Planning your office space

Calculating space requirements can have a direct impact on how efficiently you conduct your businessImage Credit: Supplied

Whether you are in the process of expanding or just setting up shop, determining exactly how much office space you are going to require is  never easy. There are many considerations to be made and decisions that can have a serious impact on how efficiently and effectively you will be able to conduct your business.

Your office space has a direct effect on your staff morale and productivity and it will inevitably have an effect on clients or visitors to your office and your overall brand. When estimating space requirements, you first need to understand how you plan to arrange your employees to promote efficiency through clever office spatial design. The easiest way to allocate work space is to do so on the basis of seniority  requirements. For example, I would generally allocate an office (or cabin) to company presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, general managers, directors and anybody who deals with particularly sensitive information such as personnel managers or legal staff.

Depending on this I would usually recommend to my clients that the offices should range in size from 15 sq m for general managers and 25 sq m for vice presidents to 40 sq m for presidents. Obviously, these sizes will vary according to business size and type, and you may find that many larger corporations actually will have guidelines as to what positions within the company warrant an office and how large it should be.

Cubicles or workstations tend to be of a more uniform size except where the organization employs team leaders or supervisors. Employees such as secretaries, customer service reps, accountants, programmers, data entry operators, clerks and engineers generally require around 12- 15 sq m depending upon document storage requirements and hardware such as computer screens, laptops, printers, scanners and telephones.

Estimating document storage is a critical factor. While every employee will probably require a different document filing cabinet, many businesses also need to provide for central file or document storage areas. This is one area where being inefficient in data storage (not employing digital  storage) can cost a company dearly by paying for premium space to simply store files, which may be referred to only in emergencies. This is extremely inefficient and alternative solutions such as digital data storage or offsite warehouse storage should be explored.

There are many additional spatial requirements that also need to be considered. Reception areas will logically depend upon the number of receptionists, but will also be influenced by the number of visitors  typically received and whether or not you utilise the reception area as a waiting area as well.

Conference and meeting rooms are always interesting topics of discussion. It always seems not enough and many companies have quite elaborate online booking systems for staff to reserve the meeting room of their choice. A rule of thumb would be for a conference room to be 5 sq m with 2.5 sq m allocated for each seated person. Other things to consider are projection equipment, screens, size of conference tables and spare seating.

Depending on the size of the organisation and the actual amount of mail traffic expected, the mail room can be anywhere from 15-30 sq m. The process of distributing mail will play a large part in determining space  requirements, as systems utilising pigeon holes can be quite space intensive.

Lunch and break rooms are very important for employee morale, productivity, teamwork and cross-functional dialogue. Make sure that you provide comfortable space for your employees to unwind by allocating at least 7-10 sq m, plus 2.5-3 sq m per person seated.

Finally, do not be caught in the trap of outgrowing your premises halfway through the lease period. Calculate your future space requirements based upon your projected growth plan. Many organisations neglect to factor in the possibility of growing by at least 25 per cent over the ensuing five years and find themselves desperately short of space with no convenient place to expand to.

While you may have unutilised areas in the initial period of the lease, getting office space with room for growth or expansion makes good business sense than to either have a second office in a remote location or terminate a lease to relocate.

Source: Mohanad Alwadiya, Special to PW


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