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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Over the last four decades, Americans' personal space at work has steadily shrunk.

Why it matters: Companies around the country were able to abruptly send their employees home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but bringing those panicked employees back after the pandemic won't be so easy — especially to increasingly cramped, open-plan offices.

The big picture: Average square feet of office space per worker in the U.S. has been declining since 1990, from around 260 square feet then to 214 now, according to data from commercial real estate firm CoStar. The uptick between 2008 and 2010 was due to companies laying workers off but keeping their office leases during the financial crash.

Data: CoStar; Chart: Axios Visuals

The numbers are even smaller when looking just at cities, says Paul Leonard, a managing consultant at CoStar.

  • Average space per worker is around 180 square feet in the country's largest metro areas.
  • On top of that, people have grown accustomed to closer quarters and more shared areas due to rise of coworking spaces, says Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO of SquareFoot, a commercial real estate company. Consider WeWork, which has been leading the recent redesigning of offices, where space per worker is 75 square feet.

But, but, but: Those long shared desks and communal phone booths will be downright panic-inducing to millions of Americans coming back to the office after months of isolation and social distancing.

Firms might be forced to redesign their offices to give nervous employees more personal space — within the confines of their often decades-long leases.

The bottom line: The dreaded greige office cubicle looks pretty good right now.

Go deeper

Updated 33 mins ago - World

Trudeau's government projected to win Canada election

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has been reelected in the national election, the CBC and CTV News projected on Monday night.

By the numbers: The Liberal Party needs to win 170 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons to form a majority government. Preliminary figures show the party ahead with 156 seats at midnight ET, with nearly 66% of polling stations reporting.

Pelosi's back-to-school math problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may need votes from an unlikely source — the Republican Party — if she hopes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by next Monday, as she's promised Democratic centrists.

Why it matters: With at least 20 progressives threatening to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, centrist members are banking on more than 10 Republicans to approve the bill.

By the numbers: Haitian emigration

Expand chart
Data: CBP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The number of Haitians crossing the U.S.-Mexico border had been rising even before their country's president was assassinated in July and the island was struck by an earthquake a month later.

Why it matters: A spike during the past few weeks — leaving thousands waiting in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas — has prompted a crackdown and deportations by the Biden administration.