Share:

The Rise of Open Offices

2/21/2019
Companies are often looking for ways to cut costs, and since real estate is usually the second biggest expense, it makes sense to evaluate real estate costs.

The Rise of Open Offices

Many employers are analyzing their square feet per employee ratios and ways to reduce that, and one way to do that is to embrace an open office concept.

Nationally, square footage per employee has decreased from 211.4 sf in 2009 to 193.8 sf at the end of 2017—a decline of 17.6 sf or 8.3%. But, this trend has not been consistent across all markets. In many of the largest office markets in the country there were significantly steeper decreases, like in Northern Virginia, which saw a 13.3% decrease on sf per employee. However, changes in square footage per employee were small in markets where the space allocation was already relatively low in 2009, like the 2.2% reduction in Washington, DC.

A main concern with office densification is the potential downsides for employees when personal work space is reduced. Many employees can struggle with new distractions in an open office plan. For example, employees who need quiet time to focus can struggle if they now sit next to others who have a phone call heavy roll. Therefore, paying attention to what teams, roles, and personality/workstyles end up sitting in close proximity to one another can help mitigate these issues. Furthermore, offering private break-out spaces for employees to use for both heads-down work and for louder work like phone calls or team meetings can also help alleviate these issues and distractions.

While open offices were first praised for breaking down barriers and encouraging employees to have face-to-face conversations, new research has emerged that finds that often times open offices actually discourage this communication. Instead, workers can rely on email more in order to avoid distracting colleagues or to ensure privacy and avoid eavesdroppers. The impact of open offices on employee collaboration and communication is still being debated. Furthermore, each office and workstyle is different and therefore will react to an open office differently, but these impacts should still be considered.

At Cushman & Wakefield, we have helped a number of companies move to an open office concept or manage the change of each employee having less square feet allocated to themselves. We also have several tools to monitor the impacts. For example, our Experience per SF™ consulting program measures employees’ current work experience in their office space and identifies the biggest levers for optimizing the employee experience. This is useful both for employers looking to move into an open office concept, and those who already have an open office and want to make sure it still works for their staff. 

The move to open offices that many companies embraced as a way to control or cut costs are probably here to stay. Therefore, ensuring that the office layout, open or not, works for employees is an important step for all organizations to take. 

 

Washington DC Chart

Related Insights

Dallas Five Fast Office Facts
Article • Office

DALLAS - Q4 Five Fast Office Facts

In DFW, the pipeline of new office space grows as users opt for Class A space.
Ching-Ting Wang • 2/12/2020
Indianapolis Office Moves in 2019
Insights • Office

INDIANAPOLIS – Office Moves 2019

The Indianapolis office market closed 2019 with 16.7 percent vacancy and just over 34,000 square feet (sf) of direct net absorption throughout the year. 

2/6/2020
Downtown Atlanta Georgia
Article • Office

ATLANTA - Q2 Office Fast Facts

As the development pipeline remains healthy and leasing activity holds strong, Atlanta's diversified economy keeps the metro in a positive position amid the global economic downturn.
Christa DiLalo • 8/5/2020

Would You Like To Learn More?

Our professionals are ready to provide further details on this and many other topics.