Hans Hansson | April 30, 2015
The size and configuration of office space that a firm needs has drastically changed as a result of our use of technology such as the Internet, social media, the Cloud and other online business tools. For example, the ways we use our phones today are often times used more for texting and emailing rather than actual phone calls. Technology is forcing businesses to rethink and alter its use of office space.
Over the years, technology has changed the use of office space time and time again. Gone are the days when firms need extra floor space just to store their large computer servers. Law firms no longer need additional space in order to store their large library of books.
The workstation has evolved, moving employees out of private offices in order to cut costs and create more uniformity between workers. Today, long tables have replaced individual workstations to further reduce costs while concurrently creating a more collaborative culture.
Assuming that businesses had a sales, marketing, administration and research team within the same office, this old rule of thumb was used to determine office size, "An office should have 60 percent of the space designated to private offices and 40 percent of the space providing to an open plan, with each employee needing at least 200 square feet." By code in San Francisco today, the minimum allowed is only 100 feet per person.
Several tech firms today are well below this number and are almost entirely an open space plan. Most offices only have one to two meeting rooms and maybe a room that is the size of a phone booth (remember those?) as their only build out.
In the past, a true challenge and concern for businesses was noise transmission and the interference of productivity. When a business within one location housed sales and five more departments, the noise level became problematic. There had to be separation due to sound. However, those were the days when sales teams also had phones ringing (hopefully) "off the hook."
Today, the phones are ringing less and less and business is being conducted typically through email, text message, or live online chat. Virtually all customer support activities for any type of business are being supported via instant message, text message or online FAQS.
If you try to call a tech firm today, good luck finding a telephone number on their web site. Most tech firms intentionally do not provide a phone number. Why? Simply because they don't want to pick up the phone.
The lack of phone calls and the use of social media along with other online tools and technology to connect with one another are now creating a very different looking office space. Newer office designs resemble an upgraded version of a factory. Offices have their workers lined up on either side of these long tables and employees are stationed as close together as possible. In several ways, it reminds me of the old sewing shops or historic assembly lines, just now with computer monitors on the tables.
The reduction of phone use is reducing noise transmission issues, thereby allowing for more flexibility in large open areas. It also means less space per desk, as the phone created the need for semi-privacy and it was stationary on one's desk.
Next stop is the continued evolution of the office, including living space offered as personal services and pets allowed in even some of the most traditional office buildings.
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