The December 2013 Article in Realtor® Magazine had a great article this month identifying a emerging trend in commercial real estate. The article is entitled The Walls Come Down – More companies are shifting to open-plan offices, adding amenities while reducing square footage.
Properly identifying the beginning of the trend as being Tech/Dot-Com related (I worked for a number of IT Companies that implemented this plan between 1998 to 2011 when I was a full time IT Professional), the article goes on to explain why companies are moving towards an open-floor plan model and the benefits they are receiving as a result. A cost savings, of course, is virtually always the first and foremost reason. In addition, however, it has been found that a number of synergies are to be had by employees having greater access to each other, without the barriers walls and doors create in between them. While I certainly believe an open-floor plan provides a more comfortable space to work in, I do not see private offices going the way of extinction any time soon and neither do the contributors to the article.
For example, in my own small brokerage, we have quickly realized that sitting a team at the same table with the Brokers (Mark & Myself), to be enormously productive & educational for the team as a whole. We are quickly able to share ideas and act upon those ideas directly from our laptops and cell phones. Team morale is often much higher after a group powwow than at any other time; especially when agents are working remotely (from home). However, there is always a need to be able to take calls privately (for confidentiality reasons at the very least; obviously some calls are personal as well).
In American Express and IBM, I noted the existence of, and often used, micro offices (or cubby holes as they were called). A Cubby Hole is an office with a single desk or chair and only about as large as a telephone booth (remember those? 😉 ). These were also sound proofed. They were distinctly available for those who needed privacy – for however long – (confidentiality was always a very high priority at these organizations) and for visiting consultants/employees who needed to be on site. I made use of them often when I was on site, as I was dealing with, or leading, confidential projects all of the time. I also have a voice that carries, and the folks of more than one cubicle set in my career, would politely request I take my business to a sound proof room.
While there was a notable drop in space-per-worker (225 sqft tp 213 sqft), the authors and contributors do not see the number ever dropping to below 150 sqft. They also cite existing leases as a reason why this trend will continue to only trickle towards a smaller number rather than occur in a sudden fashion.