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You’re Paying Too Much in Office Rent. Try Redesigning

Look around you: Scores of office desks are probably empty. Flexible office design can help.

Glance around your office. Are there empty seats? If so, your company’s frittering away money on real estate. The good news: Design can help.

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Just look to YNNO, a workplace consulting firm in the Netherlands, that eschewed costly private offices and cubicles for an open-ended, free-wheeling environment. A mixture of big project tables and private nooks, the space can accommodate all sorts of people and work situations, whether noisy meetings with clients or an employee on deadline and desperate for solitude. The idea is that workers should have a place to check in and plug in, but don’t need designated desks, especially since they travel so much as consultants. Think of it as less of an office than a homebase.

The space was designed by Rotterdam-based Sprikk. The floorplan is completely open save a couple acoustically isolated glass structures for private meetings. It’s also got biomorphic birchwood structures that create nooks, partitions, storage, and bookshelves all over the place, breaking up the monotony.

Sources estimate that the average workplace is just 70 to 80 percent full on any given day — that’s 20 percent wasted on unused office space. Consulting firms throw away even more money because employees generally spend more time in other people’s offices. Taking design cues from YNNO and Sprikk could drastically reduce costs.

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Obviously, this sort of layout wouldn’t work for every company (law firms, for instance, where privacy is paramount). And you wouldn’t want to transform an office full of private suites into an open floorplan with absolutely no personal space overnight. By now, you’re all familiar with the cautionary tale of TBWA Chiat/Day in which employees revolted against a rootless (and faintly inhumane) “virtual” office — and if you’re not, read design journo Warren Berger’s excellent recap here. (The problem, which has since been addressed by office-design consultants, was that there wasn’t enough overflow space planned in, for the odd day when 85% of the office showed up, for example; technology also wasn’t up to snuff at the time, and some functions shouldn’t have to move around all the time.)

At the same time, we’re more comfortable as mobile employees now than we were then, in large part because we depend on mobile technology. The technology will only continue loosening the corsetry of traditional office work, and as companies increasingly look to their bottom lines, expect YNNO’s office to become the norm, rather than the exception.

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[For more pics check out Contemporist]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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