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The Future Workplace Offers No Seat At the Table

If you're an upwardly-projecting employee looking for your seat at the table, just cool it already because employers everywhere are starting to cut back on chairs. Yes, chairs. By 2020, you might just be chair of the committee without a chair from which to chair. Take that, Clint Eastwood! - May your future have more direction than Clint Eastwood's speech.

It's no secret that global companies have been downsizing office space over the last decade. We don't need no big, stinkin' office; just pack everyone in like sardines! And Citrix Systems tells us that it's going to get worse. In 2020, the average global employee will be working from two-thirds of a desk, and the average office will have only seven desks for every ten employees. Just stand there pecking at your average of six mobile devices, which will also be a big part of the excuse reason you don't need a desk or a chair anymore. But it's mostly about cost savings. According to the Citrix Systems report:

Organizations expect to reduce workplace space by seven percent within just two years, and 16 percent by 2020. Organizations that have implemented workshifting already have 15 percent fewer desks than those who have not implemented such a policy, helping to deliver real estate savings.

Employees, if you don't stand for something then you'll fall for anything. Don't take this sitting down. You already spend enough time trying to find a parking space. You shouldn't have to fight your co-workers for a chair.

There's also the subtle, unintentional message companies might send employees. You show up for work, and you no longer have a chair. Sure, you're out of the office a lot these days, but still. They can't give me a freaking chair when I'm in the office?? I really don't want to ask if I can borrow a chair again. Is the company getting ready to bench me permanently?

Likewise, if I were a "valued customer" with a scheduled appointment standing around watching Junior Assistant run from room to room asking if he could borrow a chair for me, then I'd have to wonder about the company's organizational and long-range planning skills. Or perhaps even question whether or not the firm is hitting its benchmarks.

And what about people with health conditions who truly do need to sit a spell? Will we see the first chair-less ADA lawsuit? They made me stand!!

There's been a trend toward working while standing up, but not everyone wants to be Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld invading other countries while stand-working. In fact, many employees actually care about having a chair, and in my experience they can be quite territorial about it. A chair is a subtle sign of permanency and belonging, of planting oneself in a particular space, sometimes with a bag of Doritos, sometimes not. Never underestimate the ability of the average employee to couch his or her uncertainty in an untrue conspiracy theory.

Employers, you don't really have a leg to stand on here. Table the idea of fewer chairs. Show some chairity by making sure the number of chairs in the office is equal to, or preferably exceeds, employee headcount. Besides, do you really want your committee chair forced to do a standing-room-only presentation? I didn't think so.


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