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Workstations shrink with new technology

FARGO, N.D. — As the way we work changes, so have our work spaces.

Largely, they’ve gotten smaller.

“We’re seeing a much smaller footprint each year, whether it be in an office setting or a workstation setting,” said Roger Christianson, president and owner of Christianson’s Business Furniture in Fargo.

Lori Wambach, a furniture sales consultant with Brown & Saenger in Fargo, said she’s seen workstations shrink from 8-by-8-feet to 6-by-6, or smaller.

This is largely driven by technology, which has spurred paperless work environments.

“Filing needs have gone down, so we see less file cabinets, less storage needs,” Wambach said.

Many employees also aren’t as chained to their desks, thanks to laptops and notebook computers.

“People are more mobile. We often see space not typically designated to one specific person. So you can land and plant at any spot, not necessarily one that is assigned to you,” Wambach said, noting that doesn’t work for every company.

She calls these “touchdown stations.”

Christianson refers to it as “hoteling space.”

Businesses are also looking to reduce overhead by maximizing their square footage.

“Instead of having to move to a more expensive office space, they can effectively utilize the space they have better,” Christianson said.

Office furniture often does double-duty. A rolling drawer might tuck under a desk to hold files and, with a cushion on top, roll out for an extra seat, Christianson said.

A coat valet with a couple of drawers and storage have taken the place of an overhead cabinet, drawers under the desk and separate wardrobe, he said.

Meanwhile, monitor screens have gotten bigger. Many employees now have two monitors, Christianson said.

“Those two monitors have become their desktop,” he said.

Monitor arms are then crucial to lift the monitors off the smaller desk surface, where there’s not room for monitor bases and stands, he said.

As individual work spaces have shrunk, the offices they’re in have become more open, Christianson and Wambach said.

Panel heights between cubicles have come down. Remaining dividers are often glass for open lines of sight, Christianson said.

While offices used to be situated along the perimeter and the workstations centered in the room, the opposite is now happening, Christianson said.

Walled offices are more likely to be built in the middle of the space with workspaces around the perimeter, to allow light to filter through the office.

Wambach refers to the trend as a “living office” — more open, collaborative and homier.

Instead of a table and four chairs, a meeting room might feature lounge chairs.

“People spend a lot of time at work,” she said. The trend is “to implement some areas that are more comfortable.”