Image by Jeffery Totaro
FCA also created a plethora of flexible spaces for Fox Rothschild team members to have client interactions.

Office Footprints Are Shrinking but Efficiency is Growing

Oct. 11, 2023
Companies (in some unlikely markets) are getting savage about space utilization, slashing their square footage as they boost their appeal to today’s hybrid worker.

A hybrid work schedule can be defined in a myriad of ways, all depending on the establishment’s needs and culture. But in terms of an eventual full-time return to office, five days a week?

It’s not happening.

“That’s a thing of the past,” asserts Tiffany Hughes, senior project interior designer with Philadelphia-based FCA architecture and design. “Everyone is reducing their footprint; we frankly reduced our footprint by 50%. We went from 80 workstations to 24, now calling them 'work points' instead, in order to wrap our heads around this new way to work.” Opening June 5, FCA’s new office may technically only have 24 desks but there are up to 60 places an individual can work.

And this industry shift toward downsizing is not discriminating—industries from law to architecture, finance to branding are embracing it. While spaces are shrinking, employers can’t skimp on a robust offering of amenities, environments and resources for when their workforce does report in, however often that might be. “You have to draw people out of their homes and give them something they do not have there,” Hughes explained, such as the ability to “meet, eat and greet,” as FCA dubs it.

According to Steven South, design director for New York City-based Spectorgroup, one thing that is lacking virtually for employees (especially the younger generation) is mentorship. “We’ve seen departments where people are underperforming and being asked to come in more often so they can achieve and maintain that growth in their careers.” So, there is also a need for spaces in the office that can foster that vital, in-person guidance.

“You have to understand what people actually do and how they work together,” when tasked with a downsizing project said South. “Once a company identifies that clear business objective and how the work needs to get done to support then, then you can build a program for them that supports that and rightsizes: making sure you get the right utilization, aren’t overbuilding the space, and that you’re building the right spaces.”

FCA’s top recommendations for a successful downsize also include rightsizing, but first and foremost is there must be appropriate change management surrounding the reduction, meaning it needs to come from leadership who sets a new cultural precedent to support it.

Here, we feature two examples of projects from these professionals that can boast a successful (approximate, respectively) 50% reduction in office footprint, proving that downsizing doesn’t have to equal downgrading.

Fox Rothschild

FCA had a more than clear vision on those objectives that South mentions above, thanks to a 30+ year working relationship with client Fox Rothschild. So, it was an organic progression toward the 50% space reduction of the law firm’s Seattle office that began a few locations prior to this project, which set out to rethink the way law is looked at.

For instance, many projects are not setting aside large, dedicated rooms for law libraries any longer. Instead, they are reallocated to shelves in a lounge area or café space per say.

While privacy still needs to be taken into consideration because of the nature of the work, FCA has seen Fox Rothschild and the legal industry as a whole begin to adopt shared/reservable workspaces. Attorney offices have gone from 300 square feet to 120-125 square feet and one desk chair while administrative workstations could be at approximately 100 square feet but panels are coming down and two-four people might share it, along with printers and files, bringing a collaborative approach to the law industry. There was also a 20% minimum reduction in paper filing support space. “File reduction is crucial in order to downsize. Having less paper and moving to a digital platform is the new way of working that Fox continues to implement for all new builds as well as at existing offices,” Hughes said.

Medical Knowledge Group

Previously spread across two locations with 200+ employees, MKG’s footprint was consolidated into a single headquarters in One World Trade Center in New York City with just 18 seats.

For this medical marketing/PR group, the office was a place for client interface and collaboration above all else. “They wanted to present a better brand image,” explained South. “This is truly a showpiece for them with the amazing views at One World Trade Center,” he said, as the office is on the 84th floor looking out over New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. “And they wanted a space that could give them (the client) a more special experience. Everything is also kept light to maintain that experience of being up in the clouds.” Light woods, soft whites and grays are punctuated by the signature MKG color of red.

A reception desk is replaced by a lounge and coffee bar, where clients can be greeted and escorted into their designated meeting area. “It’s much more personal,” commented South. A larger board room can be broken down into two smaller ones and breakout session rooms are co-located. “So, they really thought about what kind of meetings they have with clients, how that process works, and how they want their clients to engage in that space.”

Lockers with a reservation system were integrated for employees on less of a hybrid schedule. And more internal collaboration spaces feature a pin-up room with a camera and rails to share ideas, not just with those in the physical office but two screens can accommodate remote workers dialing in. There are also huddle and zoom rooms for both in-person and digital/live one-to-one meetings.

Because their initiatives were clear, it allowed Spectorgroup to design a space for MKG that would be utilized to the max, allowing the company to maintain a headquarters in a highly desirable location while keeping overhead costs down.

The MKG office at One World Trade Center is a pilot for their other locations across the country.

About the Author

AnnMarie Martin

AnnMarie has been covering the commercial design space since 2005 and has been on the editorial staff at i+s since 2011. Her style and vision has helped the brand evolve into a thought leader in purpose-driven design and cultural movements shaping the way we live and work. She returned to the role of editor in chief at the start of 2023 and her journalism and fiction writing background have helped to craft bi-monthly issues that don’t just report the latest industry news, but tell a cohesive tale of some of the biggest topics facing designers today. She can always be reached at [email protected].

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Buildings, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Decarbonization 2024: How Digital Tools Minimize Your Carbon Footprint

Discover the untapped potential of digital electricity infrastructure in revolutionizing building electrification and decarbonization, unlocking a sustainable future while reducing...

Building Security & Technology Series: Webinar 3 - Proptech

Date: May 22, 2024Time: 1:00 PM EDT / 12:00 PM CDT / 10:00 AM PDT / 5:00 PM GMT Duration: 1 Hour eachGold Sponsors: Genetec, ISS, PrometheusSilver Sponsors: Eagle Eye Networks...

Building Security & Technology Series: Webinar 4 - Lessons Learned

Date: May 29, 2024Time: 1:00 PM EDT / 12:00 PM CDT / 10:00 AM PDT / 5:00 PM GMTDuration: 1 Hour eachGold Sponsors: Genetec, ISS, PrometheusSilver Sponsors: Eagle Eye Networks,...