Tech companies are less likely to devote office space to individual employees, instead preferring to tailor floor plans to team working, according to research.
A report by Bates Smart Architects draws inferences on how technology companies approach workspaces based on the firm’s designs of 60,000 square metres of space over the past seven years.
The report finds tech companies typically allocate about 30 percent of floor space to individual desks, compared to “40-45 percent for non-tech companies”.
This is particularly pronounced among what the study calls “established” technology companies, where as little as one-fifth of floor space might be assigned to individuals.
The study shows technology companies are more likely to value office designs that are open and foster collaboration.
“Up to a quarter of the available floor space is given over to wellbeing and social spaces,” the study said.
Just this week, it emerged that cloud CRM firm Salesforce put a “mindfulness zone” on every floor of one of its new buildings in San Francisco.
Business Insider reported that a team of 30 Buddhist monks had originally recommended that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff devote an entire floor of the office “to just silence”. The room on every floor was a compromise.
Bates Smart associate director Kellie Payne told Information Age that these kind of spaces could be referred to as “library zones”.
She said that every project her firm worked on “will have some element of wellbeing or breakout space” in the design.
“We have the same designers working on five star hotels as we do on workplaces, so they bring those same skills into the workplace,” Payne said.
While incorporating wellbeing spaces into workplace design is in vogue, in technology companies it is often paired with perks like in-house chefs or staff that are dedicated to employee wellbeing.
However, those perks often come at a cost. The Economist earlier this year called perks “golden handcuffs” and noted that they didn’t necessarily result in employee wellbeing.
“Tech firms that offer lavish perks to their staff do not do so out of the goodness of their hearts,” The Economist said.
“They offer them because they expect people to work so hard that they will not have time for such mundane things as buying lunch or popping to the dry-cleaners.”
One thing that is clear from Bates Smart’s study is that technology teams work and collaborate differently to non-tech firms, and configure their floor space accordingly. Typically, this means sitting workers in closer proximity to one another.
Perhaps one surprising thing is that in a digital and mobile age, desk work – and time spent in a physical office – is still desirable among even technology firms.
“Tech businesses like their teams to sit together,” Payne said.
“Very rarely do they encourage remote working, but where it does happen they simulate sitting together.
“They don’t just let someone sit in a room on their own on the other side of the world. They usually hook up a screen and make them feel like they’re sitting in the office.
“[The remote worker] has a continual video link open to the other members of the team so it’s as if they’re sitting next to you [in the office].”