How Much Office Space Do I Need? All of Your Questions Answered

The Hubble Team
The Hubble Team|

Hybrid working has completely changed the game. It’s transformed how and where we use office space, giving employees worldwide the ultimate freedom to work from anywhere, anytime.

This could be from the HQ, home or a network of on-demand workspaces—or a combination of all three. But this has left businesses with the all-important question: how much office space do we actually need?

As the world’s first hybrid workplace platform, Hubble’s here to help get you answers. While some of our customers have decreased their office footprint and opted for a smaller HQ, like Chilly’s, others have chosen a satellite office to support their growing teams in the city, like Specsavers.

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But if there’s anything ‘hybrid work’ has taught us; it’s that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. The amount of office space you need will be entirely dependent on your employees and your workplace strategy—and taking the time to establish this goes a long way.

For example, do you have distributed teams across the UK or the globe? If so, giving them access to a global network of on-demand workspace is the best way to take up office space. But if you’ve got a growing team based in the city, then opting for a flexible office space to rent by the month or longer is most beneficial.

Whilst there’s no exact science, this blog and our Workplace Strategy Tool can help you figure it out. Our free-to-use Workplace Strategy Tool allows you to survey your employees and find out exactly what their workplace preferences are. Similarly, our handy office space calculator can help you estimate how much office space you need if you’d like to rent by the month or longer.

Flexing the ‘fixed’ office budget

Pre-pandemic, the workplace budget primarily went towards the office rent. It was the second-highest fixed cost for most businesses, with the cost per employee averaging around £500 per month in London.

But of course, this has all changed. The ‘fixed’ office budget has now become a variable one, and our hybrid workplace platform enables businesses to reduce or adapt their budget in line with where employees actually want to spend their time.

If you’ve got any questions about the plethora of workplace options available to your business— such as coworking passes to on-demand workspaces or a smaller office space—click the link below:

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Approximately how much office space is needed per employee?

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The most commonly accepted rule in London is that 100 sq.ft. per employee is the ideal amount of space per person. This allows for roughly 50 sq ft for desk space and another 50 sq ft to accommodate room in communal areas, like breakout spaces, meeting rooms and kitchens.

High rents in Central London mean many companies opt for the more cost-efficient ratio of 70-80 sq.ft. per person. This allows for more efficient use of space and many companies adopt space-saving solutions like minimising storage facilities and replacing individual desks with benches.

In areas with lower rents (e.g. outside of main cities), the opposite trend can be observed: with more bang for your buck, employees can enjoy more desk space.

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What are the office size guidelines for specific areas such as the kitchen, boardroom and meeting room?

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Whilst keeping in mind the ideal 100 sq. ft. per employee, you also need to accommodate for specific facilities, like meeting rooms, kitchens etc. Below is a guide to approximately how much space is needed for these extra facilities:

  • Small meeting room (2-4 people) – 100 sq.ft.
  • Large meeting room (4-8 people) – 150 sq.ft.
  • Board room (15 – 20 people) – 220 sq.ft.
  • Training/conference room (20 – 30 person) – 300 sq.ft.
  • Kitchenette – 100 sq.ft.
  • Small server room (1 server rack) – 40 sq.ft.
  • Large server room (4 server racks)  – 120 sq.ft.
  • Manager’s office – 100 sq.ft.
  • Senior manager’s office (with a small meeting table) –  200 sq.ft.
  • Director’s office (with four-person meeting table) – 250 sq.ft.

Find out the 10 most searched-for office facilities

Why is conventional office space advertised in square feet?

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Unfortunately, the commercial property industry deals almost exclusively in “square footage” when it comes to advertising, leasing, and buying office space. For the majority of us, this is unfamiliar territory and can lead to confusion and suspicion over whether or not we’re getting ripped off.

If you’re sick of property jargon, download our no-nonsense guide to finding office space

Other things to consider

1. The shape of the office space

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When gauging your need for office space, it’s important to remember that square footage is not always “square”. Some office spaces will have awkwardly shaped floor plans where a proportion of the space is unusable as a desk area. There may also be parts of the office space that are far from windows or natural light and could thus negatively impact team morale. As well as considering how large a workspace is, you should also be looking at ceiling heights, especially in loft offices where the roof may be too low to accommodate desks.

Find the perfect workspace for your team

2. Pros and cons of open-plan offices

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It’s important to note that the 100 sq.ft. rule only works for open-plan offices where you’re expecting everyone to sit next to each other in quite close proximity. If this doesn’t match the culture of your business, then it’s worth planning for around double the square footage per person to allow cubicles or more isolated work stations. Of course, you could also adopt a hybrid of both styles.

3. Room to grow

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If your current team doesn’t fill out the space you’re moving into but you’re expecting to double your headcount in size, you have three options:

  • Give everyone in your office more space in the beginning and then gently reduce space as the company expands. Taking space away from your employees every 3 to 6 months is, however, not great for morale.
  • Set aside space for new employees and close it off. Gradually begin to fill the space as you hire.
  • Set aside the space for new employees and licence out (or sublet) your empty space on a desk-by-desk basis on monthly rolling contracts. This means you can earn income from your spare desks as they sit empty. You can give notice to the individuals or companies sitting on your spare desks as to when you will need the desks for your new hires. We can best advise you on how to rent out your spare desks, speak to a member of our Customer Success team.

Read about how we helped Oppo Ice Cream find the perfect office space to grow into

The way we work is changing how we use office space

The way that companies occupy space varies from company to company and has changed over the years. Formerly, it was considered best for people to work in their own private offices, but the consensus today is that open-plan spaces foster creativity and efficiency as the openness encourages employees to engage. Although, many people oppose this new way of working.

In the past, employees had large desks to handle cumbersome CRT monitors. And the need for lots of physical storage meant that the average office would occupy up to 120-180 sq.ft. per person.

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating changes even faster than usual. Coming months and years will tell what this means for the world of work, but there are a number of new workplace options on the market already for those looking to adapt their working practices in a cost-effective way.

Office inspiration 

A few tech companies have experienced stratospheric growth from young startups into some of the world’s largest, most valuable companies. All of these giants talk endlessly about the effect of their office space on company culture, employee retention, creative thinking and innovation. Here are a few examples to inspire your next office move:

Check out some of London’s coolest coworking spaces

Facebook’s Menlo Park campus

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The world’s largest open floorplan fits 2,8000 employees, with Zuckerberg’s desk right in the middle. The space is 430,000 square feet total (that’s just over 153 square feet per employee) and the rooftop the new facility includes a 3.6-acre rooftop garden.

Google’s UK headquarters 

Google’s huge UK headquarters is a ‘landscraper’ with a rooftop garden with a running track. it has been dubbed a ‘landscraper’ for being as long as a skyscraper is tall.  The main 11-storey building will provide some 80,819 square metres of space(!).

Apple’s new ‘spaceship’ campus headquarters

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Apple Park is an extravagant, multi-billion dollar campus in California. Its circular design and extreme scale have earned the structure a media nickname “the spaceship”. The building spans a whopping 2,800,000 square feet and houses more than 12,000 employees!

We answer other office space-related questions in the following blogs:

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