For many companies, offering employees large, spacious offices just isn’t feasible or realistic. In fact, a lot of employers find that they have to put numerous employees in a relatively small space. However, how little is too little when it comes to office space? Determining if there are legal standards for an employee’s area is the first step to deciding if there is enough space available for the required number of employees.
Is there a legal minimum office space per person? The United States does not have any such law. Other countries have laws to regulate the amount of space that must be provided to employees. Laws in European countries require that employees have at least 40 square feet of work space. It is understood that an employee should have the ability to enter, work, and exit the space easily. Any space that a person might struggle leaving if an emergency arises would infringe on vague US laws.
With such little regulation, it can be important to know how to best use space in an office setting. Proper use of space can enhance work productivity. Also, the understanding of reasonable space comes with additional laws that might impact how much space employees have.
While there is no specific law that tells employers how much space they should give their employees in the United States, there are laws that ensure that any handicapped individuals are able to access any needs they may have. There are also fire codes that can impact an employee’s office space. Knowing which laws pertain to you and your employees’ space can be important in the business world.
The American Disability Act states that any points of access, specifically hallways, must be at least 44 inches wide to allow for wheelchair access. This also means that entrances to cubicles or offices should also be wide enough to allow a wheelchair to enter and exit easily. This often overrides the OSHA law that access points must be 28 inches wide.
However, even though the ADA requires such accommodations for disabled employees, they are not needed until such an employee is hired. If no disabled person currently works for the organization, it is not legally required to abide by these requirements. It is also important to note that avoiding the hiring of any such individual because of the lack of accommodations or because of their disability is against the law.
The only other relative considerations to make on space is regarding fire code and occupancy. Occupancy laws are based on square footage, to begin with, but also take into consideration the number of exits. For example, even if you have enough square footage to have office space for 200 employees, if there is only one exit, the legal occupancy number will drop to 50 or less. It is important to confer with your fire marshal to determine the exact number of people that can be in a space.
If you follow laws regarding ADA, OSHA, and fire code, you can still manage to fit numerous employees in a small space legally. Laws in European countries require that employees have at least 40 square feet of work space. The typical cubical offers 48 square feet of space. Even with a space so small, the average office space in American companies is around 150 square feet and is continually getting smaller. Knowing what to do with that space can save time and money.
Creating a small space that produces quality, efficiency, and effective work can be challenging but is possible. Knowing what to enhance or how to organize can change an office space around completely. A well designed and organized workspace can improve productivity levels immensely.
While small spaces often leave you little to work with, it is important to place emphasis on the aspects that encourage productivity. These aspects are often natural lighting, comfort, and color. If your office space has natural light, avoid covering it up with chunky blinds or heavy curtains. It is ideal to allow more natural light than the lamps or fluorescents do. If natural light is not much of an option, ensure that the space is well lit.
Comfort in a small office is generally limited to the desk chair. There are a variety of ergonomic office chairs on the market. Choosing a quality chair with plenty of support not only prevents aches and pains but increases productivity because of the added comfort. If possible, it can also be helpful for an employee to have the ability to switch between sitting and standing as they work. A sit-to-stand desk is popular for this option.
Color is surprisingly a big part of inspiring productivity in employees. Consider the colors used in company logos. Studies show that colors inspire certain feelings. This is why most food chain logos contain the color red because it drives hunger. By adding certain colors to a small space, you can psychologically enhance behavior and feelings in employees. For example, the color orange often brings about feelings of energy, whereas blue brings peace. Choose a color or two that goes with the brand or objective and place that splash of color throughout the space.
Another aspect to add to a small space is motivation. Think of ways that might inspire employees. For many, this could be motivational quotes, challenges, or pictures of their family. By reminding employees (or even yourself) why the work is being done, said work is often done better and faster.
Take away distractions. This tends to differ for everyone. Some might enjoy facing the window and find it peaceful, but many others will get distracted by the various things that can be seen outside. Music might distract some employees or help others to accomplish goals. Determining what is best for individuals can help to eliminate distractions.
Organization of the space is a huge factor in productivity. With a small space, it can be easy to find the desk or workspace cluttered. In order to avoid a variety of papers, post-it notes, and other items, ensure that the space has file folders and drawer organizers at the ready. Hang a small cork board for important notes. Avoiding too many items on the desk can help productivity levels immensely.
When working in small spaces, it can be easy to feel cramped and lose sight of the goal. By organizing the space and finding motivation in a variety of ways, you and your employees will be more likely to improve standards of work and overall levels of productivity. Even with a space as small as 40 square feet, as is required in the UK, productivity can be enhanced.
In what ways might I make my office space more ADA compliant? In addition to creating the space wheelchair accessible, consider other disabilities. Think about getting braille signage or having a company interpreter for the deaf or hard of hearing. Going above and beyond to make accommodations for those with disabilities ensures that no issues arise.
What tools can I use to organize my work area more efficiently? The use of a desktop organizer can help to contain multiple items, from paper clips and pens to notepads and folders. This allows for several organizational tools to be condensed into one, ultimately saving space.
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