Traditional desks & cubicles decline as collaborative spaces emerge

by Elizabeth Dukes on March 4, 2014

Traditionally, many facilities management officials have been forced to handle the constant burden of keeping their workers well-equipped with desks and cubicles to house their workspaces. With every new employee entering or old one departing, there is maintenance work to be done, as cubicles must be rearranged and rebuilt to handle all workforce changes.Traditional desks and cubicles decline as collaborative workspaces emerge

Now, however, this is becoming less of a problem. According to the Peoria Journal Star, there’s a growing trend of offices foregoing the traditional cubicle approach, opting instead to put their employees in wide open workspaces with clearer views of their co-workers. Not only does this mean less work for facilities managers, but it breeds collaboration in the workplace as well.

Dan Irving, a sales representative for Business Furniture who also held a seat on the Peoria city council, told the newspaper that the youngest generation of professionals is upending the traditional approach to working in cubicles. Today, they prefer offices with a more open atmosphere.

“Everyone used to have cubicles, but young people want the barriers taken down,” Irving told the Journal Star. “They want to collaborate. The days of the corner office are diminishing. We see conference rooms being transformed into meeting places. There’s a lot of flexibility built into furniture for the office.”

Industry on the decline
There’s growing speculation that as offices trend toward open workplaces without traditional infrastructures, there will be a decline in the market for office furniture. This trend is emerging in small increments – according to Michigan Live, the industry got off to a slow start in the beginning of 2013. Gross sales and order backlog were both contributing factors to the market’s slight decline.

Michigan Live reported that the overall survey index for the furniture industry declined from January to April, from 54.30 to 52.84. Gross shipments, hours worked, capital expenditures, employee costs and personal outlook all components of the index that decreased in the first quarter.

“The industry can be described in one simple word – flat,” industry expert Mike Dunlap said in a statement. “Given current economic conditions, I think this is not bad news.”

One of two things is likely happening – either offices are changing because of the evolving tastes of today’s workers, or they’re being forced to adapt to adverse economic conditions. It depends on who you believe. But in either case, the office environment looks dramatically different than it did 10 years ago, and facilities managers are making adjustments to keep up with the demand for collaborative spaces on the go.



Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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