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May 09 e-zine
Offices on the
Don’t just shrink.
SEEMS LIKE EVERYTHING IS
GETTING SMALLER THESE DAYS.
From thinner newspapers to bite-size
hamburgers to dwindling stock market
returns, super-size is so last year.
Offices are no exception.
Businesses are looking for ways to cut Collaborating everywhere
real estate costs, the second largest ex-
pense on the books after salaries. Many The urge to purge space is widespread
figure the easiest way is to make indi- because almost every company, whether
vidual offices, workstations and cubicles it’s recently cut staff or not, has empty
smaller so that more people can work in workstations. For example, Intel studied
the same amount of space, or less. workspace occupancy and found that
60% of their workstations were empty
“Everyone is looking to shed or transition at any given time of the day. Most stud-
space,” says Mark van Summern, AIA, ies concur that the typical workstation
principal at Perkins Eastman, Stamford, stands empty 40%-60% of the time.
Connecticut. “We’re seeing it across the
board.” The drive to compress real estate for eco-
nomic reasons is happening at the same
“Companies want to do this fast, but they time that other trends are coming into
also want to do it right. That’s the strug- play. For starters, there’s more team work.
gle. Because a workplace that doesn’t It often happens outside the workstation
support the work that needs to be done, in team spaces, small group areas, cafés,
even if it’s a smaller one, is still a waste client offices, tables between worksta-
of space,” says Robyn Baxter of Applied tions – anywhere two or more people can
Research & Consulting, the workplace come together to share knowledge and
consultancy at Steelcase. create more of it.
As a result, designers, real estate execs The ascendance of team work coincides
and facilities managers are crafting new with the rise of technology as the tool of
approaches to office environments as
“A workplace that doesn’t support
they’ve been known for the last half-cen-
tury. Many of these strategies have little
to do with assigned personal offices of
any size. the work to be done, even if it’s a
smaller one, is still a waste of space.”
and place are Access in all forms is especially important
to the youngest knowledge workers, Mil-
merging. We’re lennials and Gen Xers, who’ve grown up
working and communicating differently.
on work instead Atlanta-based designer Karen League,
ASID, says younger workers are helping
of at work. to drive alternative work strategies across
industries, even in more traditional com-
panies such as law firms.
choice for knowledge workers. Over the
last five years, the Steelcase Workplace “Young attorneys have the same skill
Satisfaction Survey has found that the sets and needs as their counterparts in
most important work satisfaction issues other industries. They want to work in
for knowledge workers are the means different settings.
to connect and collaborate. Here’s what
survey respondents said was important “In the 90s, when the term alternative
to them: workspace was coined, it was either/or,”
she continues. “Some people had as-
• access to people who are relevant signed workstations, others had hoteling
to their job (98%) or free address spaces and no assigned
• access to the right technology and desks. But we’ve thought this out now and
tools (97%) learned. Many of us don’t work tethered
• access to information (99%) to one location and we frequently work
How you work
vs. where you work
The icon for knowledge
work used to be the office
building; today it’s the laptop
bag. But when mobile
workers are in the office,
they still need support for
and information access.
outside the office, but there’s still a great
need to collaborate and work in teams.
That goes for every organization we work
with. It’s not about just changing your pri-
mary workspace, but rather understand-
ing the needs of all workers that can help
an organization work more effectively.”
On work vs. at work
As trends in real estate, team work, tech-
nology, and generations come together,
“work is becoming increasingly discon- 200 square-foot mark. (See page 5 for That means you can use ‘free address’:
nected from any one place,” according more survey results.) you need it on Monday and Wednesday,
to Jack Tanis, director of the Applied Re- but I need it on Friday. Other days I need
search & Consulting group for Steelcase. Taking an average-square-feet approach some team space. If you look at those
“Technology and place are gradually can lead to problems if it’s not based in work patterns you can really make some
merging into one element to be managed a clear understanding of the organization, substantial savings.”
to support the structure, culture and work Chambers adds. “I talked with a compa-
activities of organizations. Which means ny recently who said their criteria is 400 New takes on the office
we need to stop thinking of knowledge square feet per person. I said, ‘What do
workers in terms of being at work, be- you mean?’ They said, ‘Well, that’s what Even full-time telecommuting workers and
cause it’s all about being on work.” we need.’ I said, ‘No, you need help.’” dedicated road warriors need to be in the
office sometimes. It’s where they receive
“On work” changes the game, and not ev- That’s where planning and design can training, reconnect with colleagues, tap
ery company understands this new world make a big difference. Since organiza- into the organizational culture, nurture
of work. “It depends on their organizational tions have unique work processes and personal networks, and do other work
culture,” says Baxter. “One company I’m employees, alternative work strategies that happens most productively in that
dealing with is interested in looking at all
the options and another one takes a very
mathematical approach and says, ‘Help Taking an average-square-feet approach
us reduce our real estate by providing X
amount of square feet or meters of net us-
able space for each person on staff.’”
can lead to problems. The best planners
“Net usable” usually means all carpeted
and designers aren’t just shrinking the
office spaces including workstations,
meeting rooms, collaborative spaces,
office – they’re rethinking it.
