The technology firm Lewtan is one of many companies that have been moving employees into open spaces with fewer private offices, lower cubicle walls, and in some cases, smaller work stations. With laptops and BlackBerrys allowing work to be done from anywhere, information being stored digitally instead of on stacks of paper, more work being outsourced, and all the layoffs in the past year or two, companies are shrinking their footprints.
And they’re saving money on real estate and utility costs in the process. The average square footage per employee has dropped from around 250 square feet to 180, which translates into lower operating costs, said Barry Dubé, senior project manager at the tenant representation firm CresaPartners, which oversaw the creation of Lewtan’s new offices.
This openness has another benefit, companies say: encouraging better communication and collaboration among co-workers. “We wanted to literally break down the walls between groups and functions and people,’’ said Brian Frohn, vice president of finance and administration at Lewtan, whose workforce has shrunk slightly in the last few years.
The move was controversial at first. However, moving offices away from the exterior windows allows the natural light to help illuminate and heat the space, helping companies become more energy efficient. It’s part of a trend toward “functional minimalism,’’ said Steve Basque of ADD Inc., a design and architecture firm. The approach is a marked contrast from the cappuccino machines and foosball tables of the dot.com era and from the mid-2000s boutique hotel look with carpets and draperies.