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How Much Office Space Do I Need for My Employees?

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 — January 24th, 2023

How Much Office Space Do I Need for My Employees?

Rightsizing. Ever heard of it? You are probably familiar with its cousin, downsizing.

Rightsizing can sometimes refer to the process of restructuring a business in terms of costs and people, but here we are looking at rightsizing in the context ofoffice design only.

As the nature of work—and how we work—changes, we seeoffice requirementschange too. Organizations around the world are adapting to a rise in hybrid or flexible working.They are either downsizing to new, smaller-scale offices, consolidating multiple locations into one, or modifying existing spaces to fit their new working environment—this is rightsizing. 

Although many employees have returned to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic, workingarrangements have changed dramatically.Our newfound flexibility combines all the benefits of working remotely with the social and communication benefits of working in an office. Hybrid working is no longer considered a trend; it’snow a long-term working model. This seismic shift in our work/live balance has prompted a re-think of the office space itself.

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Office space planning

First things first.Businesses must ask, "do we actually need all of this space?" The average officespace ranges from 75 to 175 square feetper person. In an open office environment, the guide is typically around 100 square feet per person. If individual offices are required, for example, for senior management, that figure jumps up to 250 square feet.

To then get an idea of how much office space you need, the general rule of thumb is to multiply the number of employees by the square footage you’ve allocated to each one. But for most organizations, this method is no longer fit for purpose, as employees are no longer bound to any one office desk.

Today, most offices fulfill a different purpose or, at the very least, cater to somewhat different needs. Office space planning depends on a wide range of factors:

  • On average, how many employees are present in the office each day?
  • Is your office layout open plan?
  • Do you have individual worker cubicles?
  • Do senior management have their own offices?
  • How many meeting rooms or conference rooms do you need?
  • What kind of communal areas do you have? Would you like to add more, to foster the spirit of community in your workforce?
  • Do you need separate quiet spaces?
  • Do you have a kitchen or canteen space?

The perfect office space has worker productivity at its heart 

The general figure of space per person refers only to the space occupied while sitting at a desk. Businesses need to ensure they are allocating enough space to each worker; too little space can make employees feel cramped and will hamper productivity.

Today’s workers want more from their workspace. In fact, 90% say they are more productive when working in an office space that has been designed with intentionality. They want a space that suits their needs exactly, whether that’s a workstation kitted out with the latest in tech, or a quiet, separate area for a moment of peace. One in five workerssays having space away from their desk to chill out in would help them to be more productive at work.

Crowded office spaces can have a detrimental effect on productivity. But office space is more than the area around anemployee’s desk; it’s alsoabout the entire work environment.

Right-sizing your office space to improve the work environment

Right-sizing is about making the space you have work for your needs. For that, you will need to gather more information. You will need to know the following:

  • What areas of the office are used most frequently, by most people?
  • Are people primarily using individual workstations or collaborative workspaces?
  • Are meeting rooms popular? And if so, how many people, on average, are in the meeting rooms at any given time?
  • Do people use quiet areas? If so, how popular are they?

A flexible workspace for the hybrid worker

Ideally, you want to get a sense of how people are moving around the workspace. This will give you an insight into how the space is being used and what needs to be added. 

This is broadly how much space you need to allocate for different usages;

  • Individual workstations: 50 square feet per person
  • Open plan workstations: 75 to 110 square feet per person
  • Huddle space for small groups: 150 square feet per employee
  • Meeting rooms for up to 20 people: 150 to 500 square feet
  • Relaxation spaces for up to 20 people: approx. 500 square feet

Here’s a handy office space calculator that will give you an initial idea of how much space you need.

Next, let’s tackle the layout.We’vepreviously written about how today’s organizations must create a flexible workspace for employees. This means a space that can be easily reconfigured to suit specific needs on any given day. With hybrid working here to stay, every day in the office can be completely different. Some days will see individual workers sitting at their desks; other days might see teams using communal spaces to work together on a particular project orthe entire leadership team using the office for an end-of-quarter meeting. These use cases all require separate, bespokelayouts. 

Consider incorporating flexible and modular furniture, easily adaptable open-plan layouts, and technology-enabled collaboration spaces.Planning is key. Facilities managers should work with each cohort tocreate functional, productive spaces where goals can be achieved.

Planning Templates: How to Determine the Number and Placement of Digital Signs on Your Production Floor

Key takeaway

The goal of rightsizing office design is to create a functional and productive work environment that supports the company’s business objectives and culture while reducing costs. Any trend that promotes intelligent design and efficient use of resources can only be a good thing. With employees demanding sustainable, “commute-worthy offices,” perhaps it is time that we all take a step back and lookobjectively at how our space is best used. It will serve us well in the long run!

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