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March 30, 2023

How-To-Guide: Determine How Much Office Space Your Business Actually Needs

When launching a new business or scaling your existing business, there are a number of preliminary tasks you’ll need to undertake — some more obvious than others, like coming up with a hiring plan, and some less obvious, like finding the right workspace to create a positive, productive work environment.

While there are many logistical factors to consider when finding an office space, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is deciding how much office space your team will actually need. 

In this post, we’ll go over how to determine how much office space your company needs by answering a few key questions that will come up in your office space search.

Office layout workspace design
Source: Kew Management

What Will Your Office Layout Be?

When determining how much office space you’ll need, it’s a good rule of thumb to not only solidify how many employees you’ll need space for, but also what kinds of in-office zones your business needs to thrive. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all calculation, as different types of businesses will have different office layout needs.

For example, if your business is a law office, you’ll likely need many private office spaces with ample space for equipment like filing cabinets to store documents. You’ll also need spaces to receive and host clients, as well as ample conference room space for meetings.

If you’re a startup technology firm, on the other hand, you may opt for less private office space and instead adopt an open-office layout. You may not need as much storage space since many key files can be stored in a company-wide cloud platform. However, you will still likely need meeting rooms so that employees can congregate or staff members can take calls that require an additional layer of privacy. You may also need to install phone booths for business development and sales personnel to take calls without disturbing other team members.

Before signing a lease to an office, or even starting to tour, define what a non-negotiable layout looks like for your business. Here are some important questions to ask to get you started.

  • Do you plan to scale during the duration of your desired lease term? If so, what is your projected headcount? This will help determine how many workstations you’ll need. (Tip: if you’re having difficulty coming up with headcount projections, you may want to opt for a more flexible lease term, such as a coworking agreement.)
  • How many, if any, of your staff members will need private offices?
  • Do your employees frequently hold meetings? What is the typical meeting size? Are they primarily phone meetings, or do they include primarily your internal team? This will determine how many meeting spaces you need, how large they should be, and whether you need any phone booths.
  • Will you need a full kitchen or just a small kitchenette?
  • How much common space will you need for breaks, meals, or lounging?
  • Will you need any other types of spaces, such as reception areas, storage space, etc.?

Source: Unsplash

How Many Square Feet Will You Need?

Once you’ve determined the ideal layout for your business, you’ll want to get a sense of how much square footage this layout translates to.

Typically, these are the most common office zones you’ll see and how much space they take up:

●      Private offices: Small shared or private offices range from 90-150 square feet, medium shared or private offices range from 150-250 square feet, and large shared or private offices range from 200-400 square feet.

●      Workstations in an open office layout: 60-110 square feet for each employee

●      Collaborative workspaces: 80-100 square feet for each employee

●      Conference rooms: On average, 50 square feet with an additional 25 square feet for each employee

●      Reception: 100-200 square feet for each person in the reception area

●      Lunch area: On average, 75 square feet with an additional 25 square feet for each employee seated in the space

●      Mail room: 125 square feet

●      Filing room: 200 square feet

●      Halls: Up to 30% of the office’s usable square footage

When estimating the actual amount of office space needed, most businesses generally take a “square footage per employee” approach. For those with a traditional office layout, you’re looking at 150-250 square feet per employee. This floorplan is typically composed of cubicles and a few private office spaces.

If your business has many workers, or if your real estate budget is limited, you may be looking at a higher density workplace; this setup typically requires about 80-150 square feet per person. With a higher density office, you’re looking at rows of desks in an open area, a few private offices, and common rooms for breaks and conferences.

Otherwise, if you need a spacious layout, allot 250+ square feet per employee. This layout includes mainly private office spaces, normally found within law offices. More spacious layouts will be more affordable and easier to come by in more spread-out office markets like Los Angeles, Singapore, or Tokyo, which have less relative density.

Office space social distancing workspace design
Source: Dallas Morning News


Additional considerations

While we’ve provided a general rule of thumb for workstation square footage above, this calculation isn’t always so simple to calculate. Again, it will depend on your business considerations. Some questions to keep in mind, especially in the era of COVID-19, are:

  • Will you need extra space for social distancing?
  • If you’re employing a hybrid work model, how many employees will be in the office at any given time?
  • Will you have dedicated desks or will you employ a hot desking model?
  • Are there any social distancing guidelines you need to follow in shared areas? These may require you to have additional square footage.

With this context, you’ll be able to come up with an approximate square footage that will inform your office space search. Make sure that your team will have all the space it needs to be successful. Being intentional about the zones in your workspace will boost employee satisfaction with your company and with the workplace in general, as well as employee productivity.

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