The current trend amongst companies is to downsize. With rent increasing to extraordinary prices, cutting space can be the best way to manage a tight budget.
The New York Times reported in a recent article that the average amount of space per office employee in North America decreased from 225 square feet in 2010 to 176 in 2012, according to CoreNet Global, a commercial real estate association.
The same New York Times article highlighted one of the many companies now following this trend — the design firm Knoll, Inc.
The firm recently relocated from a wide, expansive raw space to a much more compact office.
"Our square footage per person decreased by about 20%," Nicole Coughlin, Knoll's marketing director, tells Business Insider.
Downsizing forced the company to get creative with their space. While smaller space means fewer expenses for a company, it also inevitably takes a toll on productivity — small spaces increase the chance of distraction, and distractions can be costly. It takes workers roughly 23 minutes to return to their original task following an interruption, according to University of California Irvine professor Gloria Mark, who researches digital distraction.
To help combat increased noise and other distractions, the design team at Knoll implemented several "refuge rooms," which serve to offer workers a quiet space to retrieve to when necessary.
The refuge rooms have specific functions. Some rooms are ideal for taking conference calls, while others are intentionally technology free, for interviews or meetings where technology is unnecessary and potentially distracting. Other spaces are great for small meetings between coworkers, outfitted with a table and screen to share.
"We also have a couple of refuge spaces for more private use, such as a mother's room and a web conference work room with full privacy doors," explains Coughlin, "and sprinkled throughout the space are open refuge spaces, where the furniture itself gives a sense of enclosure and privacy."
There is something for everyone.
A productive work space looks different for every individual. Companies are becoming more and more aware of this, and are experimenting with design in order to accommodate the majority of their employees. Especially with the emergence of smaller, more intimate work spaces, refuge rooms could be a game-changer when it comes to a company's overall success.
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