How Much Office Space Do I Need Per Employee?

How Much Office Space Do I Need Per Employee?

From airplane tickets to hotel suites, we’re all familiar with traditional hedonic pricing models and the associated spatial variations and service quality that come with paying a lower or steeper price for a hotel room and airplane flight. The same concept applies to office space. You can rent cheaply and suffer cramped working conditions and average amenities, or you find something at a higher and more conducive price to productivity.

The average workspace per employee in North America is around 150 sq ft, but there’s no set rule. However, companies should factor in health and safety compliance, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), when calculating how many sq ft per person in an office is needed for business. To give you an idea, we at 620 N La Salle have put together these office size guidelines.

The Importance of Calculating Office Size Per Person Before Renting

Office size per person varies by company, industry, geography, and office style. On the one end of the spectrum, there’s the traditional corporate-style workspace where company presidents have private offices up to 400 square feet. On the other end, there’s the open-plan layout where roughly 120 square feet is reserved for each employee.

Deciding what layout suits your business best (open plan, closed space, or a combination) affects office space needed per employee. And office size guidelines aren’t only based on working space; you’ll also need to consider amenities and company needs. While creative agencies may favor open-plan spaces for collaborative purposes, law firms, for example, will likely need closed spaces because their work requires a degree of confidentiality.

Office space naturally reinforces company culture. To produce their best work, employees should feel calm and comfortable. Spatial and interior design is so much more than selecting furniture and figuring out floor size. A strategically designed workspace facilitates a tranquil yet productive atmosphere.

Questions to Ask to Determine How Much Space You Want Per Employee

Calculating Office Floor Space Per Person

In order to answer the question of “how much office space do you need per employee?”, there are a few questions that can help determine the amount. As you picture the office space in your mind and the average office space you’ll allot to each employee, ask yourself:

  • Do I want to maximize the space each employee has, or do I want to fit as many employees in as I can?
  • Do I plan to have many individual offices, or do I want more open areas with employee workstations?
  • Does each employee require an individual desk, or is sharing ok?
  • How many people will be coming in part-time? How many will come to the office permanently?
  • How many remote employees do I have?
  • What type of space does each department need to work together effectively?
  • What is the operational goal my company wants to reach in this space?

What to Consider When Calculating Office Floor Space Per Person?

Workspace layout determines floor space size. Workforce trends, practicality, or personal preference? All three are relevant considering the average person spends ⅓ of their life at work. Modern demands require office space to work just as hard as the companies that inhabit them. Companies that favor open-plan offices will find it more challenging to determine how many square feet per employee they need, whereas those with fixed cubicles have it a bit easier.

It always comes down to industry needs and company culture, yet understanding workforce expectations can guide how much sq ft per person in an office is necessary. 50% of employees want to go to the office to collaborate with others, which points towards increased common spaces designed for group interaction.

Book Your Office Now!

As you navigate the average cost of office space per employee, it’s time to begin searching for the best office for the job. To explore the different office offerings to meet your office space requirements, contact us at 620 N LaSalle today to find your perfect match. 

Common Areas

After doing your office space per person calculation, you still need to include common areas, regardless of whether your office design is closed or open plan. Most offices have a reception, kitchen area, and bathrooms, but there are other spaces to consider too:

  • Do you need a boardroom to accommodate meetings?
  • Is there a space for your employees to enjoy lunch that’s not at their desks?
  • Do you require a webinar or recording room?
  • Are you considering a wellness room for your employees?

Remember that when you’re looking to lease, there’s a difference between usable square footage (USF) and rentable square footage (RSF). The former is the actual office space you occupy from wall to wall and isn't shared with other tenants. The latter includes common areas of the building such as elevators, stairwells, lobbies, etc.

To better understand what an average space and how many square feet per employee is best, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Work group areas: 80 to 100 square feet per employee;
  • Quiet rooms: 25 to 50 square feet per employee;
  • Conference rooms: 15 to 30 square feet per employee;
  • Reception area: 75 square feet per employee;
  • File room: 200 square feet;
  • Storage room: 200 square feet;
  • Lunch rooms: 15 square feet per employee;
  • Restrooms: 55 square feet for one seat and additional 30 square feet for added seats. 

