Shrinking Office Space, Loss of Privacy: Are Business Centers the Solution?


Office space is shrinking; especially in places like New York City. The short supply of office space and allure of the city continues to fuel skyrocketing costs.

The fix: cram more people into a smaller space and… remove private offices.

A recent article in the New York Times provides insight and some interesting numbers. According to a study by CoreNet Global, the average amount of space per office worker in North America dropped from 225 in 2010 down to 176 square feet in 2012.

While more recent figures were not available, real estate experts estimate that the shrinkage will continue and that workers are being squeezed into even smaller spaces. And these are not just entry level workers; everyone from the entry level administrative assistant up to the VP level are rubbing elbows.

Private offices are out; long tables in common areas are in.

The question is: does anyone care? Many in fact do not; especially younger workers have long become acclimated to carrying on communication in close proximity to one another. They know whose picking up your dinner, you know when they are going to the dentist. No big deal. That is, as long as the spaces have plenty of light and large central bullpens for meetings and collaboration.

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Many traditional leased office owners are taking a page out of the business center and coworking space playbook and building out their spaces more strategically to provide economies of local space, with central networking areas.

To provide for privacy, they are creating what they term ‘refuge areas’ where people can go for short periods of quiet focus time or for a private meeting.

The New York Times article focuses on Yodle, the on-line marketing company, whose CEO, Court Cunningham, works side-by-side with his employees. While Yodle has some private offices they are not ‘owned’ and are open to anyone who needs them.

For owners and operators of business centers and coworking spaces, strategic layout and design has always been a key element to their success. No one understands better the concept of open center areas and quiet study nooks.

As companies seek ways to squeeze more people into less space, perhaps business centers can step in and provide space that is more ergonomically engineered, appealing and all the things serviced office space operators do so well.

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