Current Trends in Office Space

Current Trends in Office Space

March 26, 2013 Off By Chris

king of the cubicles“Why dedicate a 10×10 space to someone if they’re in that space less than half of their work time,” asks Steelcase’s CFO Dave Sylvester. Dave Sylvester works in an open work space, not an office. Steelcase believes that they are at the forefront of a trend toward “open-plan design and shared spaces in the workplace.”

Steelcase is primarily known for their office furniture but Steelcase Inc. encompasses three core brands – Steelcase, Turnstone and Coalesse plus several other sub-brands. They are approximately a $2.75 billion per year company with nearly 10,000 employees. Steelcase turned 100 in 2012 and began as a metal office furniture company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their first patent was a steel wastebasket but today their portfolio of solutions addresses three core elements of an office environment: interior architecture, furniture and technology. They’ve been a publicly held company since 1998.

Steelcase may be on to something.  In Cassidy Turley’s Q4 2012 National Office Market Report, we reported that we are seeing a 20-30% decrease in office usage among the office sector.  Our report felt that it was a trend to watch as businesses are getting more efficient.  According to a CoreNet Global survey, the amount of office space per worker has declined from 225 sf prior to the recession to 176 sf in 2012.  The survey estimated that it could decrease to as low as 151 sf by 2017. 

The benefits to an open office environment is lower costs but beyond that the benefits aren’t guaranteed.  Don’t assume that you can just tear down the walls and hope for a more collaborative environment, because, that isn’t likely to just happen.  Change on this scale takes a concerted effort from the leadership in the organization.

While change is usually a good thing, it is not always beneficial for every company or individual.  For employees that work with confidential material or confidential conversations with others, an open environment may not be the best work environment.  Another area to consider is whether or not your competitors are offering an open or closed environment.  A drastic change can result in a loss in employees, so be prepared and do your homework.  In addition, open space doesn’t always equal productivity.  You have to battle more distractions and less work being done. 

If you are considering going to an open floor plan, offering a variety of spaces and giving employees the choice is crucial to a successful outcome.  The one size fits all is a thing of the past according to Barbara Armstrong, principal and workplace strategist with design firm Kahler Slater.  What is now recognized is that if “employees have a choice about where to go, they can be more productive.”

The full article from CFO magazine can be found here:

What are your thoughts about office layout?  Do you think an open environment is better than an office environment?  We are anxious to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.