Cramped Americans forced to share office space

Aug 25 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

With more than a third of Americans having no permanent work space and nearly four out of 10 forced to share with a co-worker, it's not surprising that a quarter complain of feeling cramped.

According to The Nature of Work in 2006, anew study for Steelcase, a global manufacturer of office environments, the number of workers who said they had no permanent work space reached 35 per cent this year, compared with 11 per cent a decade ago.

Some 37 per cent now shared their work space with someone else, the survey found, something that had not even been an issue 10 years ago, as it had not been recorded in the original survey.

More than a quarter – 28 per cent – said their office or work space was cramped, little changed on the 26 per cent reported in 1996, with this the main reason why there had been a reduction in the number who personalised their work area.

The number of workers who added a personal touch had declined sharply, from 85 per cent in 1996 to 59 per cent this year, the poll of nearly 700 U.S. office workers concluded.

This was despite the fact that most U.S employers had become much more relaxed about personalising of working areas in the past decade.

Just 25 per cent in the latest survey said their company did not encourage personalised work areas, against 42 per cent in 1996.

The most popular way to personalise office space was the put up photographs, cited by 84 per cent of those polled (up from 69 per cent a decade ago).

Others methods gaining popularity included putting up paintings or posters (51 per cent), scattering the work area with knick-knacks (47 per cent) and putting flowers or plants on the desk (46 per cent).

Less common methods, although not unheard of, were spreading out rugs and putting up decorative lights (both 16 per cent).

And a surprisingly large proportion of workers – 27 per cent – even went so far as to roll up sleeves and paint the walls.

Personalised wall calendars were also popular with 55 per cent of the workers polled.

But there had been a decline in the number of workers who brought radios or CD players into the workplace, down from 51 per cent to 41 per cent, perhaps an indication of the proliferation of iPods or computers with speakers, suggested the survey.

"Employees are becoming increasingly mobile, and many organisations have responded to that trend by creating shared 'touch down' spaces that people can use when they need to be in the office, which allows companies to use their overall space more efficiently," said Steelcase corporate marketing manager Chris Congdon.

"We also see organisations creating shared spaces for employees who may not be highly mobile, but who benefit from co-location and collaborative work, making shared workspace an effective tool," he added.