How much office space does a business really need?

Open plan office

It’s a fact that even some of the most successful businesses find their humble beginnings in a bedroom (just ask Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg). Though this is great way of cutting costs as your business finds its feet in the early days, it also means having a very limited amount of space, and certainly not enough for employees, equipment, or any of the other things you’ll need as your business grows!

“For start-ups or other small business, it can be tempting to only opt for the minimal amount of space needed for your office to function, even as your business grows beyond that ‘bedroom stage’. You can always just move to a bigger office when your business really needs it, right?” – Kim West, Telco Compare

Although it might be true, your business may not stay small for long, and you could find your workforce suddenly expanding rapidly. With there being legal requirements for employers to provide employees with a certain amount of space to work in, it’s vital that you don’t leave this until it’s too late.

When moving to a bigger office space, there are many factors to take into consideration. Taylor Short, Content Analyst for the online reviews company, Software Advice, advises:

“If you’ve already decided that your financial projections warrant a new, larger office space, then the next most important factor how you want your company to expand. If you want to scale production of a product, or hire more salespeople, or create an entirely new department, each of these will impact the type and size of your new space.”

Three guys in a business meeting
Ben Moreland, Director at Education Space Consultancy, also adds: As with all decisions, it’s important to ask yourself “why?”, and ensure the positives outweigh the negatives if you’re considering moving to a bigger office space.

“Understanding your employees different working requirements is key to creating an office space that enables them to work effectively whilst also ensuring you make the most out of the space you have available. For example, if you’re a one-man band, you could always try a local hot-desking office facility a couple of times, and test some of the positives and negatives on your list, before you make the leap.”

How much office space do you need to legally provide?

According to Regulation 10 of the Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the total number of people working in an office will depend on the size of the room they work in. This is because each employee should be provided with at least 11 cubic metres (or 40 square feet) of floorspace. At Rombourne, we ensure that each of our serviced offices provide this required amount of space.

To calculate whether your office is large enough to accommodate your staff, you’ll need to divide the total volume of the room by the number of people that would typically be working in it. If this total is less than the required amount, then it’s time for you to upgrade.

However, there are occasions when the 11 cubic metres rule does not apply. For example, if the ceiling of the room is 3.0 metres or higher, then employees only need 3.7m2 of floorspace each. On the other end of the scale, offices with a lot of furniture or equipment occupying the space will need to provide more than 11 cubic metres per employee. There should also be enough floorspace for people to move around the room both comfortably and safely.

Craig McCall, Operations Director at Gorilla Accounting, says:

“If you’re looking to maximise space in a free form office, your core working area will be key, so ensure that it is fit for purpose and doesn’t get in the way of accessibility.”

One thing to bear in mind is that these recommendations are for open-plan offices, and they won’t be suitable for retail sales kiosks and machine control cabs. Separate offices for a manager should be 100 square feet at a minimum, though this will need to be at least 200 square feet if it has a meeting table.

When it comes to other areas of the office (such as meeting rooms, kitchenettes, and reception areas), the minimum required floorspace is as follows:

Type of room or spaceMinimum size requirement
Reception area100 square feet (add 10 for each person waiting)
Kitchenette75 square feet (add 25 per seated person)
Small meeting room100 square feet
Large meeting room150 square feet
Lunch or breakout area75 square feet (add 25 per seated person)
Store room200 square feet

If you’re the owner of a start-up or other small business, then it could be more beneficial to rent office space in a serviced office. As they’ll provide you with a manned reception area and access to meeting rooms, this will help to take some of the hassle out of ensuring you have the legally required amount of space for your workforce.

Swindon serviced office - Kingston house boardroom

What factors do you need to consider when choosing a space for your office?

Although your business may be small now, it won’t stay that way forever! If you’re intending to expand your workforce in the near future, then you should take into account how many new employees you’re planning to employ, and ensure you’re able to provide them with the legally required amount of space (plus a bit extra for good measure).

If you don’t want to move offices while you employ more people, the only way around this is to initially start off with more space than you actually need. After you’ve calculated the requirement, we’d advise setting up empty desks for new starters; that way, you’ll quickly be able to see when you need to move to a new office, or even expand further by opening a second one.

Preparing for new staff early on will also take the time and hassle out of moving furniture and existing employees, who are likely to have already become settled.

When choosing your office space, you’ll need to take into account the maximum number of employees that could be working in one room at one time (for example, if everyone has the same working hours, and they’re all typically present in the office). However, if your staff work different shifts, you can still make your office seem more spacious by enforcing a ‘work at home’ policy. This has been adopted by many big businesses, including 3M, Apple, Dell, and IBM, and for good reason; if this is combined with hot desking, you can end up saving 20% of space!

Finally, another factor to consider is the amount of people that will be visiting your office on a regular basis. If (for example) you don’t hold many client meetings, then it might be beneficial to rent meeting rooms when required, rather than having a permanent space for this purpose.

Taylor Short, Content Analyst for the online reviews company, Software Advice, also adds:

“Designing an open office-style layout takes careful planning. The goal is to create enough diversity of spaces to facilitate productivity from different types of people, so a great first step is to survey your teams to determine how they each work best. Do your marketers prefer to huddle together often? Do your creative teams like more comfortable space for ideating? Who needs private offices? “These responses will help you determine the ratio of different spaces necessary to keep teams happily productive.”

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