Worldwide space standards moving closer to UK norm, claims new report

ShrinkingWorldwide office space standards are now moving closer to the norm seen in the UK according to a new survey from CoreNet Global. According to the CoreNet survey of real estate managers, the average amount of space per office worker globally has dropped to 150 sq. ft (14 sq.m.) , from 225 sq. ft. (21 sq.m.). This is still well outside the standards from the British Council for Offices Specification Guide which reported a fall to 11.8 sq. m. in 2009 and which will be revised downwards even further with the publication of the new guide which has been promised soon.  Even this figure might be seen as high and makes assumptions about the relevance of such space standards given the way some firms now work.

CoreNet also reports that with increasing employment levels, there is scope for a ‘property paradox’ in which more workers are using less individual space and more shared space for collaborative working.  Just over half of the respondents to the survey predict that an average of 100 sq. ft. or less per worker as the norm in five years.

A leading factor is the shift in corporate offices in the US and elsewhere toward open plan offices which have been the norm in the UK for some years. Just as the ‘World Series’ really means The ‘US Series’, the CoreNet survey is skewed towards the American experience so claims that more than 80 percent of the respondents said their company had reduced the numbers of dedicated  cubicles and shifted towards more open plan working.

However, there are limits to the extent to which collaborative spaces can be deemed productive as Gensler reported in a survey earlier in the year. In the Corenet survey, 43 percent of the respondents say that they now have more collaborative space than private space where employees can focus with around a half (49 percent) claiming they thought companies in general might be focussing too much on collaborative space at the expense of focus work and privacy.

“Through this survey, and anecdotally, we are hearing of a ‘collaborative space bubble,’” said Richard Kadzis, Vice President, Strategic Communications for CoreNet Global. “Just as we have escaped the ‘cube farms of Dilbertville, some employees may start to feel that the open-space pendulum has swung too far, at the expense of a worker’s ability to concentrate without interruption or distraction. Workplace strategy is no longer a singular function of real estate, but a product of taking into account the needs and demands of the business, and how real estate should work with human resources, information technology, finance and other support functions to support overall organizational planning.”