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Office sizes shrink: Pros, cons of collaborative work spaces

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Offices are downsizing as companies look to save money on rent – the average worker's space shrunk from 90 square feet in 1994 to 75 square feet in 2010, according to one study, MPR reports.

That's led business managers to open up work areas into more collaborative spaces, which brings with it pros and cons: co-workers are interacting with – but also distracting – each other, MPR reports.

MPR visits Cassidy Turley, a commercial real estate services firm, where company officials have closely monitored the trend – and the company itself has downsized to a smaller space in Minneapolis.

"If you can save a dollar in cost, there's no additional revenue that needs to be produced and it can fall right to the bottom line," managing partner Dennis Panzer tells MPR. He adds, "The way we say it our office: if you show me one company that's expanding I can show you five that are downsizing."

Critics say open-office plans are overused and create huge distractions that cut productivity.

"We're throwing everyone out into these big open plans, where there's very little respite from the noise of other people around you, from the gaze of your co-workers, from the interruptions of your co-workers," lawyer and author Susan Cain, a critic of collaborative work environments, told MPR.

More collaborative work spaces are not a new trend. The New York Times two years ago profiled Intel's transformation from gray cubicle farms to brightly-colored group-work spaces.

The same folks who created the dull office cubicle are the ones turning a profit these days by killing it off, the Wall Street Journal reported this month.

The BBC last month examined some of the workplace dynamics – as well as the history – of open-office plans, which date to late 19th century.

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