How to Determine Your Office Space Needs

Learn what your business needs in your next office space.

 Blog Post Image

Before you begin your office space search, it’s a good idea to do some research to ensure that the office you eventually occupy complements your business. Ultimately, the space you select will directly correlate to your business’ profitability. Your primary objective should be determining the amount of space you will require to meet your current needs and plan for future growth.

You should also evaluate how much rent you are willing to pay so you have a set budget for your search. There are also other considerations such as the type of space, location and physical attributes. Any space characteristic that impacts your employees’ productivity and wellness should be weighed. The process of determining your office space needs may seem a daunting task, but it’s actually straightforward.

What’s the Nature of Your Business?

This may appear as a simplistic question, but it’s actually a key one. It’s related to your work product and how you develop, distribute and support it. For example, if your business activity is primarily conducted on computers, the amount of square footage per employee is going to be less than an engineering firm that relies on larger tables for their work or a research firm requiring lab space.

Estimating the Size of Your Next Office

How much square footage you will need to accommodate your operations and how your team works together? Space allocation is subjective, but there are industry averages to help guide your decision making. The size of private offices, cubicles and workstations has trended downward over the years as businesses have learned to make better use of their spaces. Gone are the days of large executive corner offices.

Estimated Office Space Size Calculations

Private Office: Likely your office will have a mix of private offices and work stations.

Per employee:

  • Small – 140 sq. ft.
  • Average – 150 sq. ft.
  • Large – 200 sq. ft.

Cubicle: These may be high or half-walled, open on one side. This measurement is just their cubicle area, an average estimate for cubicle working employees is 100 sq ft. per employee.

Per employee:

  • Small – 26 sq. ft.
  • Average – 35.5 sq. ft.
  • Large – 45 sq. ft. 

Meeting Room: A space defined by four walls with a door. Some offices need more meeting space and you should plan this around the number of employees you expect to be in your average meetings.

  • Small – 36 sq. ft.
  • Average board room – 350 sq. ft.
  • Average conference room – 300 sq. ft.

Reception Area: An open area adjacent to your office entrance. This space should be calibrated to the number of visitors you plan to have in your office at one time.

  • Small – 300 sq. ft.
  • Average – 400 sq. ft.
  • Large – 500 sq. ft.

Kitchen Break Room: Typically a separate space behind a closed door or an open café area. Depending on the number of employees who will be using it simultaneously you'll need more or less space to accommodate everyone for lunch or other breaks.

  • Average – 300 sq. ft.

Copy/Print Room: Either a separate room or an alcove for copy equipment. Depending on the amount of equipment and the employees using them simultaneously you'll need more or less space.

  • Average – 125 sq. ft.

While there are a lot of different spaces and uses to consider. Typically you can get a quick estimate for the space you need by taking the number of employees in private offices and multiplying that by 200, then multiply the number of employees in workstations or cubicles by 100 and add the resulting numbers. This will give you a rough number of your minimum needs. Remember that different states also have different requirements for the minimum number of square feet you need per employee in your office, so make sure to check or ask your tenant rep broker about your local rules and regulations.

Common Office Space Uses

Traditional, private space – This is sometimes referred to as “direct” space. These are defined, walled-in areas with its own entryway.

Tech office space – Usually, these are usually open settings and may have a server room. Workstations range from benches to dedicated space.

Creative office space – Open spaces with modern design, and emphasis on wellness.

Office plus lab – Some businesses do original research and testing, but also require some square footage allocated to business activity.

Medical office space – This wide category includes all sorts of occupants, such as physician and dental groups. These buildings typically have special features such as unique HVAC and parking.

How Does Your Team Work Together?

Your office design must align with your work habits and methods. Having a space that’s innovative and encourages creative thinking sounds like a lofty goal, but it actually can be easily achieved. It’s important to examine your current business culture and how you can establish an environment that not only meets your needs but exceeds them.

Team Interaction

Does your team collaborate throughout the course of the day face-to-face? If they do, then you will need enough conference rooms to accommodate them especially when you are in an open setting. These separate meeting spaces should be large enough so that your employees aren’t crowded together. If less common space is needed, smaller meeting areas might fit the bill such as private phone booths.

Conference Rooms

As for conference rooms, do they need to be soundproof? Do you need whiteboards, speaker phones, the Internet, video conferencing, and Audio/Visual equipment? If you are going to pay rent on common areas within your office such as conference rooms, it’s important to make sure it’s a productive space that’s used frequently, accommodating your employees’ meeting needs.

Room to Move

Speaking of movement, it’s important that your space encourages physical activity. Sitting in one spot all day is simply not healthy. Standing desks and access to exercise facilities can help alleviate sedentary activity.

Privacy Concerns

Does your team occasionally handle sensitive information that cannot be shared? For example, if you have a legal or a human resource function, they will need locked cabinets in a secure area. If your business is HIPAA secure document compliant there are explicit about how all information must be handled and secured, no exceptions.

