For decades we have been hearing about the increasing mobility of the office workforce and its impact on space utilization — but that hardly means that this trend’s influence has begun to wane. On the contrary, it continues to unfold, and it demands the ongoing attention of facility managers.
Tablet computers are only the latest in the ongoing stream of digital and web technologies that can turn almost any place into a workplace. And as formal work flows into formerly private spaces like individuals’ homes, some organizations want cues of individual lifestyles to flow back into their traditional office spaces.
That trend was part of the discussion at last month’s Every Building Conference & Expo, the annual event presented by BOMA International and BUILDINGS. In a general session entitled “Real Estate 2020: The Shape of Things to Come,” panelists examined the office market’s increasing interest in buildings that are neither in central business districts nor the suburbs but rather in areas adjacent to central business districts. These areas are more likely to offer unique buildings that can be renovated into one-of-a-kind spaces. Andrew Friedman, managing director of San Francisco-based real estate firm Shorenstein, said that the 40th floor of a high-rise in a CBD doesn’t cut it with firms that want to create something different than a traditional downtown corporate image or a suburban stereotype.
One goal of such nontraditional office spaces is amplifying person-to-person collaboration among employees who frequently work elsewhere. The solution is often more relaxed spaces that, to me, seem to function more like contemporary homes, where a focus of activity is a large kitchen/dining space with an island and tall stools.
The panelists also discussed research showing that office workers typically report that they are more productive working from home. As more workers spend more time working from home, that trend — combined with the high operating costs of traditional office space — will continue to shrink the average square footage devoted to each office worker. Research by CoreNet Global suggests that corporate office space could shrink by as much 40% by 2020.
Reductions in overall space don’t make offices less important, just smaller. And FMs who can help their organizations not merely to shrink space but to create a new kind of professional environment can seize an opportunity to show their value.