Determining How Many Square Feet of Office Space to Lease Depends Largely on the Interior Environment You Need for Your Company
Today’s office suites include many workspaces that accommodate a variety of scenarios like collaborative group projects, one-on-one conversations, and focused, independent work. The type of business you operate and kind of activities your staff carries out will largely dictate the office environment that is optimal for your company.
For example, a law firm where lawyers and paralegals meet frequently with clients, may opt for a private office design so there is ample privacy for sensitive conversations and documents. However, an IT company, where multiple professionals regularly collaborate on projects, may prefer an open plan setting so team members can access each other easily.
Below you will find key characteristics of three popular office buildouts. They are presented in relatively pure terms to illustrate the differences more easily between them, but keep in mind that the designs can be mixed. Think about which setting will generally work best for the work carried out by your business, then reach out to a broker, architect or contractor to explore how much square footage you will need to accommodate the office layout best suited for your firm.
Characteristics of Open-Plan Office Settings
- General setting: The office suite is made up mostly of tables and/or small cubicles, some conference rooms, and a few private offices.
- Seating: Workspaces are generally dedicated to just one user, but in some cases, they are unassigned and shared by multiple employees.
- Walls and light: Few walls are needed, allowing daylight and outdoor views to reach most employees in the suite.
- Communication: The open setting provides easy access to colleagues and managers. Communication tends to be informal and unstructured, helping to create an open and transparent environment.
- Distraction level: Conversation and chatter all around can disrupt workers, resulting in a very high level of distraction.
- Privacy level: The privacy level is very low, so sensitive documents and private conversations can be hard to manage.
- Construction costs: With few walls, doors, etc. to construct and install, costs can be low to moderate.
- Furniture costs: Tables, desks, chairs, benches, and some cubicles can be affordable, making costs low to moderate.
- Employee density: Employees sit close to one another, with limited alternative workspaces in the suite, making the density very high.
- Daylight and views reach most employees, features shown to be good for worker health, satisfaction, and productivity.
- Proximity to colleagues creates easy access and informal communication that enables questions to be answered quickly.
- Construction costs and time to build are low.
- The amount of space per employee is low, saving on rents.
- Firms can reconfigure space and teams quickly and cost efficiently.
- Employees enjoy the comradery, transparency and accessibility of colleagues and managers.
- The distraction level is high, potentially making workers less productive.
- The privacy level is low, making it hard to hold sensitive conversations or work with confidential data or information.
- The cost of some cubicle systems can be high, adding to overall costs.
- Employees coming from private offices may view this as a demotion. Most people take time to adapt to the open plan, but some never do.
- Densities can be so high that bathrooms and elevators have trouble supporting large numbers of people.
- High worker density can lead to increased spread of germs.
Characteristics of Collaborative Office Settings
- General setting: The office suite is generally made up of tables and cubicles, many small and large conference rooms, and a few private offices.
- Seating: Workspaces are generally dedicated to just one user, but in some cases, they are unassigned and shared by multiple employees. Conference rooms are continuously shared.
- Walls and light: Some walls are needed, allowing daylight and outdoor views to reach many employees in the suite.
- Communication: The open setting provides easy access to colleagues and managers. Communication tends to be informal and somewhat unstructured. Rooms where collaboration and team projects occur provide boundaries so not all topics are open and transparent.
- Distraction level: Teams and individuals can move to conference rooms, decreasing conversation in open areas. This can make the distraction level moderate.
- Privacy level: The privacy level is moderate since employees can access conference rooms for sensitive conversations.
- Construction costs: With some walls, doors, etc. to construct and install, costs can be moderate.
- Furniture/equipment costs: Costs for tables, chairs, benches, and cubicles can be moderate but equipment and cabling for conference rooms can be expensive, increasing overall costs.
- Employee density: People can spread out by leaving their desks and moving to conference rooms, resulting in medium density.
- Daylight and views reach many, though not all, employees. These features are shown to be good for worker health, satisfaction, and productivity.
- Collaborative settings tend to lead to informal communication that enables questions to be answered quickly and transparency around projects and issues.
- The privacy level is moderate since people can use conference rooms for private conversations and meetings.
- Spaces and teams can be reconfigured with moderate speed and cost.
- Employees enjoy the comradery of the open plan as well as the ability to isolate and focus in a conference room.
- Construction costs and time to build are moderate to high.
- Assigned desks plus shared conference spaces may require more space per employee, increasing rents.
- Shifting from a desk to a conference room may require moving laptops, notebooks, etc. to re-establish a fully functional workspace.
- High worker density and sharing of spaces can lead to the increased spread of germs.
Private Office Environment
Characteristics of Private Office Settings
- General setting: The suite features private offices, generally along the windows and there are a few large conference rooms and cubicles in the space.
- Seating: Private offices are generally assigned to one dedicated user.
- Walls and light: Window offices provide daylight and views to the office user, but daylight and views are limited to other parts of the suite.
- Communication: Private offices tend to promote knocking on doors, pausing before interrupting and generally using discretion and deference before disturbing a colleague. This formal communication can reinforce hierarchical arrangements and create “need to know” settings where transparency is limited.
- Distraction level: Since office users can close doors, the distraction level is low.
- Privacy level: There is significant visual and auditory privacy in offices, making the privacy level high.
- Construction costs: Building many walls of drywall or glass and carefully distributing lighting, heat, air conditioning, etc. among offices can make construction costs high.
- Furniture costs: Desks, tables, and chairs can be more affordable than complex cubicle systems, resulting in low to moderate costs.
- Employee density: Offices create distance and separation among workers, resulting in low employee density.
- Offices can double as meeting rooms.
- The ability to close the door and focus can limit distractions.
- Employees enjoy the privacy and status of having an office.
- Low worker density and walls between employees can mitigate the spread of germs.
- Natural light in some parts of the office suite is non-existent or limited.
- Private offices tend to reinforce hierarchical environments where informal conversations and transparency can be limited.
- The office suite can lack vibrancy and be too quiet.
- The time required to build the space is long due to significant construction.
- The amount of space required per employee is high, increasing overall rents.
- Employees can feel isolated and fail to form relationships with colleagues.
- Reconfiguring teams or adding employees can be costly and time consuming.