Setting up your first office can be a daunting task, especially if you have tight budget restrictions as a startup company as I did. One of the most important decisions I had to make when selecting an office space was its size in relation to the size of my team.
So, what is the average square footage of office space per person?
The average square footage allocated to a person in an office varies according to the size of the office, a number of employees and the nature of the business. As a rule of thumb, a high-density office may allocate up to 150 square feet per employee, a moderate density office may allocate up to 250 square feet, and a spacious and low-density office may go up to 500 square feet per employee.
The layouts and the overall designs of workspaces have changed over the years. More and more companies are opting for creative open spaces rather than compartmentalizing the offices according to the hierarchical divisions of employees. Therefore, there are more things to consider when determining the size of your office rather than simply multiplying the average square footage of office space per person by the number of employees you have!
First of all, it is important to note that there are a variety of factors that go into determining the right size for your office. In other words, there really is no one size fits all solution when it comes to this task.
Following are a few common factors that should be considered when it comes to determining the average space requirements for your office.
The industry that your company belongs to plays a large role in determining the size of your office since the nature of work can be largely different according to the industry. For example, a cubicle space in a call center is different from the workspace designed to an associate in a law firm. It further changes if your industry requires constant mobility while working. Industries that require workers to be flexible and spend less than 40% of their working time in a desk entail a different size of workspace than industries with fixed workers who spend over 60% of an employee’s time sitting at a desk.
This factor became quite important and prominent in deciding office size and design, especially over the last decade. Company culture outlines the overall personality of a company, and the environment its employees work in is a significant part of it. Companies with a corporate culture follow a more standard set of rules and procedures when selecting their office size since there is often a tight set of guidelines and protocols they have to meet.
A startup company has more creative freedom in selecting and designing their office space. The average size per employee requirements is more flexible in these open startup office settings since most of the space is common and shared, often with plenty of recreational space for employees as well. (We have written a detailed article on the purpose of an office and when a company should get one)
If you are a startup company, selecting a convenient location for both your employees and the clients can be difficult since the closer you are to the best commuting locations and other facilities, the less space that is available due to the huge demand. Therefore, you need to be practical when you decide on a size for your office depending on where you are located. Your search can be exhausting and futile if you have impossible demands. For an example, the amount of office space you can rent in a convenient location in a busy part of Manhattan is greatly different from renting office space in the larger Houston area. Your aim should be to get the most amount of space at the most convenient location.
This factor is directly connected to the industry your company belongs to as discussed before. The nature of work includes the kind of tasks the employees have to perform on a daily basis. If your industry is in manufacturing, the average space per employee is largely different from trading or a marketing company.
Having a deep understanding of the nature of work gives you the chance to be strategic about deciding the size of your office. For an example, different departments within the same company can be given different workspace sizes according to the percentage of the time they spend at their desks. If a certain department requires more site visits, meetings, and field assignments, you can reduce the space to them and assign more to a department that requires more desk time.
While this is one of the most obvious factors in office design, it can be easy to overlook this especially if you are hunting for your very first office space. When humans work alongside machines, it is essential that you take special consideration to the space you will assign for machines and other equipment mostly for safety reasons. Even if the equipment in your office is not dangerous in nature, employees having to work in a cluttered space among the noise of that equipment can take a toll on their productivity. If your office space has to be small for unavoidable reasons and you still have to include several machines and equipment, it is always good to invest in higher quality machines which are not too bulky and which do not make disruptive noises.
Last but not least, your budget and expenditure allocation is an extremely important factor when it comes to deciding the size of your office. The financial necessities that come with renting a new office space do not stop from your down payment and the rent. There will always be an ongoing maintenance cost to it which you should especially consider in your budget. (We have written an article on how to make offices cost effective and three easy strategies any business can implement)
While spacious and aesthetically pleasing office space is always great to have, do not put yourself into deep debt and bring in an unnecessary amount of burden for your business just for the aesthetic purposes. Aim for a healthy and welcoming space that is comfortable and convenient for the employees while being sustainable and cost-effective. (Who Should Sit Where At Work)
There have been numerous studies on the correlation between the design of office space and productivity. Therefore, you need to be especially careful when deciding the size of your office since it directly impacts the performance of your employees.
A well-organized office space where the employees can move around with ease not only increases the efficiency of their work but also allow them to be more creative and inspired in their work. It helps them be more collaborative with their co-workers and most importantly, keeps their stress levels low which leads to their overall physical and mental health.
It is important to understand that creating a productive office space is not simply about giving the most amount of space to each individual employee. (We have written an article on office designed for producitivty and why it matters). It is all about properly utilizing your space in a way that creates an environment of energy and enthusiasm. Having good and positive energy in your office will definitely lead to better productivity. Therefore, when you assign spaces to work stations within the office, make sure you keep enough spaces for more common and group settings as well. Being tethered to a rather restricted individual work station for an entire day can diminish the motivating positive energy in a person. (Check out our article on 100 Ways to be Prodcutvie at Work)
When you assign the workspaces for your employees, understanding them as individual persons are important rather than taking a one size fits all approach. Doing this is obviously easier to accomplish for startup settings where the number of employees is lower. However, even if you have a few departments in your company, try coordinating with the team leaders and department heads to get their input in assigning workspaces to the employees. This will definitely help to increase the overall productivity of your team rather than expecting them to simply adapt to whatever the setting they are given.
