The office conundrum; how much office space do I need?
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
In our experience most firms are struggling to nail down their future requirements for office space. Some firms are approaching lease expiries and are wanting to take advantage of ‘rightsizing’ opportunities but are too nervous to commit to a smaller space that moves away from a 1:1 desk ratio.
Traditionally, and certainly pre-pandemic, office space requirements were typically calculated on a number of basic metrics; meeting rooms required, number of desks, number and size of collaboration areas and the number of cellular offices required. On average, the space required would equate to approximately 100 sq.ft. per person and so a 100-person firm would require 10,000 sq.ft. of office space.
However, as more people than ever are working from home (again) and occupancy levels in offices at an all-time low, office space is not being utilized as it once was. A client of ours, a law firm based in the City has been monitoring occupancy levels for the past 6 months and despite encouraging staff to return to the office three or four days per week, their analysis found occupancy levels to be at an average of 36%. Attendance in the office was affected predominantly by the weather, the day of the week and collaborative working requirements. The office was mainly being attended by support staff.
How do you approach an office downsizing opportunity? The answer isn’t simple. Some smaller firms (under 100 headcount) are making bold moves and downsizing into shared office environments and reaping the benefits of modern office space, over 40% rental savings and the ability to flex up and down. For large firms, it will take more time and analysis to determine what is best for them. As a start here are three considerations;
1. What are your business objectives? To reduce rent? To provide more collaborative working areas? To adopt flexible working permanently? Consolidating offices? Your objective must be SMART and clear in focus and shared with the wider business.
2. Flexible Working Policy; If you don’t have a Flexible Working policy, creating or reviewing the one you have, should be the first action on your checklist. If you are not clear about your Flexible Working policy, how will you determine your office requirements? CIPD put together a useful document to help you get started >>(cipd.co.uk)
3. In our experience, most firms are being extremely laid back and allowing staff to work from wherever they want, when they want, without commitment of set ‘office days’ or ‘work from home’ days. If you allow the weather to dictate when staff come into the office, you will not be able to take advantage of reducing your office footprint because you will have no choice but to provide facilities to accommodate all staff. Most Facilities departments are nervous to take desks away because they simply do not have a handle on which staff are coming in and when! Our MD Guy Spragg has discussed this issue in another article >> Do we all want to be T.W.a.T.s? | LinkedIn
Ultimately you need to be clear on what you want to achieve, then start to think about the practicalities of implementation and potential blockers. Whatever is preventing you from making decisions will need to be addressed before moving forward.
ClearSpace Group’s expertise lies in helping you to ‘right-size’. A Workplace Consultancy will help you to understand where you need to get to and how. If you want to learn more about our approach, access our Workplace Consultancy services.