The future of faculty offices—and how you can adapt

Expert Insight

The future of faculty offices—and how you can adapt

As faculty workload has increased across the past two decades, some leading institutions—and even faculty members themselves—are considering innovations in office space design to meet new requirements.

Three major functional shifts showcase the evolving relationship between research faculty and their offices:

1. Faculty previously needed office space to house extensive personal libraries. Now, their libraries are increasingly electronic and accessible from a laptop.

2. Faculty used to host students in their office during office hours. Today, they often meet with students in other spaces on campus.

3. Faculty previously conducted their research on large desktop computers fixed in offices. These days, faculty can work remotely on laptops from home, coffee shops, or other campus locations.

The transformation in faculty workflow has created an opportunity for institutions to rethink traditional office space design. Younger faculty typically drive the conversation for these changes, as they desire more collaborative, open spaces like their peers in the private sector. As this next generation of faculty continues to grow, some institutions hope to move faculty offices toward more open spaces.

While future office space for tenure-track faculty remains an ongoing question, some institutions have made more significant changes for a separate, rapidly growing group: non-tenure-track instructors.

New instructional staff mix presents opportunities to transform space

As a whole, tenure-track faculty have decreased from 78% of the instructor workforce in 1969 to just 34% in 2009. The growth in non-tenure-track instructors (including both adjunct faculty and full-time instructors) has created an opportunity for institutions to rethink how they assign space.

There is currently a broad spectrum of spaces institutions provide for non-tenured faculty. In designing non-tenured faculty space, facilities leaders should consider:

  • Non-tenured faculty focus primarily on teaching, and therefore do not need private offices in the same way research faculty do
  • The centralized location of non-tenured workspaces is a critical to maximize their accessibility for students
  • A centralized location of non-tenured workspaces is critical to maximize accessibility for students

Some universities provide non-tenured faculty private offices, while others provide no space at all. Ultimately, the ideal workspace for non-tenure track faculty falls somewhere between these two extremes, such as a shared office, assigned cubicle, or hoteling space.

Learn more about the influence of corporate office trends on facilities units

Volume three of our The Campus 2025 Series explores if open office spaces can better allow institutions to improve space utilization, enhance collaboration, and increase operating effectiveness. Read more about corporate-inspired office space.