LAT has an interesting story about how companies are pulling back on office space, in some cases significantly. The recession has played a role, of course, but the changes are more structural, a reflection of technology (laptops allow people to work pretty much everywhere) and a changing corporate culture that has workers, especially those under 30, less wedded to big offices.
In the 1970s, American corporations typically thought they needed 500 to 700 square feet per employee to build an effective office. Today's average is a little more than 200 square feet per person, and the space allocation could hit a mere 50 square feet by 2015, said Peter Miscovich, who studies workplace trends as a managing director at brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle.
Good example of the transformation is happening in the downtown offices of Southern California Gas:
The utility arrived in 1991 as the prestigious anchor tenant of the new 50-story Gas Co. Tower, setting up offices that were among the best corporate America had to offer. "When we moved in almost 20 years ago, the office was really on the cutting edge of space design," said Pamela Fair, the utility's vice president in charge of support services. That old space plan put most workers in three-sided cubicles with walls too high to see over. Each is like a mini office with room for a personal computer and large monitor. There are ample file drawers and additional storage cabinets nearby. Managers' offices with spectacular views line the outer walls.
Now, having renewed its lease in its namesake tower, the Gas Co. is cutting its space from 15 floors down to 12 in what may be the largest office makeover underway in Southern California. (The office also has about 12% fewer employees than in 1991.) Among the changes will be fewer private offices and more compact standardized workstations for those who spend their days in the office. Workers such as account executives who spend the bulk of their time in the field will use small "touch down stations" placed invitingly in front of big windows when they do visit the office. Cubicles will be laid out in a manner meant to encourage collaboration, and there will be more "teaming" rooms, like small conference rooms, where small groups can work together.
All of which has huge implications for the already struggling office market.