How Much Office Space Does Your Business Need?

Rachel Blumenfeld
Office Building

When you begin looking for office space, one of the first things you have to decide is how much space you need so you don't end up renting a space that is an inappropriate size for your business. According to OfficeFinder, you can estimate 125-225 square feet per employee, but it's better to get a more precise idea of what you need based on your vision for the office.

Office Layout

Do you want a modern, open office layout that is intended to promote your employees feeling like they're on a team? These open layouts are increasingly popular as employers hope that employees will share ideas with one another and therefore be more creative. Conveniently, these layouts also require less space per employee, and are therefore more cost-efficient, which may be especially important if you are a new business and have to keep an eye on the bottom line.

On the other hand, is privacy very important to your business? For example, are you a law firm or a financial advisor where confidential meetings are held often? If so, you will likely need private offices as well as conference rooms and should take this into consideration.

The Future of Your Business

Right now, you may have only a handful of employees, and so may not need very much office space, but in a few years you may have outgrown the space even if you're still committed to it through your lease. So consider now whether you plan to expand. If so, you will need more space upfront.

It may seem silly to lease space you aren't using, but it's better to do so now than to find out that you can't expand when you want - or need - to. To be safe, you may want to add in an extra 10-20% of space for future growth.

Types of Employees

When calculating the amount of office space you need, not all employees are the same. If you have a president, vice president, and other management underneath the vice president, they usually won't all get the same amount of space. According to OfficeFinder, a president is usually allotted about 200-400 square feet for an office, a vice president gets about a 150-250 square foot office, and managers get around 90-150 square feet.

You then need to decide whether employees who are not management will get offices, cubicles, or open space. According to TheSquareFoot, secretaries usually get about 75 square feet of space in their cubicles, and entry-level employees get about 95 square feet of space.

Will you have a receptionist to greet clients and customers? If so, O'Donnell Commercial Real Estate estimates that he or she will probably need about 300-500 square feet depending on how many seats there are in the waiting area.

Beyond Offices

Depending on your business, you may need a conference room (or several), a mailroom, a file room, a storage room/library, and/or a break room.

  • According to The Space Place, conference rooms should offer 20-25 square feet per seat, so the total square footage depends on how many people you want to comfortably fit.
  • Guidance Brokers suggests that mailrooms are usually about 120-300 square feet and file rooms are often 120-300 square feet.
  • Guidance Brokers also recommends at least another 120 square feet for each break room.
  • Additionally, you will probably need at least 175 square feet for storage or your library, and perhaps quite a bit more depending on your industry.
  • OfficeFinder recommends 55 square feet for the first toilet in each bathroom, with an additional 30 square feet for each toilet after the first.

Sample Square Footage Estimates

Here are some sample square footage requirements based on the numbers above:

Sample Square Footage
8 employees in cubicles, 1 manager, 1 break/conference room, 2 single bathrooms About 1200 square feet
15 employees in offices, 1 president, 1 vice president, 1 receptionist, 2 secretaries, 2 triple bathrooms, 1 break room, 2 conference rooms, 1 mail room, 1 library About 3450 square feet
36 employees in cubicles, 4 managers, 6 secretaries, 1 break room, 1 file room, 1 mail room, 4 double bathrooms About 4100 square feet

Different Kinds of Square Footage

When looking at available office space, you have to know the difference between usable square feet (USF) and rentable square feet (RSF). Usable square feet is the amount of space you need to be able to use for your office plans, but rentable square feet is usually what rent is quoted on. Rentable square feet includes the USF, but also your portion of any common areas such as bathrooms, hallways, and lobbies.

Make it clear to your broker and landlord that when you say how much space you need, you are talking about USF so that you don't end up with much less space than you intended.

Don't Forget Parking

Even if you think you found the perfect office space, make sure the outside is perfect as well. Are there enough parking spaces for all of your employees, as well as for any clients or visitors you may have? Remember - the perfect office building can be ruined if there aren't enough parking spaces to accommodate your business's needs.

How Much Office Space Does Your Business Need?