Quiet Spaces

Do your employees need quiet areas to work? Many people complain about the distraction of some open settings, so if your business is in one of them, consider establishing a quiet area: one where conversations are limited, and the environment’s silence is respected. 

Given all the considerations, it would be prudent to make a needs checklist for when you are touring spaces so that you can accurately compare them later with your tenant rep broker.

Does Your Business Have Unique Space Requirements?

Given how important your space is to your business, you need to make sure it will facilitate productivity. Many prospective tenants seek the advice of interior designers to help identify not only the space aesthetics but also how it functions. Here’s a list of some of the additional features you may need to consider:

Kitchen/café area – This area can be as simple as a hot plate, a refrigerator and a high-top table to a gourmet kitchen with an adjacent dining room. They are not only an area for employees to unwind and enjoy food and beverages, but they can also be used for non-formal meetings and presentations. It allows users to move away from their workstation for a while and decompress.

Reception area – If your business is “client-facing”, you may consider a reception area. You may not want your clients walking directly into your work area – having an area where that can be greeted and welcomed before a meeting is a nice touch.

Mothers’ room – Providing a secure, private area for working moms is very important.

Nap room – Not a fixture as other common office areas, but they are growing in popularity. Employees are productive (and fatigued) at different times during the workday, so sleep pods are trending in forward-thinking business offices.

Server room (fire control, separate cooling, raised floor) – Require a large investment and a sophisticated buildout.

Lab equipment – Is laboratory work integral to your business? Establishing a fully equipped lab takes planning and investment.

Electrical (amp draw) – The more machines and other devices that draw electricity will determine the service you need.

Cabling and Wi-Fi – Depending on how fast you need to communicate and how much data you are handling will determine your internet and cabling requirements.

Trade fixtures (HVAC, signage, ventilation, etc.) – Again, it’s whatever your business will need to thrive. Keep in mind that you may have to remove them when you move out (return to original lease term) which adds to your costs.

Security – Some documents and conversations need to be secure and private.

ADA, OSHA – Compliance with government regulations can be costly, but it’s the law.

Furniture – Can increase wellness and productivity; can also have a disproportionate effect on morale. Ergometric furniture is a sound investment.

Lighting (natural, artificial) – Studies have shown that natural light is far preferable to artificial, so having access to a window line can have many benefits. If this is not possible, then you should consider color correct lighting.

Biophilia – The presence of natural building materials and plants, can have an outsized impact on productivity and a sense of well-being.

Signage – Internal and external signage is another item to be negotiated. Size, position and appearance are all items on the table.

You Know What You Need: Time to Secure your Next Space

Let’s start with general information about your next space. Do you want a space that’s already finished or one that you can customize for your own use? This is an important question from a cost and move-in timing perspective.

Custom Buildout: If you intend on creating a custom space given all you have read above, the time to start is now. Your tenant rep broker will typically negotiate for Tenant Improvement Allowances (TIAs, aka TIs), which is an amount a landlord will give you for construction costs (typically expressed as $/SF in your lease). The upside in customizing a space is that once finished, it will have all (or some) of the features you have identified as important to your business. The downside is that if the TIs do not cover all your costs, you are responsible for the balance.

2nd Generation: A 2nd Generation space is one that has already been finished, that is, has had some amount of construction. Ideally, it reflects most of the elements you think are important for your employees to thrive and your business to grow. If it doesn’t you can make some changes that make a better fit – you may have to compromise on some improvements because of the expense.

Another consideration for any construction is its duration. Will it be done by your move-in date? It’s common for projects to be delayed: long permitting processes, labor and building material shortages occur regularly. Hiring an interior designer on the outset will help you navigate your project – not only can they help you with the design but also ensure that the construction is being done according to plan. 

Sublease space: This is a space that the current tenant is willing to lease to you usually at a rental rate that’s below market. These can be a real bargain especially in markets that have rising rental rates.

Coworking: Providers have been proliferating in most metros, and they offer everything from hot desks to fixed office space with signage. They offer shared office services such as a reception area and business support. Coworking spaces are flexible and you can sign up for a short-term stay.

What Locations Would you Consider?

Choosing the next location for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. There are so many variables that are part of the site-selection formula that will yield the site that best suits your business. The goal should be to find a location where your business will thrive, and your employees and you will be content and productive.

Affordability is also central to your site-selection exercise. Rent will likely be one of your highest expenses, so finding a location that will not exceed your budget yet meets all your other criteria will take some time. Here’s where working with a knowledgeable tenant rep broker is important: they will try to match spaces with your business strategy and sensibilities. They will also offer other possible locations for your consideration – ones you may not have thought about before. Keep an open mind, trust your broker, and you’ll find that perfect office location.

Start Your Search

Ready to find that perfect office space? Start your search to compare office and coworking spaces, take virtual tours of spaces you like for free and save money on your next office lease. Your Truss tenant rep broker will help find an office space that meets all of your needs.