Open plan office

How much office space does a business really need?

Rombourne Blog

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?

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.

Three guys in a business meeting

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.

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 space Minimum size requirement
Reception area 100 square feet (add 10 for each person waiting)
Kitchenette 75 square feet (add 25 per seated person)
Small meeting room 100 square feet
Large meeting room 150 square feet
Lunch or breakout area 75 square feet (add 25 per seated person)
Store room 200 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.