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 Skyline at Dusk
Article • Office

DALLAS - Corporate Migration to Texas

Corporate relocations and migrations to Texas have been a trend that many hear about, but why are they happening? What are the benefits of making such a large and sometimes costly decision to relocate a business and employees halfway across the country? Other than Texans’ friendly and welcoming demeanor, there are a number of other significant drivers. Below is a comparison of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. (sorted largest to smallest).
Travis Boothe • 11/30/2020
Florida Sublease Office Market
Research • Office

Florida Office Sublease Market Report Q3 2020

Florida has experienced a 22% increase in vacant sublease space since the Covid-19 pandemic shocked the economy in March. 
Chris Owen • 11/19/2020
Q3 2020 Industrial Rent Cost Report
Research • Industrial

Florida Industrial Rent Cost Report Q3 2020

The COVID-19 turbo charged many industrial markets as e-commerce as well as firms tied to logistics and delivery expanded to service customers forced to stay home due to lockdowns.
Chris Owen • 11/9/2020

Would You Like To Learn More?

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