As employees become more mobile and less tied to their desks, the average amount of space per employee nationwide across the US, in all industries, has dropped to 250 square feet from 400 square feet in 1985, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial brokerage and property manager. Within 10 years, that is expected to drop further, to 150 square feet.
“The office status symbol seems not to be as important. People are living for more flexibility in their lives,” said Peter Miscovich, a managing director for corporate solutions at Jones Lang LaSalle. By allotting less space per person, companies can squeeze more employees — sometimes double or triple as many — onto a floor.
One newly redesigned floor of US tech firm Intel’s campus can now accommodate 1,000 people, up from 600. In some departments where employees are often on the road, two people may be assigned to a desk.
Of course, sometimes the downsizing in office space is not voluntary. Companies that went through rounds of layoffs are renegotiating leases, moving into smaller offices and mothballing large real estate projects to save money. In the last three years, companies have given up 137.8 million square feet nationwide, according to the real estate research firm Reis, and would most likely put more on the market if they could. Other companies are reducing their real estate expenses, which are generally the second-largest cost after employees.