How much office space does your business need?

Feb 5, 2021
How much office space does your business need? Let’s look at this question from a mathematical perspective.
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Whether you are looking to expand or reduce your office space, it is a logistical nightmare to settle on the office square footage per person. The amount of office space your business needs comes down to an overwhelming number of variables: the length of your office lease, the number of employees, how you meet internally and with clients, and desired amenities, to name a few.So, how much office space does your business need?

Let’s look at this question from a mathematical perspective:

Calculating office square footage per person

This may seem like a strange concept, but determining your desired office square footage per person is a great starting point for your business. In the United States, most offices have approximately 138 sq. ft. per person.1 So, for a team of 40, you should plan for approximately 5,520 sq. ft. Consider this next question carefully, however:

Should you calculate square footage with such a simple metric?

Likely, no.Your workforce is going to grow or shrink with time. Additionally, you’ve likely seen fewer people in the office during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your business is adopting a hybrid work model,2 your office square footage per person ought to reflect that. Though, you should leave room for variation here.Consider how condensed or relaxed you want your office space to be. If 138 sq. ft. is on the low end for your employees, a spacious 300 sq. ft. may better suit your daily needs — even in a hybrid environment. If 70% of your workforce comes into the office during some days of the week, this could impact your choice.

3 questions to consider before making a decision

As we said, you should ask yourself many questions in each case. How many conference rooms do you want? Are communal spaces important to you? Does the hybrid office space challenge your ability to communicate effectively?

Thankfully, we’ve identified three questions to answer before you make your decision.

1. What office environment do you want to promote?

Some businesses design their office space with a compact, high-energy environment in mind — think call centers, customer service centers, or other customer-oriented companies. In these spaces, many employees tend to work at their own desks, with access to a snack room and a couple of conference rooms for team meetings. This won’t necessarily be the target size for every business, though.When we say “office environment,” we mean the feeling of the space. Do you want a competitive, tight space that you can fill to the brim with employees? Or would you prefer a more lighthearted, relaxed atmosphere? The next question will look at how your office layout could determine your choice.

2. Does a traditional office layout make sense for your team?

Traditional office layouts include cubicles, private offices, and a few amenities for making it through the eight-hour day. However, these spaces have become less common for productive businesses — employees are as productive in office as they are in a hybrid or fully remote setting.3 Perhaps we need to consider a different office layout.Done right, an open office plan can be the perfect space for creative or collaborative teams4 — even in a hybrid setting. You can do away with the one-size-fits-all approach to collaborative spaces by creating purpose-built areas for small meetings and brainstorming sessions. For small meetings, a huddle space or small sitting area would use less square footage than an entire conference room. That said, having one large conference room for communication with your entire team — including hybrid and remote workers — would not take up too much of your office space. It merely depends on your needs.An open office plan isn’t the only solution. Perhaps you’re looking for a unique blend of traditional and modern office space, but your hybrid work model means that 50% of your workforce is online. In this case, online conferences and meetings might make more sense for everyday logistics.5

If you want an office layout that makes the most sense for your team, this next question will help you make the decision.

3. Are You thinking about your employees first?

You may be surprised by the results of asking your employees what they need and would like from an office space. If people feel like they don’t have enough privacy, an open-plan office with reduced square footage may not fit the bill. A survey could indicate a desire for more amenities, a variety of meeting spaces, or a refreshing update to the current office layout. You won’t know until you ask.

A survey of your employees’ wants and needs will help you determine the amount of office square footage per person. Not only that, but it may also identify future areas of concern (e.g., maybe your employees strongly dislike in-person meetings, but you aren’t planning to move virtually). A survey will make you more aware.

Consider asking what your employees need to fill the space before setting a physical boundary.

What to add to your office space

When trying to plan out your office square footage per person, consider these additions:

  • Various meeting spaces – You can design a meeting space anywhere from a 25 sq. ft. sitting room to a 1,000 sq. ft. event space — there are many ways to mix and match.
  • A full kitchen – Not everyone plans to go out for lunch. Although everyone loves a snack room, it may not be enough space for your team. Help your meal preppers and other employees save time and money by offering a full kitchen. Roughly 200 sq. ft. is plenty of space for anyone’s needs.
  • Bathrooms and showers – Do your employees prefer the privacy of a private bathroom? Are some employees commuting by bicycle or coming to work after the gym? Maybe they could use a place to rinse off. Consider workplace hygiene as another metric for determining a number for your office square footage.
  • Break rooms – In this case, 138 sq. ft. per person may work well. A space to decompress during the workday could be just what your employees need. A study from Staples found that 85% of employees believed they benefit from taking breaks throughout the day.6 Even with a hybrid office model, businesses should prioritize workplace wellness.
  • Other spaces – Determine the size of other spaces you want to include in your floor plan. A library, gaming hub, and nursing room are a few examples of additional spaces. By surveying your employees, you may get a sense of which unique spaces you should include.

Although this list is far from comprehensive, it might give you some ideas for how your business could better plan out a new space with purposeful office square footage per person.

Sources
  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/798977/global-office-markets-by-space-per-employee/
  2. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/hybrid-work-model-likely-to-be-new-norm-in-2021.aspx
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2022/02/04/3-new-studies-end-debate-over-effectiveness-of-hybrid-and-remote-work/?sh=ed7534f59b2e
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2019/12/03/in-defense-of-an-open-office-space/?sh=4ad8d2c07a65
  5. https://resources.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2020
  6. https://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/tech-services/explore-tips-and-advice/infographs/breakroom-2014-infographic.html

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This post was written by one of the many writers at Envoy who are passionate about helping educate and inspire workplace leaders. We cover everything from the visitor and employee experience, to space and delivery management, to the workplace tech-stack that keeps it all running.

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