Workplace strategy
6 min read

Searching for the perfect office? How to get your office space size just right

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Although the current climate has many employees working from home, this makes it the perfect time to plan for the post-pandemic return to work, including finding a new office. Looking for a new space is an exciting and challenging opportunity. It’s a major commitment that involves quite a bit of research, planning and forethought. So, before you decide what the best home base is for your employees, we’re laying out some important information that will help you make a more educated and cost-effective decision.

How Much Office Space Do I Need? 

How much space do you need? While the answer to this question can vary, the good news is there are some key questions you can ask yourself about your company and your employees to gauge your needs.

AQUILA, one of the fastest growing real estate firms in Austin, Texas writes, “The search for a new office starts with one essential step: correctly estimating the amount of space your company needs.” 

Wondering where you should start? AQUILA lists the following questions that will definitely help set you on the right path:

  • Do you want to maximize the space each employee gets, or do you want to put in as many employees as you can in the space?
  • Do you envision having a lot of individual offices, or open areas with employees in cubes or workstations?
  • Does each employee need an individual desk or is sharing possible?
  • How many people are going to be in the office part time? Permanently?
  • How many remote employees will you have?
  • What type of space does each department need to work efficiently?
  • What is the operational goal the company wants to achieve with the space?

After you ask yourself these fundamental questions, you will want to consider an office space calculator like this one. These calculators  allow  you to plug in all sorts of relevant information – including how many employees you have, how many people need an individual office, how many desks you’ll want to use for hot desking, how many conference or training rooms you’ll need and every other detail in between – to determine your individual needs. There are many different office space calculators available. Here are a few more you might want to check out:

Breaking Down the Square Footage

How much office space do you need per person? The answer to that question also varies based on your specific needs. says, “As a rough estimate, you should allow approximately 250 square foot per person. However, no two offices are the same.” The site goes on to say, “Based on an average office you should allow between 150 – 350 square foot per person. However, this is largely dependant on head count and your industry type. Smarter ways of working can also affect the amount of office space that you might need. By implementing an agile working strategy, you could massively reduce the square foot per person, and achieve greater cost savings.”

Spatial Needs Are Changing

Research shows a downward trend when it comes to the amount of office space companies are using. The NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association says, “Over the past 10 years, occupiers have been allocating less square footage per employee. The national average is 194 square feet per employee, which is down 8.3 percent from 2009.” The association goes on to break down the differences in office space when it comes to location, writing, “Square footage per worker varies across markets; in some markets it is less than 135 square feet per employee (e.g., Seattle and Washington, D.C.) while in others it is in the mid or high 200s (e.g., San Mateo County, California and Northern New Jersey). More expensive markets tend to have less space per employee, but the rate of densification is more dependent on the amount of new office supply created since the recession.”

A 2012 study from CoreNet Global emphasizes the decline that has taken place. This research shows in 2012 the average square feet per person was 176 compared to 225 in 2010.

And, in the era of COVID where social distancing must now be considered and more employees are working remotely, the stats are all changing yet again. A recent blog post by SquareFoot addressing this exact trend states , “Many firms are decreasing their in-office maximum capacities in order to address employee health concerns, thereby increasing the average square footage allocated per employee.”

Space Broken Down by Employee Type

The square footage needed per person varies depending on several factors including job type and title.

The Balance Small Business has a comprehensive guide about how much space different types of employees require. Below are few of their suggestions:

Employees Requiring Offices:

  • President (400 square feet)
  • Vice presidents (200 square feet)
  • Managers (150 square feet)

Employees Requiring Cubicles:

  • Engineers (175 square feet)
  • Accountants (150 square feet)
  • Secretaries (125 square feet)
  • Customer service reps (125 square feet)
  • Programmers (125 square feet)

Employees in an Open Area:

  • Data entry (125 square feet)
  • Clerks (125 square feet)
  • Temps (100 square feet)

AQUILA completed a similar breakdown of square footage by room type, and combining these two bits of information can be very helpful. Here are the numbers AQUILA suggests:

  • Large Private or Shared Office: 200 – 400 sf
  • Medium Private or Shared Office: 150 – 250 sf
  • Small Private Office: 90 -150 sf
  • Open Space Workstations: 60 – 110 sf per employee
  • Work Group Areas: 80 – 100 sf per employee

Conference Rooms

How many conference rooms do you really need and how big should they be? This is a major consideration for many companies looking to relocate.

Much of the research suggests that conference rooms are too big, leading to a lot of unused space. An important study written about in the Wall Street Journal provides insight into the discrepancy between conference room size and to use, “An 11-firm survey by the architecture and design firm HOK found that conference rooms in general are too big: Some 73% of meetings involve only two to four people, but 53% of conference-room space is built for meetings of seven or more.”

The Space Place breaks down a range you should consider when determining how much conference room space is right  for your company, “This ratio can range from one conference room to 10 employees in an all open office environment to one conference room per 20 employees in a private office-rich environment. This ratio should be carefully considered, and your architect can guide you to an appropriate ratio based on discussions with management. Once the private/open ratio is established, the architect will then be able to recommend an appropriate amount of conferencing rooms or other spaces and the resultant space requirements.”

Other Important Features for Office Space

There’s a lot more to an office space than just offices, conference rooms and desks. Before you decide if a space is right for you, think about all the factors that make an office an enjoyable space to work, and what features/amenities you want your employees to have.

Here are a few spaces you might want to consider before making your final decision.

  • Kitchen/Eating Space
  • Gym/Fitness Room
  • Private Space for Nursing Moms
  • Library/Research Room
  • Bathrooms
  • Closets and Storage Space

After you Find the Perfect Office

Once you sign on the dotted line and commit to a new office space you will want to consider the best way to set up and manage the space! That’s where Smartway2 can help. We offer software for room booking and desk booking that enhances productivity in your office while improving employee experience.

Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated January 25, 2021