Time to read: 10 minutes

Unsure about how to calculate how much office space you need? If you follow the rules, it’s easy to calculate the correct size required.

Many new Find a London Office clients are quite sure that they already know how much office space they need. However, once we’ve taken them through our process, the resulting figure more often than not differs quite considerably from the sum they’d originally had in mind!

Our long-standing, robust staged process generates the right answer. As a result our clients end up paying only for office space they really need…and not a penny more! As my Father used to say “Anything is easy if only you know how!” And the how is explained in this article…in 4 steps.

Step 1. Count up the number of people you need to accommodate.

Fairly obviously, you will know how many people are in your team. You should also consider if your business will be expanding and taking on more employees in the near future. (I cover this in some detail in Step 4).

The hybrid working factor

The widespread adoption of hybrid working since the pandemic has complicated this a little. How this is going to settle is still not yet entirely clear. You will need to exercise your own judgement as to what extent your company will embrace hybrid working. Some (or maybe all) of your team will likely be working from home for at least part of the week. So it’s no longer enough to simply tot up the total number of people you employ. Instead, you’ll need to consider carefully the maximum number of employees in the office at any one time.

For example, you may have already decided that 2 people will be office-based on different days. In which case you’ll only need one desk shared by both employees, whereas once upon a time you’d need two. Maybe you’ll have a mix of permanent desks alongside hot desks and/or a larger table where anyone can work flexibly – perhaps plonking down for just an hour or two.

Regardless, in order to calculate how much office space you need, first determine the maximum number of people that will be in your office at the same time.

In the hybrid working era, it’s no longer enough to simply tot up the total number of people you employ. Instead, you’ll need to consider carefully the maximum number of employees in the office at any one time.

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Step 2. Consider how you want to use your new office space.

This is essential. Like buying a car…what do you want it to do? Look good, be big and comfortable or perhaps just a basic model that can fit everyone in and be functional?

Communal Areas or Break Out Zones are increasingly popular and important in the hybrid working era.
Communal Areas or Break Out Zones are increasingly popular and important in the hybrid working era.

You should have a clear idea of how your offices should look and how you will use them. Are you happy to pack your people in or do you prefer them to have a bit of room around them? Additionally, do you require a posh client-facing area or perhaps generous communal space for your people. Self-evidently, the more office space you take, the more expensive it will be.

Have clear idea of how your offices should look and how you will use them. Are you happy to pack your people in or do you prefer them to have a bit of room around them?

One small footnote about office usage

If your people are quite packed in open-plan space, privacy can be very difficult. The answer is to include privacy booths or cubicles in your office spec. These are small full height glass boxes where employees can either make a private call or do something without being interrupted. Privacy and productivity away from the main open-plan space.

Years ago I found a young employee making a private call in the stairwell of a 6 storey office building. The trouble was that the conversation travelled all the way up the stairwell, so no privacy at all. I did of course leave immediately!

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Step 3. Choose between flexible serviced and longer term office space

Flexible serviced offices and conventionally leased space operate very differently. I suggest that you read Ian Kitchener’s beginners’ guide to choosing between serviced office space and a conventional lease to understand the differences. You should then be able to make a decision based on some fairly clear reasons.

At this stage, it is vital to decide which option best suits your business, because space is calculated completely differently for each.

Calculating size for serviced office workspace

The serviced office space market quotes rent by the number of required people/desks in the office per month.

Typically one desk would equate to between 80ft2 and 120ft2 per person/desk. But to keep it simple, square footage is never mentioned in the quote. On this basis, you can calculate how much office space you need with relative ease.

Calculate how much office space you need: 1 person / desk = 80 to 120 square foot

For example, if you need 12 desks or workstations, the serviced office operator would quote you a monthly cost based on that. Most shared facilities such as kitchen, toilets and break out zones would be covered by this monthly cost. If you wanted to use a meeting room occasionally on demand, that would incur an additional fee. Meeting rooms are rented by the hour.

Alternatively if you want your own permanent, dedicated meeting room or perhaps some private offices for senior staff, the provider could create these within your desk space – at an additional cost per month. That’s all quite straightforward.

