Are Workspaces Becoming Smaller and More Communal?

Image via Flickr user herval.

I am a freelancer, which means I work from home or in a local library or cafe. If you are wondering what it’s like to work the freelance lifestyle, check out the New York Time’s  trend piece on “Laptopistan.” (I actually used to freelance from the Atlas Cafe when I lived in Brooklyn.)

A few weeks ago I wrote a post, “I Would Work In An Office Again If…” about what it would take to make me want to work in an office again.  The three demands I had were: showers, open-seating and a place to relax and eat.

The showers provide a better work-life balance where employees could cycle to work or jog at lunch. The open-seating would destroy all the politics associated with where you sit and how long you’ve worked somewhere and help people to work together. Finally, the relaxing lunch and lounge area would make people feel human instead of standing in front of a microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds and then retreating back to their desks.

Most offices are stagnant. The cubicles, corner offices and empty conference rooms and lunch areas just don’t make it a convivial atmosphere. Space is divided up in a hierarchical way that discourages collaboration and encourages petty politics.

Now that we can work anywhere via a laptop and mobile phone, why do we need to be chained to our desks with giant felt walls separating us from our neighbors?

Today’s L.A. Times piece picks up on a recent trend of companies cutting back on commercial space. The article points out that businesses used to provide between 500 and 700 sq. feet of space per employee and today that has shrunk to 200 sq. feet. By 2015 it’s supposed to be around 50 sq. feet.

The article also says that tightening up on office space is not just about saving money. Technological advances have made office equipment like computers, copiers and printers much smaller and we now have less need for paper storage. There’s also a generational shift afoot. Younger workers, the article reports, are happy to work in communal spaces and don’t really understand the need for a formal desk.

Let’s hope this trend does in fact become a reality. Until then I will remain a member of laptopistan.

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