should begin with a clear understanding space. That’s why the best space plan-
“Everybody’s space allocation is a little of what makes each organization tick. ners and designers aren’t just shrinking
different. Two-hundred square feet per the office— they’re rethinking it.
person is pretty generous,” says Mark “If one really understands the worker and
Chambers, senior vice president of of- the organization, you can compress real Julie Barnhart-Hoffman did exactly that.
fice leasing in the Vancouver office of estate and still create a workspace where A designer with the WorkSpace Futures
Cushman & Wakefield LePage, the global the worker doesn’t feel it has been driven group at Steelcase, she worked with the
commercial real estate firm. Typically it’s strictly by economics,” says League. company’s Global Supply Chain Man-
about 170 to 180. Call centers are around agement department to transform a
100. A law firm with big leather chairs “If we once used 8 by 8 workstations and 7,000-square-foot space of cube work-
might be 250.” now simply say we’re going to all 6 by stations into a community of shared work
8s, you can achieve some square-foot- settings. The space where 36 assigned
In fact, a new survey of real estate execu- age savings. But you can achieve a lot workspaces once stood now supports
tives just released by Steelcase shows more if you realize many of those work- 70 people in work settings ranging from
nearly 60% of workers at or below the stations are not being used all the time. private to semi-private to a cafe. No one
has an assigned space, yet there’s never
Footprints shrink, AWS grows
a shortage of workspaces to match work-
ers’ needs. (See page 7.)
A survey of corporate real estate professionals just completed for Steelcase by Barnhart-Hoffman’s design demonstrates
CoreNet Global shows 63% expect their company’s real estate portfolio to contract how a flexible space and furniture can
this year. Only 12% expect it to grow, while 25% say it will remain the same. support different generations, individual
and team work, focused private work and
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of survey respondents (69%) say they have group work – all in less real estate. “By
implemented alternative work strategies (AWS) in the past year, with 73% say- not restricting people to a single worksta-
ing the reason was to reduce real estate. Strategies they’re using include: tion, you give them more options, more
tools, more empowerment,” she says.
• home offices on a fulltime or part-time basis (78%)
• hoteling or free address work spaces (74%) Part of the group still has assigned work-
• mobile work at multiple spaces (69%) stations in a nearby area. A mix of shared
• full-time telecommuting from home (57%) and assigned spaces is typical for most
• satellite offices (27%) companies.
When it comes to using informal locations such as coffee shops and libraries “It depends on the industry and the
for business, companies are split, with 51% supporting the work style. Of those organization, but I think there are always
who support it, here are their reasons: people in organizations who need as-
signed space. Yet there are going to be
• improves employee work-life balance (87%) fewer of them, and there are going to be
• reduces commute time (57%), fewer storage and filing spaces, and more
• reduces carbon footprints (51%) spaces that promote interaction,” says
The major reasons cited for not supporting third-place work are concerns
about the confidentiality of company information (66%) and the work style not Not all groups may be willing to give up
supporting the company culture (64%). assigned workstations, reduce their pa-
per files and become mobile workers —
“The survey results support what we’re seeing in other research,” says Bud initially, or ever.
Klipa, General Manager, Details - a Steelcase company. “Companies aren’t
just slashing real estate footprints. They’re looking for creative ways to use the “You have to be sensitive to the degree of
space they have and shifting some work to home offices, third places, satellite change they’re capable of and willing to
offices and other spaces. It’s a delicate balance of short-term compression while make, and also if there’s executive support
simultaneously sharpening the performance of their space for the long term.” for it,” says Baxter. “You have to under-
stand the culture. What do you want to
The average net usable square feet per employee ranges broadly from one be? Do you want to be more innovative?
company to the next. However, survey findings show that 58% of companies How do you deal with risk? In the end,
allocate 200 square feet or less per employee and 25% allocate 150 or less. when you understand the organization
and what they want to be and what they’ll
Square feet per employee support, you know the kind of space they
Less than 75 3% can handle.”
100-125 7% After more than a year in the space, the
125-150 11% Steelcase group has proven that they can
150-175 17% more than handle working in what amounts
175-200 17% to about 100 square feet person, a figure
200-225 23% far below the target many companies set
More than 250 19% when they decide to compress.
The survey of 180 CoreNet members was conducted during April 2009. The The typical solution for such a low square-
majority of respondents are based in North America (79%) with 9% in Europe, feet-per-person design is “benching,” in
Middle East and Africa, 7% in Asia-Pacific, and 3% in Australia and New which people work at a long table without
Zealand. A more detailed report of the CoreNet Global/Steelcase survey will be panels and with minimal space division.
published in our next issue. Benching can be a good solution for highly
collaborative work. But for individual work
that requires significant privacy, it doesn’t
“When you simply refine a space, or
even redefine it, the perception is
Running the numbers
you’ve taken something away. Employ-
Planning for what’s next ees, clients, visitors – they all sense
it’s a reductive approach,” says Tanis. 75 percent of the U.S.
