How Much Office Space Do I Need?
You cannot underestimate the importance of finding the right kind of office space for your business. Understand how much office space you need is the first step. The quality of your office space has a huge impact on employee productivity, satisfaction and happiness, so getting it right is paramount to the success of your company.
There are a number of key factors you need to account for during your search for the right office space. You need to be absolutely confident before you sign that dotted line that the office you settle on will be a space in which your business and staff can not only work positively and productively but also in which they will flourish, thrive and be at their best.
What does the law say?
Before you even begin to think about creating a great office space, you need to be fully conversant with your obligations towards your staff in terms of how much space they must actually be afforded legally.
According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, implemented in 1992 by the Health and Safety Executive, the UK government agency responsible for health and safety,
The total volume of the room when empty divided by the number of people normally working in it should be at least 11 m3. [Emphasis added].
The regulations go on to state clearly that every employee should have enough free space to move to and from workstations and around the office with ease. Remember, too, that the figure of 11m3 is reached by calculating the space when the room is empty. Everything from light fittings to furniture, equipment to ceiling beams, must be accounted for.
One final thing to note at this point: the office leasing industry deals almost exclusively in imperial units. From here on in, we’ll speak in terms of square footage. (11m3 of space can be envisaged as roughly equating to 55ft2 of floor space).
How much office space do I need?
Okay, so that’s your legal requirements addressed. But generally speaking, what are some common practices you can use as a benchmark when choosing your new office?
Whilst you might ideally like to be very generous with space for your employees, you may also need to keep things realistic and not break the bank. Let’s take London as an example. In the Big Smoke, a common allocation is 100ft2 per employee. This allows for 50ft2 for desk space and the other half dedicated to accommodating amenities for the office (more on these in a minute). That being said, high rents in the capital mean many companies adopt the more cost-efficient ratio of 70–80ft2 per person.
Moreover, it’s not uncommon for companies to implement further space-saving solutions such as storage facilities and replacing individual desks with communal benches. Once you get out of significantly expensive cities, however, you will often observe offices becoming increasingly more open and generous with their space-per-person ratio.
Within your office space as a whole, there is potential for division into specific areas if you so wish. These, too, have generally uniform sizes which you can utilise as guidelines.
Small (max. 5 racks): 40ft2
Large (max. 30 racks): 120ft2
Conference room: 50ft2 (+ 25ft2 per person seated)
Open-space workstation: 60–110ft2
Breakout room: 75ft2 (+ 25ft2 per person seated)
Group work area: 80–100ft2
Manager’s office: 100ft2
Reception: 100–200ft2 (+ 10ft2 per person seated)
Small (2–4 people): 100ft2
Large (4–8 people): 150ft2
Mail room: 125ft2
Work room: 125–200ft2
File room: 200ft2
Senior manager’s office (with small meeting table): 200ft2
Boardroom (15–20 people): 220ft2
Director’s office (with 4-person meeting table): 250ft2
Conference room (20–30 people): 300ft2
A final recommendation to keep in mind is that any halls or corridors you choose to incorporate in your office layout may constitute as much as 20–30% of the total usable area.
Important considerations when choosing an office
No two offices are the same, even if you’re looking at spaces within a purpose-built block consisting of relatively homogeneous rooms. Floor plan and layout are everything. Additionally, though, there are many facets to bear in mind when you are choosing which office space would be the best fit for your company. If you're looking to move offices, check out our Ultimate Checklist for Moving Offices.
Square footage is not always square. Some office spaces have awkwardly designed floor plans in which some space is not able to contain certain amenities. You must also consider that some sections may be far from windows and natural light. An employee seated in such an area, over time, may experience a marked reduction in morale. Finally, remember that ceiling height can be a factor in the overall shape of your office. Loft spaces in particular may be too low for comfort or to accommodate desks.
If you’re unsure about the shape of your potential office space, it’s best to play it safe. Unusually shaped floor plans can pose unexpected problems way down the line, so unless you specifically desire somewhere a little more quirkily configured — which you may well do, especially if this fits with your company culture (more on that in a bit) — you are best advised to keep things quadrangular.
If you can foresee your business expanding and your infrastructure eventually in need of more hands on deck, it’s worth accounting for space that would be required by increases in your staff count. Factoring in 10–20% extra space is recommended. This isn’t to say, of course, that you need to keep random empty spaces across the office! Employees can, for the time being, spread out. Just make sure they’re aware they won’t always have that luxury if the business goes in the right direction!
In order to minimise disruption to your business if your staff count exceeds the space you can reasonably allocate to every individual employee, you can seek termination and expansion rights on contiguous space. Expanding into adjacent space is far less inconvenient than is relocating your entire company!
The 100ft2-per-person rule of thumb works best in open-plan offices, which have become increasingly popular in the last decade. By positioning employees in relatively close proximity to one another, regardless of status, role or department, you create an environment conducive to strong interpersonal relationships and communication. Furthermore, open-plan spaces are financially sound insofar as they entail the sharing of resources such as desks, printers and lighting.
This being said, not every business would necessarily thrive in such a setting. If you wish to encourage a more independent style of working, you might consider incorporating cubicles and workstations into your office layout. Alternatively, you may wish to include both styles in different parts of the office, although you will of course require a fair amount of space to be able to implement this combination effectively.
Type of work
The way you spend your workday has a direct implication on how much space you require. For employees who spend the majority of their days out of the office on assignments or at meetings, a smaller work area may be perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, individuals who require swathes of space for research or the use of equipment for extended periods at a workstation will inevitably require larger work areas.
Employees who feel cramped or unable to enjoy their own personal space will never feel as invigorated about coming to and being at work in the long run. Workers are demonstrably far more positive, alert and engaged when in an environment in which they can sit, stand and walk around at their leisure.
Once upon a time, the size of an individual’s office spoke volumes about their position in the hierarchy of the company, but things are a-changin’. It is not uncommon for all workers to sit together, regardless of status, role or department, especially in open-plan and forward-thinking businesses. Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to have several fantastic offices to choose between, sincerely envisage your employees and company being at home in each of them. Does one just ‘feel’ right? Sometimes you won’t even be able to put your finger on why one particular office space is just so ‘your business’ — and that’s fine! Believe in your judgement and gut feeling. Then go forth and create a space befitting of your company!
Find the perfect office space — for free
Office space is one of the greatest overall costs for your business, so identifying which space bests combines value with size is of almost unparallelled importance. Click Offices can help.
Click Offices are a serviced office broker, industry experts in finding the perfect office spaces for our clients. Let us walk you through all available properties across Ireland and the UK in accordance with your precise needs and requirements. Best of all, our services are always 100% free to you.
Click Offices are the only option you need when it comes to comparing the global serviced office market. Get in touch today and one of our friendly team will set you on the path to finding the perfect office space for your company!