How much office space does your business really need? - 7 February 2019

How much office space does your business really need?

In the past, the size and quality of office space was seen as an indicator of how well a company was doing. But with changes in wireless technology, digital business practices and more flexible working businesses can challenge what space they need and how they work to save money and increase productivity.

So how big should your office be?

Over, or under, estimating how much office space you need to operate can be a costly exercise which can ultimately lead to big problems for your business, so there is much to consider.

In terms of space, it is suggested you have 100 square feet minimum per employee according to UK standards. But this is just a guideline.

What criteria should I use to get the space right?

- What does my business do?
- Is your business purely digital with little equipment or do you undertake work that needs more equipment?
- What furniture or equipment do I need?
- How many members of staff do I have, or need?
- Do I need meeting rooms and break facilities?
- What layout do I need? Do different parts of the business need different spaces?
- Do I plan to grow the business in the near future, and will the office space be suitable for that?

Ending up with too much space means you will more than likely pay for space you don't need and as a result will spend too much on rent, service charges, utilities and business rates. Furthermore, empty space is believed to be a huge demotivating factor for staff and can create the wrong impression for potential clients should they visit.

Conversely, having too little space will restrict potential growth and put additional stress on staff working in cramped conditions.

That said, do I need an office at all?

Until recently this is a question that a business would never ask, but it is perfectly possible to run a successful business based purely around remote working these days. Widespread wi-fi connectivity, video conferencing, productivity apps, smartphones and email all make it possible to work separately but together.

So don't forget to weigh up how much you need a physical office space against how much you could save from working remotely.

Office or no office? Are there other options?

You might consider all of the above and want an option that offers the best of both worlds. There are other options for you to consider:

Flexible or shared office – These go under many different names, but the concept is simple! These office spaces are fully functional office spaces that can allow you to start operating immediately and also move when needed.

These can be rented by room, floor or, even, desk depending on your requirements and will come with computers, furniture, IT infrastructure, in-house management teams and meeting areas.

Virtual office – This allows you to give the impression of having a physical office space without having one. It usually provides a reputable inner-city postal address, a business phone number, access to meeting rooms (as part of the package or at additional cost) and video conferencing access. You can benefit from looking professional with this kind of office.

Nope, none of this works for me! I still need a proper office space, what do I need to consider?

Size - Going back to the list of things to consider, start by finalising what space you need. Offices are usually advertised by the square feet (sq. ft) so work out what you need based on this measurement.
Saying that, don't take the 'square' bit to literally, rarely will office space actually be 'square'. Look at the floor plans, and visit the site, to see how the layout fits for your needs. Is it usable for your desks and office equipment?

Aspect - Also consider things like natural light and windows, as this can also have an impact on the mental health of staff.

Layout - Many businesses now opt for open-plan offices, where everything is one, big open space instead of separate offices. The 100 sq. ft rule only really works in this kind of space. If this doesn't fit your business culture, you may need to double the space needed to allow for cubicles and other separate spaces. There are no rules and you could opt for a mixture of both (or all other suggestions, some workers could even be remote).

Growth - If you are looking at space to expand, look at how this will work with your current needs and how you can utilise the space. Try and keep current staff in one space, with newer spaces designated to move new staff or departments as the company grows. Again, the actual floorplan of the office might not lend itself to this, so consider this fact when signing the lease.

Storage - Don't overestimate your needs for storage. Many businesses have moved to paperless working, with all storage in the cloud and very rarely using physical documents. This cuts down on, not only, storage but also the need for printers etc.

Flexibility - All-in-all there is no one-size-fits-all office solution, but there are more options available than ever before with new ways of working changing the need for office space all the time. Take time to consider the best options for you and you will be able to find the right office space solution for you and your business.

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