As employees go back to work and businesses look for new buildings in this pandemic-affected world, many employers are asking, “How much space do we need?” Though office space was once considered a low priority by many companies, it’s now a major factor in workers’ health.
While this may seem like an inconvenience at first, it’s an opportunity to take a hard look at your layout and determine if it works for you. Office space per employee not only affects workers’ health but can also impact productivity. If your office configuration hasn’t changed in years, it’s time to reevaluate.
Right now, one of the biggest factors in square foot per employee considerations is the threat of COVID-19. Close proximity raises the risk of catching the virus, as it’s spread through respiratory droplets. Employees may be afraid to come to the office if forced to work close to one another, so you must provide a floor layout that takes this health risk into account.
Medical professionals recommend everyone practice social distancing when in public. The minimum recommended space between people is 6 feet, as this is just outside the range that respiratory droplets can travel through a sneeze or cough.
Providing adequate space for social distancing may be made easier by allowing employees to work from home. This lets people limit the time spent in contact with colleagues, which in turn provides more office space per employee. It may also alleviate the anxiety of workers who must come to the office for one reason or another.
The office layout is another key part of determining the total amount of square feet you’ll need. Depending on your configuration, you must account for furniture, computers, and walkways. This may be further complicated by changes in configuration to comply with recommended pandemic practices.
Open offices have become popular in recent years, as they allow employees to freely interact and share ideas. Rather than being stuck in the “bullpen,” workers can easily see one another and even the office as a whole. However, the amorphous nature of an open layout may make it more difficult to calculate a density based on desks. Instead, you should determine the ideal density (spacious, average, or high) and work from there.
Cubicles get a bad rap for isolating employees from each other, but they may actually be the safer choice during a pandemic. They not only separate people, creating barriers that limit the spread of respiratory droplets but can also physically enforce social distancing. They may also make calculating the area total easier due to their uniform shape and size.
As you create your equation, remember there are unique areas that aren’t uniform in shape. You may have to allow for more space in these areas, especially if you have multiple employees stationed there.
The reception area is essential for many businesses, as it’s the first place visitors or clients encounter. Receptionists often need access to multiple pieces of equipment, such as fax machines, computers, and phones, and must be allowed space to work without feeling cramped by these items. Additionally, the reception area may be circular or semi-circular, requiring a different equation to determine the total area.
There may also be a waiting area for clients. Just like employees, clients should observe social distancing, so make sure there’s enough room for them to comfortably wait at least 6 feet apart.
Typically, executive offices are separate from the cubicle area, providing them some relief from the constant vigilance of social distancing. However, executives often meet with clients or employees, and this must be taken into account when determining office space. There should be enough room to safely conduct a one-on-one meeting.
Since they require many people to congregate in one location, conference rooms are being left behind in favor of conference calls or teleconferencing. However, one day they may become viable again and it’s essential that you don’t forget to figure them into your calculations. Employees will need ample space to congregate without being forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder.
The file room is another area that may be soon left in the dust due to technology. However, if your industry requires physical documentation of certain information, it’s important to factor the file room into your total office space.
Mailroom size depends on the industry, so it’s important to consider your business’s unique needs before calculating the space. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Are you receiving large amounts of mail?
- Is mail being processed by machines?
- Is the area available to all employees or primarily used by a handful of workers?
The final spaces you need to consider are common areas; these are used daily by most or all employees.
The kitchen is important for employees who bring their lunch. You can do some research within your company to see how many people utilize the kitchen and use that data to determine the right amount of space for this area.
It’s best to assume that every employee will use the break area daily. Make sure there’s ample room for social distancing and personal comfort.
The last thing you need to consider when determining office space are your plans for the future. This is especially important if the majority of your workers are currently at home; you’ll need to make allowances for the day when your workforce is back on location. You don’t want to underestimate the space needed, then be forced to quickly move or change the layout to accommodate a sudden influx of workers.
Now that you’ve taken all the factors into account, you can make your calculations. Once you have the total, Ellicott Development can help you find the perfect space. We offer many different buildings for rent, ensuring that companies can find the perfect size and layout to fit their needs. For more information or to see what’s available, give us a call at 716-854-0060 or contact us online.
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