The generational difference when it comes to the connection between the workspace size and productive is also quite interesting to look at. The “Baby Boomer generation” and the “Generation X” which spent their prime working years in cubicles and more restricted workspaces tend to show more productivity similar environments. The “Millennials” or the younger generation which grew up seeing Google and Facebook company cultures and startups with bean bag chairs and laptops tend to show more productivity in more open spaces where they feel a sense of freedom.
Nevertheless, the conclusion is that the size and the design of your office space truly affect the productivity of your employees. Therefore, picking out the size of your office space should be approached according to what exactly your company and your employees need, rather than looking for a one size fits all solution
- Functional common areas
- Use natural light
- Go paperless
- Think vertically
- Wall to wall flooring
- Throw away the things that don’t “spark joy”!
Practically speaking, it is very likely that the office space you can find and afford would be much smaller than what you ideally require due to budget and plenty of other restraints. Here are six tips that you can use to fully maximize the small office space you have until you become the next biggest startup and be able to go for the office space of your dreams!
The nature of work has changed drastically over the years, and it has been proven that functional common workspaces are extremely productive and efficient regardless of the size of the company. Think beyond the cubicles and use as much as common and group work settings as possible. Having a set of common areas rather than a restricted individual workstation will give your employees the chance to stretch not only physically but also creatively. (For an easy to follow process on how to design office space, check an artile we wrote - How to Design an Office Space for Employees)
One of the most basic ways of making a room look and feel more spacious is adding plenty of light. Try adding large windows, glass walls and taking in as much as natural light as possible into your office. This will not only give the illusion of a bigger space in your office, the bright and sunny environment will also add a sense of freedom and better energy into your space as well.
One of the most space consuming things in traditional workspaces is the storage of manual paperwork. As the world becomes more and more virtual, get on with the times and reduce your paper. More and more companies – including popular startups like Instacart, SimplyInsured and traditional establishments like Greyson College in Denison, Texas - are taking this practice to the next level and are working towards fully eliminate the use of paper. Reducing the use of paper is fundamentally good for the environment as well.
There is plenty of vertical space that goes unused in traditional workspaces. This can be particularly used for storage, especially for items that are not used daily. Install shelving and storage areas using the vertical space on your walls. There are many stylish vertical storage options that you can buy, which will provide a decorative element to your space as well. If your rental space does not allow drilling on the walls, you can use desks that have shelving attached to them.
Using carpets and rugs tends to make the floor space appear smaller than it is. Invest on a commercial wall to wall carpeting system, or simply a stretch of hardwood floors in your office space. It also gives a seamless finish to your office space, and make it look more put together and organized rather than using carpets or carpet tiles.
Well, I know it is not entirely practical to throw away everything that does not spark joy in your workplace like Marie Kondo would tell you. However, you will be surprised seeing how much you can maximize space by simply getting rid of clutter and things that are not entirely necessary for everyday functioning. Keep your office space as minimalistic as possible without heavy furniture, bulky decorative items and things that do not add value or meaning to your space. Keep it simple, and keep it organized.
When you select the size of your office space, make sure that you leave room for growth since your requirements right now will not stay the same as you grow as a company. A strategic plan to selecting and designing a new office space should have a good balance between your current needs, and also enough space to include your future plans for growth and where you expect your company to be. This does not mean that you should have idle space lying around to put more desks as you hire new employees, but the possibility of expanding your space in the future as your requirements change and grow.
Technology continues to evolve and grow, and you need to consider the addition of technology, machinery, and equipment to the layout of your office as well. If you plan to have an internal network system, allocate space for the servers, cables and other systems that will be a part of your office layout when you make decisions regarding the size of your office space. (Check out our article on Efficient Workplace Secuirty Devices)
There is an ongoing debate on having open plans and cubicles when it comes to designing office spaces. As we discussed earlier in this article, the right size and the layout for your office largely depends on your industry, the nature of work and the company culture. What works for another company may not work as well for you. Therefore, decide whether an open plan or a cubicle setting will help your team perform well before you make the final decision on the size of your office. (We have written an article on creating a seating plan that works best for your team)
What is the standard office cubicle size? Most standard office cubicles follow the following dimensions.
The size and design of office cubicles differ according to factors such as the industry (call centers, law firms etc.) and the position of the employee.
What is the minimum office size for one person? According to the Health, Safety, and Welfare regulations in the workplace, employers should provide at least 40 square feet per person in their office spaces. These sizes are largely flexible for personal home offices, and also for the contemporary startup workplaces designs where one open space is shared by a team rather than separately assigned individual working spaces for employees. (We have written an article - Is there a legal minimum office square footage requirement - the answer may surprise you)
Does office location matter? Yes. The physical location of your office has a profound impact on the success of your business. It should be in a convenient place for employees to commute daily and should also be easily reachable for visiting clients.
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