How to Determine How Much Office Space You Need

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
Apr 15, 2020
Image Credit: LanaStock / Getty Images

Before you sign a lease, calculate how big an office you need using these estimates.

  • When buying or leasing office space, planning the amount of space you'll need is critical to ultimately operate an efficient office space.
  • There is more to signing the lease when renting office space: You'll need to factor in the number of employees you expect to be in the space, kitchen space, reception space and cubicle/office space for each occupant.
  • Viewing an example of how many square feet you need per person will make it easier to choose an appropriately sized office space. For example, the average workspace should have 120 square feet per employee.

You need to plan carefully when you calculate how much office space you need. Either too much or too little space can be budget breakers.  The wrong size of space can interrupt your business or make it difficult to operate, but there are some techniques you can employ to get it just right. 

Estimating the amount of space you'll need

If you are opening a new office space, one of the concerns you may have is how much office space you will need. Although there isn't a definitive answer for this question, there is general information that can be beneficial for constructing the layout of your office. It's important to have workrooms with enough free space for people to move and get to and from their work areas with ease. It's also essential for the health, safety and welfare of all people in the office that every room have sufficient height, floor space and unoccupied space.

On average, work areas should be at least 120 square feet per employee. This means that the average individual workstation should measure about 50 square feet, with the rest of the space allocated for storage, meeting rooms, kitchen area, walking space and office equipment. In most situations, an average space of 80-120 square feet per person provides a comfortable workspace as well as plenty of space to walk around.

How to determine how much office space you need

First, you need to assess your current situation, and then decide what your expectations are for the growth of your business over the next few years. When searching for office space, you should ask yourself some questions to determine how large or small of a space you will need. Don't forget to anticipate future growth of your business. Ask yourself how many people you will employ, how many areas will be shared and how many are private, how long the lease is, and what you estimate for business growth. If the space is already walled off with reception areas, kitchen and management offices, then you'll only need to figure in individual workstations, but don't forget to factor in the possibility of future employees. In addition,ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How many people do I currently employ?
  • Does each employee need an individual desk, or is sharing possible?
  • Do I expect to add any staff in the next couple of years?
  • Over what period of time will I add the staff?
  • What kind of staff will I be adding – executive, administrative or sales?

Knowing how many people you employ now helps you estimate how much space you need today to operate your business comfortably; building in your anticipated growth helps you expand your business without costly interruptions. 

In general, the amount of office space you need is estimated according to head count and your industry. The customary range for office space is 150-350 square feet per person employed. It is the type of space you need to accommodate your business that narrows down that range. 

At the low end of the range is the open space plan, which has no private offices. Call centers and sales offices generally use this configuration and have desks or workstations grouped together. At the high end of the range is the traditional hard-wall or private office layout. Law offices, for example, have almost all private offices, large conference rooms, and support rooms such as libraries, kitchens and file rooms. You need to determine what type of office layout suits your business best: open space, private office or a combination of both. This will allow you to accurately estimate the amount of space you will need during the term of your lease.

In the initial planning process, you can assume you will need approximately 250 square feet per person to provide a rough estimate of your office space needs. You can refine it when you start narrowing down your selections and laying out your space. Many variables, in addition to the type of space you select, play into the amount of space you need, such as floor size of the building, loss factor and amenities in the property. 

When you have narrowed down your selection of buildings, a space planner or an interior architect may be a useful part of your team of professionals to help you design the perfect space for your business. For your first foray into the office hunt, though, 250 square feet per person is a good general estimate.

Example

Let's say you currently employ 10 people, so you can estimate you need approximately 2,500 square feet of office space today. But you expect to add two new employees each year and want to sign a three-year lease. Do you need an additional 1,500 square feet today to accommodate your growth plans? 

The answer: not necessarily. You need to determine what type of employees you will be adding. If they are senior executives who need private offices, then you will need to add closer to 1,800 square feet (300 square feet x 6 executives = 1,800 square feet). But if they are clerical support staff that will operate in a "bullpen" or open space, then the need may be as low as 900 square feet (150 square feet x 6 employees = 900 square feet).  

Estimating your employee growth plans now could save you a significant amount of money in the future. Changing offices mid-lease because you do not have enough space to add necessary staff can be much more expensive than building in your expected growth needs before you sign the lease.

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
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