Calculating size for conventional workspace with a longer term lease

However, companies who opt for conventional, longer term space face a more demanding challenge to determine their size requirements. The calculation uses the industry standard square feet. Typically you will see conventional space quoting rent per ft2 p.a (per annum) – meaning “rent per square foot per year”.

For example, say your business has a team of 12 people. In generous space, you would need 12 x 120ft2 per person = about 1,440 ft2.

Calculate how much office space you need: 12 person / desk @ 120 square foot = 1440 square foot in total

That accounts for open-plan desk space.

However, it doesn’t include other facilities such as such as a break out zone or collaborative space. You would have to estimate how many square feet you need to accommodate that. Communal space has become increasingly relevant for employee interaction and collaborative work – all the more so in the hybrid working era. To allow for that, whilst minimising the extra costs, you could reduce the amount of space you need per person to 12 x 80ft2 = 960ft2 – leaving 480ft2 for your break out zone.

Calculate how much office space you need: 12 person / desk @ 80 square foot = 960 square foot in total, leaving 480 square foot for a Break Out Zone

Even then most companies will still need to factor in the amount of additional square footage needed for private offices, meeting rooms, privacy cubicles, kitchen, board room, IT server room, storage etc.

Communal space has become increasingly relevant for employee interaction and collaborative work. All the more so in the hybrid working era.

Office space calculator to the rescue!

Before you have a seizure trying to calculate how much office space you need, please relax; we have a ready-made solution. You can do all of the above without getting bogged down trying to estimate square footage, using our office space calculator.

Of course, it’s still essential to work out how many desks / people you require (see Step 1) and how you plan to use your new office space (Step 2). From that point it is very straightforward.

  1. Keep inputting different combinations for any office element (open plan space per person, a private office, privacy booths, a small meeting room, a large meeting room etc).

  2. Each time that you change the inputs, it calculates a revised total of space required.

  3. Even better: if you add a London location, our office space calculator will also give you average total price estimates for your space (including rent, business rates and service charge).

  4. Finally it will allow you to compare directly with average costs for serviced offices with the same number of desks in the same location.

Using our office space calculator will make this mind-bending task relatively easy… even entertaining!

Need help working out you much office space you need?

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Step 4. Consider carefully whether you want to allow for growth

Every company thinks this is a good idea – and on the face if, it makes good sense. Have a little extra room and if business subsequently takes off and you want to expand, there’s no necessity to move again. However, once you see the cost of having extra office space, I suspect you’ll rapidly go off the idea!

For instance, using our 12 person team example, allowing room for 3 extra employees will increase the required space by 20%. (Communal areas can safely be ignored in this example. It will probably be the same for either 12 or 15 employees.) In turn that will increase the costs by 20%; not just rent, but service charge and business rates as well.

 

Calculate how much office space you need: An extra 3 people/desks means 20% increase in space & costs

Expansion space is all very well in theory. However please consider very carefully about how much extra room you really need at this stage. Don’t commit to long-term extra costs, based purely on speculative growth expectations. It’s a hostage to fortune. If your company has a clear expansion plan with a likely imminent effect, then fair enough, but otherwise don’t bother.

Of course this is only an issue for conventionally-leased office space. Companies in flexible serviced offices can expand and contract their office space requirements on reasonable demand, so there is no need to plan for growth.

Expansion space is all very well in theory, but don’t commit to long-term extra costs, based purely on speculative growth expectations. If you have a clear expansion plan with a likely imminent effect, then fair enough. Otherwise don’t bother.

One word of warning…

If you do take expansion space, do not initially allocate extra office space per person and then later on push the existing people into smaller space to accommodate the extra employees. They won’t like it!

Box it off into a storage room or similar ready for when you require it. You’ll avoid needless employee unhappiness within your team.

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Final thoughts

If you follow the above 4 steps, you will accurately calculate how much office space you need without paying more than necessary. Life is a balancing act and this is no different!

In terms of business costs, renting office space is second only behind employing people, so getting this right is vital.

One last tip

When you do get round to inspecting prospective office space, take a tape measure with you and check that the office really is the size the particulars claim it to be. Better still get a professional office agent to measure it for you, as it’s a laborious, time-consuming task. But it’s worth it. Very often the specified dimensions are wrong – and usually too high! We’ve done this time and again, challenging the total rent and saving our clients money.

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