Hudson Yards with comfortable conversation nooks, living-room settings, huddle rooms and a large cafe offering free food where some employees often spend the entire day working, said Amy Kotulski, director of hospitality, operation and marketing excellence at Boston Consulting Group.
Workers at the Midtown Manhattan office of media agency Orion Worldwide LLC are able to change their work setting to suit their mood and the work they happen to be doing. Some employees hold meetings as they walk around the four-lane indoor track that is among the options of work settings offered. The company rule: don’t sit in the same spot every day.
“Many of our clients are trying to understand what kind of experience the space is creating for their employee base,” said Johnathan Sandler, director of workplace strategy at Gensler, which designed the Boston Consulting Group’s new offices. He added: “If your employees feel 10% happier with the workplace, that could have a bigger impact on the bottom line than a 5% reduction in square footage.”
In recent years, many businesses have moved to more efficient workspaces. But more companies are realizing that the cost savings of such a design often had diminishing returns in worker productivity, designers said.
Now an increasing number of firms have opted to make offices more attractive by adding communal spaces. Many allow workers to determine how and where they work in the office.
“People are saying we tried the open plan, and there is a lot of virtue in having people connect,” said Lenny Beaudoin, senior managing director of workplace strategy at real estate services firm CBRE Group Inc. “But if you can’t get work done, that is problematic.”
Office workers on average sit at their desks 60% to 65% of the time, so employers can still find savings with shared spaces that are used much more frequently, according to workplace consultants and designers. Many companies invest these savings in the technology needed to create a more mobile office worker as well as amenities such as free meals, barista service and healthy office tools such as stand-up and treadmill desks.
More companies are adopting some version of unassigned workspaces.
“These agile programs are only successful when they say, ‘We’re going to take away the desk but give you the flexibility of three environments to work in, rather than be locked into one,’” said Brent Capron, interior design director for Perkins+Will’s New York studio. “You need to find a business reason to put people in the open. It can’t just be a real estate decision.”
Source: Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2017 7:00am
Author: Keiko Morris
Image Credit: Alexander Cohn/The Wall Street Journal
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