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How Many Employees Per Square Foot Should You Plan for?

CBRE’S Spring 2022 US Occupier Sentiment Survey, published last April, concluded that “the average office worker will spend 24% less time in the office” than before the pandemic. As a result, 73% of companies planned to transition to a hybrid workplace model by the end of 2022, allowing workers to work from home part-time. 


With the new year still in its infancy, most companies now require employees to return to the office most days of the week. Disney is the latest company to diminish work-from-home opportunities for employees, demanding that workers return to the office at least four days a week. 


Despite a decrease in the work-from-home economy, CBRE’s data shows that the average worker will continue to spend less time in the office now compared to a few years ago. However, most companies now mandate that employees come into the office most or all days of the week.


This article will discuss how companies – whether they adopt a fully in-person model or a hybrid model – can establish how much office space they require and how to allocate this space best. Continue reading if you want to avoid leasing a space that is either too small or too large for your company’s needs. 

How Much Space Do You Need Per Employee?

According to Zippia, companies need to allow between 150 and 175 square feet of office space to work most efficiently. Office Finder estimates that range is “between 125 and 225 usable square feet of office space per person”. On average, this is equivalent to 175 square feet per employee. Office Finder provides wide ranges for each category, which may confuse some employers who want an easy answer, but the truth is that the optimal amount of space varies from company to company. 


To keep things simple, aim for between 150 and 175 square feet of office space per employee, but this is only an average. Zippia also broke down average space needs per employee by industry. Call center employees need the least amount of space at 120 square feet, while professionals in insurance and architecture need 280 square feet, for example. 


When calculating how much space your company needs per employee, consider the industry you fall under, the type of work your employees undertake, and the company culture you want to cultivate. For example, companies with employees that do more individual work may need more space for private offices than organizations that focus on collaboration and group work. 

In conclusion, employers should begin their search for office space between 150 and 175 square feet per worker. However, they need to prepare to adjust this range up or down if necessary. For best results, organizations should tour multiple office spaces within their given range and budget to establish which size and layout best suits their needs and goals. 

How to Allocate Office Space

The average square feet per employee in an office will include common areas and personal space for each employee. Using the 150 to 175 square feet per employee as a broad guideline, an employer must determine how to best allocate this space between common areas, shared workspace, and private offices. 


There are three main types of offices. Some offices are mostly open, meaning they consist of large, shared rooms where employees work closely together at cubicles or communal tables. Other offices almost entirely consist of personal offices for each employee, while many are hybrids of the two, with some employees working in shared, open spaces and others working in private workspaces. 


How your company allocates space depends on your company’s individual needs. You may determine that your workforce mostly needs a large open space, with the addition of two private offices and a single conference room. Using Office Finder’s data, you can estimate how much space you will need to allocate for each room and designated area in your office. 


Office Finder established the following size ranges for various private office types: 


  • President or board chair offices (large private or shared offices) typically fall between 200 and 400 sq. ft. 
  • The typical Vice-President’s office (medium private or shared offices) ranges from 150 to 250 sq. ft. 
  • The average Executive’s Office (small private office) will be 90 to 150 sq. ft. 


They also concluded that, as expected, open work and communal areas take up less space than private offices. 


  • Group work areas, benches, or cubicles will average 60 to 110 sq. ft. per person.
  • Quiet rooms need between 10-100 sq. feet for 10 open space or group workstations. 
  • Conference rooms average 15 sq. ft. per person for theater-style seating and 25 to 30 sq. ft. per person for conference seating. 
  • Reception areas with a receptionist and 2-4 other people will be 125 to 200 sq. ft. 
  • Lunch rooms should be about 15 sq. ft. per person. 

Cultivate Your Company’s Culture

Consider your company’s culture and priorities when choosing a new office layout. Organizations with employees that focus on individual, focused work may want to prioritize privacy and separate workspaces for each person. Companies that primarily facilitate group work and collaboration may find that an open layout is best for their needs. Open offices are best for teams that work together on projects, while cubicles are a better option for individualized work. 


Ensure that your office space is laid out in a manner that best supports your employees’ work needs. However, employer’s should also take their employee’s expectations and preferences into account. Choosing a space that will enhance your employee’s wellbeing will increase productivity and personnel retention. If you are considering leasing a new space, think about asking your employees what features they want in a new office. 

Plan for the Future 

As a general rule, you should plan for an extra 10-20% of office space to allow room for future growth and additional employees. For instance, a growing company that currently employs 50 people may want to search for an office that can accommodate 55-60 workers. 


Many employers, especially those who own small businesses on a tight budget, may see this as an unnecessary expense. After all, leasing space comes at a huge cost to any organization. However, companies that expect to grow and hire more employees in the near future need to plan ahead since moving to a new office after just a couple of years can be disruptive and quite expensive. Additionally, terminating a commercial lease early is expensive. 


Most commercial leases are between three and five years, although some landlords may offer shorter options. Before finalizing your office space search, consider which lease length works best for your goals and growth trajectory. If presented with a three-year lease, estimate how many employees your company will add over that time. What kind of workers will you hire, and how much workspace will they require?


While it might not be possible to perfectly predict future growth, thinking critically about your company’s future can make your company’s search for new office space more successful. 

Key Takeaways

  • Companies should plan for 150 to 175 square feet per employee, but needs generally vary depending on the industry. For example, call centers or tech firms will normally require significantly less space than law firms. 
  • Establishing how many private offices and the square footage of open workspace your company needs will help you determine how to allocate your space best. 
  • Plan for future growth by allowing for an extra 10-20% of office space. 
  • Consider the location of your office. Leasing office space in Manhattan will cost more per square foot than leasing in Pittsburgh, for example. 


AVUITY can help you understand exactly how much office space you need and improve workplace utilization with advanced occupancy sensors and data analytics. Schedule a free consultation with AVUITY today.

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