“You have to rethink work process, work, “Transforming the organization’s work, workforce is expected to
and the workplace. You have to carefully processes, and space adds enormous
examine the organization’s willingness value for everyone involved with the or- be mobile by end of 2011
and readiness to change,” says Baxter. ganization.”
“Some can handle a moderate change
in their space, technology, work process, Real office transformation is more attain- 14 percent of U.S.
and culture — a refining of their existing able now than at any time in recent years workforce doesn’t want
space. Others are ready to redefine their as work and the workplace undergo ex-
to telecommute at all
56 percent of Sun
work away from the office
at least 2 days a week
Sources: IDC Worldwide Mobile Worker
Forecast 2007-2001, Business Week, IFMA
7,000 square feet
“By not restricting people to a single comprise a new
workstation, you give them more options, alternative workspace
more tools, more empowerment.”
space through significant change. And ponential change and businesses depend 70 people can work in
some organizations want a paradigm on smarter use of real estate. Design, real
change, a real transformation of their estate and facility professionals have un- the 7,000-square-foot
work, processes, technology, and space.” precedented opportunity to apply break- Steelcase space
through thinking and, in so doing, bring
One mistake designers see is organiza- much more to less.
tions implementing alternative work strat-
egies based on where people are on the
100 square feet is
org chart. the average net usable
“We need to untether giving people a work-
space per person in the
space based on hierarchy, and give it to them Steelcase space
based on what they need. When you do that,
it’s just amazing how positive their response
is. It has to be planned and designed very 140 square feet is the
well, and you have to clearly communicate
what they’re going to get, as well as the
net usable space per
benefits for you and the organization. But if person in a typical call
those benefits are genuine, the response is
immediately positive,” says League. center
GREAT SPACE, MORE FILLING.
Designer Julie Barnhart-Hoffman calls
this alternative work space a “behavioral
prototype”.* Most of the furniture is easily
adapted by users and larger reconfigu- 2
rations are based on feedback from the
staff. But it’s also a permanent, working
space with real furniture where real work
This innovative space for the Global Supply
Chain Management department at Steel- 4
case was designed to address the new 3 1
ways work gets done: giving workers a
choice about where and how they work,
a measure of control over the space, and
a place to improve connections and col-
laborations between people.
“Visitors are surprised that people actually
Barnhart-Hoffman worked with the group work in the café, but some workers, es- 1 Private and semi-private
to transform their old space — 7,000 pecially younger ones, work here all day,” spaces support focused work.
square feet of traditional paneled work- says Cindy Bessey, the concierge for the
stations — into a community of shared department. “We see a lot of backpacks.” 2 Café sets a welcoming “this is
work settings. Space that housed 36 different” tone for the space.
assigned cubes now easily supports 70 Bessey and her colleagues, 50 people
people in a range of workspaces. “From in all, gave up their traditional 8-feet X 3 media:scape group setting
connects laptops, PDAs, etc. to
a design view, it isn’t about reducing the 8-feet cube workstations, reduced their
one screen, lets groups see and
number of cubes, it’s about making space paper files, and became mobile workers.
share information effortlessly.
more effective,” she says. Part of the department still works from
assigned workstations nearby.
No assigned workspaces here. On a first-
4 Group collaboration spaces
have mobile seating, display,
come first-served basis, workers choose “You can’t stuff everyone into the same and storage.
a space for the day: a semi-private office, work mode,” says Bessey. This alterna-
team space, huddle room, stool-height tive space supports multiple work styles
workspace, etc. with private and semi-private spaces, a Quarterly department meetings host 85
team room, a telepresence room (two-way people in the café (“more than ever attend-
A café takes center stage in the space. videoconferencing), partially enclosed team ed the meetings before,” notes Bessey),
There are booths, small tables with mo- spaces, lounge areas, a Details WalkSta- and mobile staffers are conferenced in by
bile chairs, a refreshment bar, a flat panel tion (electric height-adjustable worksurface phone. Soon telepresence technology will
running cable news (also used to dis- integrated with a low-speed treadmill), and allow those staffers to see, and be seen by,
play presentations during meetings), and of course the café. Workers learned very everyone else in the meeting.
stand-up-height workspaces that define quickly how to use the different spaces
the space. Plenty of natural light, a bright and new collaborative technologies such The space is such a draw that workers from
surface materials palette and Wi-Fi add to as media:scape™, a tool for helping teams other departments prefer to meet there, in-
the cafe’s appeal. access and share information. creasing cross-functional communications.
Office reality show* New hires are more productive from the
Behavioral prototyping is a research method used extensively by Steelcase and start, says Barnhart-Hoffman. “When they
other leading researchers of the workplace. It consists of building out real space had cubes, they had to move, reconfig-
with real products, based on workplace trends and user needs, and then studying ure — all the things you have to do when
it in use by real workers. Data is collected from video ethnography, surveys and people are hired, change jobs, move, etc.
interviews to gain insights into the emerging behaviors of workers. These insights Now, someone new to the group comes
become the basis for new approaches and solutions to meet the needs of workers in, they say ‘Here’s your Blackberry® and
and address business issues. laptop, go to work,’ and they kind of melt
into the space.”