Type of Industry

Because managing and allocating office workspace is a challenge for public and private organizations, the US government released a landmark report called Workplace Utilization and Allocation Benchmark. The study surveyed several industries and calculated the amount of space needed per square foot, per person, per industry:

  • Telecommunications: 65-225 sq. ft
  • Manufacturing: 48-380 sq. ft
  • Government: 48 - 400 sq. ft
  • Academic: 30 - 400 sq. ft
  • Media: 64 - 228 sq. ft
  • Business services: 70 - 44 sq. ft

What is the minimum office space per person? Findings suggest the median range is anywhere between a minimum of 30 sq. ft and a maximum of 400 sq. ft. Some reports found the average worker only spends 40% of their time at their desk per day and that the average sq ft per person office space is 150-225. This is largely due to reducing spacious offices, increasing small workstations, and flexible work from home (WFH) policies.

Insights garnered from the study shed light on key considerations when determining typical office space per employee. For instance, telemarketing company employees spend most of their time calling from a dedicated desk space and don’t require large collaborative spaces. The same can be said for media post-production facilities.

However, design studios or creative and media agencies may have a higher recommended office space per person because they require frequent collaboration and larger working surfaces. Other special work considerations may include advanced technological needs like a server room, for example.

The global consulting firm, McKinsey, offers a a key insight useful for determining square meters per person. Office space should be designed to support organizational priorities. Companies could create workspaces intentionally designed to support interactions that can’t take place remotely. Of course, this varies from industry to industry.

Leasing property is one of the largest expenses for most companies, and no owner wants to waste space. In an effort to optimize real estate efficiency and increase ROI, a delicate balance must be struck between telecommuting (if conducive), comfort and productivity.

The Need for Separate Executive Offices

How Much Space Do I Need in the Office

Business leaders want to feel part of a team, but working in the “bullpen” doesn’t always support their daily working needs. Recently, The Wall Street Journal published an article about Activity-Based-Working (ABW), which is the recognition that throughout the day, people’s tasks and the space they need to perform the change.

This is particularly true of business executives, who need space for deep-focus, meetings, and strategy, which isn’t always possible in an open-plan setting. In this case, it’s best to separately calculate the square feet needed for executives and other employees who may require a dedicated private office space.

Plan for Future Expansion

The pandemic ushered in a paradigm shift towards a more resilient and flexible office space arrangement. Although many companies are offering remote work, they will still require a central hub to connect in person to promote future growth. When determining how much space you require per person, you’ll need to consider what your WFH policy is, as well as a plan for staff expansion.

Adding 10-20% to your initial office space calculation can save the time and money of needing to find a new space when your company expands. When thinking about company growth, you may want to consider:

  • What lease length would be appropriate?
  • How much staff growth can the leasing support?
  • Will additional staff be added in the next 12-14 months, and if so, how many?
  • Over what time period will new staff join the team?
  • What positions will new staff fulfill? Are they sales, administrative, creative, mid-level managers, or executives?

Additionally, you also need to consider how employees’ work styles and needs are changing. Considering their preferences and needs will help you achieve employee growth, too, further improving your workforce. The pandemic has also shifted focus to health and safety. Proper social distancing, high-quality indoor air, and ventilation are now key concerns. Planning for technological advancements is another significant consideration.

If you’re opting for an open-plan design space, you may want to consider private-booth areas for employees that need to do confidential work or hop on a video without disturbing the entire office. Factoring in company expansion allows you to future-proof your office space for a longer period of time.

Average Cost of Office Space per Employee

Depending on where you are in the United States, the cost of office space per employee will vary. Here’s how the average cost of office space per employee compares across major U.S. cities:

  • Atlanta: $20.97;
  • Boston: $30.40;
  • Chicago: $35.00;
  • DC: $52.61;
  • Los Angeles: $33.51;
  • Miami: $33.15;
  • New York: $74.00;
  • San Francisco: $65.16.


Flexibility and being cognizant of changing work environments will help you future-proof your office space. Current trends point towards smaller personal workspaces in exchange for larger common areas. If you’re in search of the perfect office space for your company, you should take a look at our workspaces in River North, Chicago. Contact us today!


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