According to a CNN report, Americans working in a claustrophobia-inducing cubicle have one more thing to complain about: shrinking cubicle size.
The average worker’s office space has dwindled 15 square feet since 1994, down to a cozy 75 square feet in 2010. And it’s not just the everyday workers who are feeling the squeeze—senior workers’ office space shrunk 19 feet over the same period. Everyone but executive management, who enjoyed an increase in office space, has to do more work with less space.
Or are they?
What popularized the cubicle in the 1960s was its functional, modular office space without the construction required to build walled offices. In the past, cubicle size has had to accommodate the latest office technology, such as bulky telephones, typewriters, and desktop computers. Today, that technology is slender and sleek, such as flat-screen monitors, laptops, iPads, and Blackberries—and more important, that technology is mobile.
Mobile technology replaces the need for workers to be chained to their desks. Instead, workers can telecommute or work from different places in the office, as in the open-space seating model found at companies such as Facebook and Intel. This open-space model is becoming more popular thanks to its team-oriented setup and efficient use of work space. Due to meetings, travel, shifts, or personal leave, not all work space is required at all times, so it makes sense to have fewer and unassigned work stations.
While some employees appreciate this modern, flexible approach to office space, other employees reject the approach’s irregularity, close quarters, and lack of privacy. Since employees spend half their days at work, it’s important their office environment works for them to foster comfort and productivity. But just as office spaces come in all shapes and sizes, so do employees, so not every model will suit every employee’s personality or work style.
Does that mean private offices are on the verge of extinction? Not if SAS, a North Carolina business intelligence software company, is any indication. For the last two years, the company was named Fortune magazine’s best place to work. The kicker? SAS gives almost all its employees private offices.