The Incredible Shrinking Office
Every time, I read an article about the “incredible shrinking office” or the pending demise of traditional office space, I frequently have to digest it with a grain of salt. These articles often seem to be authored by someone whose company would have a vested interest in this trend. This commentary has more credibility when written by a Corporate Real Estate Director, an architectural design professional or office leasing broker (the people in the trenches who are designing and leasing office space).
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing the trend. Office space footprints are getting smaller as a result of technology and workplace trends. However, I sometimes have to dispute to the degree this trend is often characterized. Also, these trends vary among industries and geography. A trend in Silicon Valley or other high tech clusters isn’t necessarily happening to the same degree in Houston, Atlanta or Philadelphia. There would be anarchy in our office if they asked us to sit at a bench.
I recently assisted a Silicon Valley Tech firm in securing their Houston office location. As we were evaluating buildings and particular spaces, this comment was made; “most of the office space here is built out with private offices.” In this particular instance that was a negative factor, but historically in my experience in Houston this wouldn’t be the case more often than not.
I have not personally had any clients drastically reduce their office space footprint that wasn’t driven by a headcount reduction. My point is that my clients who have utilized primarily open office environments still do and those that prefer a combination or a predominately private office environment still do. I am not seeing many companies make radical changes to their office layout. Sure technology gives us the ability to work more effectively outside the office, but if freeway traffic is any indicator most people are still coming to the office to do their job on a regular basis.
Some companies are on an office space diet, but just like losing weight it is often a long slow process. They are losing weight by cutting a few calories here and there and exercising more rather than a crash diet. The trend is driven by cost considerations, improved technology and changing demographics. I just find it much more credible when CoreNet tells me about it versus when a Tech Blog does.