A universal answer to the question of what makes the perfect office space doesn’t exist. The kind of space you need, and will be comfortable in, depends entirely on the type of business you’re running. The same goes for the amount of space needed per worker. If all you require is a small desk and a phone connection, you don’t need masses of square footage. However, if your office also acts as your shop floor – a place to meet with clients – you’ll want a bit more space and possibly a more attractive and accessible location.
When it comes to size, Ann Clarke, design director at Claremont Group Interiors, is reluctant to dwell on average measurements because of the varying nature of what you need the space for. “Organisations like the British Council of Offices have certain recommendations but they’re reducing all the time because space is becoming increasingly expensive,” she explains.
However, there are some rough industry standards. For example, a densely packed call centre can get away with about 6-7 square metres per head, but a professional services firm will need more like 10-12 to allow for consultation space for clients.
It’s also important to bear in mind how much of the space is actually usable, and this can be dramatically affected by the shape of the building. “There are lots of things that impact the efficiency of a space,” says Clarke. “The shape of a building, where the lifts and stairs are and the amount of circulation space all make a difference. It all depends on how the floor plate is laid out.”
Clarke says the ideal office has a usable space/circulation space ratio of 85:15. “Once it falls below 85% it can get difficult and you won’t be able to use the space efficiently.”
If you want to minimise the amount of square footage you need, Clarke advises implementing some clever desk policies. Just because you employ 50 people, it doesn’t mean you need 50 desks. Working practices such as desk booking and hotdesking can work wonders if many of your staff are only in the office at certain times during the day or week.
“Think long and hard about storage too,” urges Clarke. “Do you really need to store all that paper on site, or can it be stored digitally or moved to cheaper storage facilities? You should have a clear idea about how you’re going to manage your storage before you commit to a particular space.”
Then there’s meeting rooms. Do you really need one? If so, does it need to be used as a meeting room 100% of the time? Clarke suggests using the office of an infrequently present director or manager. “If they’re only in the office two or three days a week then why not put some furniture in the office to use as meeting space when they’re away?”
The main thing to consider before you choose your office is how exactly you plan to utilise the space and how much you actually need. Too little space and your staff will be cramped and uncomfortable. On the other hand, choosing too large an office could land you with a rent bill you simply resent paying.