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How Much Office Space Do I Need?

Updated: Feb 19

Your Office Space

If you’re looking for a new office, one of your key questions will likely be “How much office space do I need?”. It’s an important question. If you have too much office space, your lease costs will be unnecessarily high. If you don’t have enough, your people will be cramped. As a result, they’ll struggle to focus, diminishing their productivity.

Since 2008, we’ve been providing turnkey office relocation services for companies in London and across the UK. During that time, we’ve helped many companies decide how much office space they need. While the exact amount of office space you need will be unique to your company, there are several guidelines you can use to get a rough estimate.

In this article, we’ll explain how to decide how much office space you need. You’ll learn how much space you need to allow per employee, and what affects that number. You’ll also learn what types of spaces should be included in our office, and how much you need of each. By the end, you’ll know approximately how much office space you need, and you’ll be able to start longlisting potential new offices.

Office Space Per Employee

A good starting point to work out how much office space you need is to multiply the number of staff that will be in the space at once by the amount of space you need per employee. But how much space do you need per employee? A good starting point is 150sq/ft, though this will vary according to the size and quantity of the workstations, private offices, and meeting rooms.

For companies in sectors such as tech or media, we recommend a starting point of 120-150 sq/ft. Many companies in this sector need few desks in the office, as staff complete most focussed work at home. The emphasis is on collaboration areas to enable informal meetings and teamwork when people are in the office.

For professional services companies, in industries such as insurance or legal, more space is often required, so we recommend 180-200 sq/ft per person. Many companies in this sector need each person to have their own desk. Confidentiality is crucial, so acoustically secure executive offices and meeting rooms feature in these designs. If you plan to have clients visiting the space, more front-of-house space will be required. This will push the sq/ft per head up to 250 sq/ft or more.

For companies in the trading or wealth management sectors, we often recommend 250-400 sq/ft per person. Each staff member needs their own large workstation, as they have highly specialised equipment such as trading monitors and processors. In these companies, large breakout spaces are also often necessary to help staff relax.

While the amount of space will vary according to your exact needs, office space per employee is a good place to start. You can then work that number up or down based on your company and staff requirements.

What Types of Space do I Need?

What types of spaces you need within your office and how much of your office space they take up will heavily depend on how your team use your workspace. Hybrid working completely changes the emphasis of the office from desk work to collaboration. If you plan to invite clients or visitors to your office regularly, you will need to allow for front-of-house space.

While less important than 3 years ago, it's important that you have some focus spaces within your office. Desks are important, but they are not the only type of focused space! Focus pods are also a great option to create an environment free of distractions. Depending on your working model, focussed spaces should comprise 30-40% of your office space.

Private offices for executives are often a feature of more traditional sectors such as law. Meeting rooms are also very common in these companies, but almost all companies will have some partitioned meeting rooms for formal (and client) discussions. These zones can be very space inefficient and the amount of space they take up can vary a lot. Typically, private offices and meeting rooms take up 5-20% of an office.

Collaboration spaces are the central feature of any office, hybrid or not. 5 years ago, collaboration spaces comprised just 10% of the average office. Now, that figure is between 35 and 50%! Exactly how much you need depends on the way your staff use the office, and how much space is taken up by private offices and meeting rooms.

Breakout spaces are often confused with collaboration spaces, but they serve two very different purposes and should be separate within your workspace. While collaboration is very work-focussed, breakout spaces are places for your colleagues to unwind and relax. They normally include a teapoint area, dining facilities, and some soft seating. Breakout spaces would normally comprise 5-15% of your office.

Front-of-house spaces vary depending on whether your office is designed for external visitors or not. Most offices will have some visitors, so they will need a reception area. Some companies, such as legal or wealth management companies often host client meetings. This means a separate front of house area is required, comprising meeting rooms and often a teapoint. Depending on how much this area will be used, it will vary in size from 5-15% of your total office space.

Planning For Growth

Many companies don’t properly consider the future when deciding how much office space they need. This is a mistake, as correcting it (or living with the consequences) can be very frustrating and expensive! Planning for growth is more than just adding space for a few desks at one end of the office.

Effective growth planning considers how your staff count is expected to grow over the duration of the lease term, as well as changes in the way your staff use the office. While it may seem inefficient now, leasing an office 25% bigger than you need could work out more cost-effective if it means you don’t have to terminate your lease and move in a few years because of rapid growth. You could even sublease that space in the meantime.

Planning for growth doesn’t mean you have to lease the space now. It could involve speaking to your landlord about when other floors in your building become available, or contingency planning to hire additional co-working space. You could also plan to remove more desks over time as your staff collaborate more.

How Big Should Your Office Be?

So how much office space does your business need? A good place to start is 150sq/ft per person, though you may want to move that up or down based on your industry. You can then add 10-20% to factor in growth, as well as any special considerations such as a large front-of-house area.

Of course, this is only a rough guide to help you understand how much office space you need. To get a detailed understanding of not only how much space you need but what that should look like, we recommend you work with an office relocation expert.

To learn more about office relocation, download The Ultimate Guide to Office Relocation. It’s one comprehensive guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office relocation, what it costs, and how long it will take. Download your office relocation guide here.



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