It seems that if you want some room to stretch while you work, you may be better off in a prison cell than a modern workspace. Mother Jones reports that, soon enough, supermax prisoners will have more leg room that office workers.
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Shrinking Personal Space
In the year 2010, the average amount of office space per office worker in North America was 225 square feet. In 2012, this number dropped to 176 square feet.
The general rule of thumb, however, when allocating office space is to allow anywhere from 125 to 225 usable square feet of office space per person depending upon the type and style of the business. One-hundred and seventy-six square feet is still within the range of reasonable, but office space is not allocated equally. A president’s office might take up to 400 square feet of space. Cubicles allow for 60 to 110 square feet for each person. Group work areas generally allow 80 to 100 square feet per person, so not a big difference from sitting in the cubicle in an open area or just sitting in an open area.
The latest trend is to afford workers less space. Yodle is a tech company that the The New York Times reports is about to move to new quarters which will allow only 122 square feet per person, below the cut-off point of 125 square feet. It’s getting crowded in America’s offices.
Group Space Equals Lack of Privacy
Arguments for having people working in close proximity include the impromptu conversations that inspire problem-solving and creativity over the course of a day. It is easier to discuss projects or issues without scheduling a formal meeting.
The downside is lack of privacy. Even if you don’t panic in crowds, American workers are giving up their privacy. Private phone calls are not private. The reason you have to reschedule a meeting is known by all of your workmates because they can hear you explaining that you have a medical procedure coming up, or have to deal with your ex-spouse’s divorce lawyer again.
Lack of privacy also means that workers are not able to decompress from negative events, such as a difficult meeting, without being observed by everyone else. You may come back from a bad meeting and want to stretch, sigh, or vent a little to a trusted colleague — in private. You can’t. If you keep it bottled up until you can get home you may undermine your own destressing process and productivity; in other words, the rest of the day is shot. But if you do let it out, those who notice may judge you for being negative, which may hurt your reputation.
It may not be as small as prison, but it may start to feel like one.
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