Office workers in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are working in increasingly cramped conditions, with each worker having about a third of the space enjoyed by their counterparts in Europe and the U.S., according to a recent study.
In these Chinese cities, each worker has around 50 to 60 square feet per desk, compared with 100 square feet a decade earlier, says U.S.-based property consulting firm CBRE's report "Space Utilization: The Next Frontier." In Europe and the U.S., workplace densities are at around 150 to 200 square feet per desk, it says. Density norms in Australia and New Zealand are at 90 to 150 square feet.
CBRE's report covered 36 cities in 14 countries including the U.S., U.K., Japan, Singapore and India. The study excluded smaller Chinese cities where many office towers are empty or underutilized because of a glut of buildings.
Companies in the Chinese cities surveyed utilize an average of 73% of the space, higher than the 60% global average, the report said.
The lack of alternative options such as collaboration areas and meeting rooms also compel them to remain at their desks, the report added.
It added that staff left work earlier on Friday across all locations surveyed, except in the Chinese cities, where staff actually spent 2% more time on average in the office compared to Monday to Thursday.
"This is likely due to cultural working practices such as presenteeism," the report said, referring to the practice of working longer than required hours at one's workplace due to expectations that being seen in the office is essential for career progression.
"Tight desk space leads to lack of privacy, increased levels of noise and potential for distraction from neighbors, the negative impacts of which can lead to decreased productivity." said the report.
Tell that to China's trendy startups. The concept of shared office space is gaining traction in major Chinese cities with a substantial number of startups and small businesses. More real estate companies are jostling to provide hip office space for entrepreneurs who want to work cheek-by-jowl with each other.