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Office space per worker could shrink by up to 40% in Burnaby

Workspaces are projected to get smaller in the next 30 years.

The need for workspace and “employment land” is growing in Burnaby, but local employees might have to make do with less room in the future.

New projections show the amount of square footage per worker in Burnaby is expected to decrease by 14 to 40 per cent from 2021, depending on the type of employment, according to a report presented to the city’s planning committee last week.

Office employees could see the largest decline from 550 sq. ft. per worker in 2021 to 330 sq. ft. in 2051, while commercial workers could see a drop of almost 30 per cent from 550 sq. ft. per worker to 390 sq. ft.

Mayor Mike Hurley raised concerns about the trend, which he said means “a lot less space per worker.”

“How do we come up with that number? Are people getting smaller?” Hurley joked.

“It seems to me like people are crammed in pretty tight right now, so I’m a little surprised by that.”

Projected floor area in square feet per worker by employment land use class in Burnaby. City of Burnaby

City planner Chun Nam Law said the numbers can be partially explained by increasing workplace flexibility, such as co-working spaces and working from home, but he also noted the baseline pandemic year of 2021 makes it difficult to predict trends.

Hurley warned many employers are likely moving away from work-from-home in the future, which could change the employment needs.

By 2051, the city expects work-from-home employment to decline from the pandemic peak of 36,500 to 15,800, a 57 per cent decrease.

The future of work in Burnaby 

The number of office workers is set to double from 21,300 to 43,800, and the number of commercial workers is expected to increase by more than 80 per cent from 25,800 to 46,700, according to the report by Law and planner Danais Ponce.

The city expects to add 51,700 net new jobs between 2021 and 2051.

Overall, the number of jobs located on employment lands is projected to increase by about 72,000, a 70 per cent net employment change, between 2021 and 2051, according to the report.

Employment projections Burnaby. City of Burnaby

Burnaby needs about 22 million sq. ft. more employment space, 26 per cent more than now, mostly for industrial, office and commercial uses.

Burnaby currently has about 83 million sq. ft. of built employment gross floor area for about 103,500 jobs as of 2021.

Employment floor area projections Burnaby. City of Burnaby

You can access the data through the city's tables and projection chart reports.

📢 SOUND OFF: How do you think Burnaby should add space for employment? What should the future of work look like in Burnaby? Share your thoughts — send us a letter. Please be sure to include your full name and city of residence.