During my busy working week in Devon and the South West, travelling around helping people with their office furniture requirements, I often get asked this question: ‘How much space per person?’

It is not a straight forward answer, there is no definitive answer but I will try to help!

Over the past few years, the average employee’s work area has fallen from 190 sq ft to 120 sq ft according to a recent report by office agents King Sturge.

AURA bench modern desk range from Lee and Plumpton.....

AURA bench modern desk range from Lee and Plumpton…..

With the average private sector work area at approx 120 square feet per employee, an employee’s workstation may only measure about 50-60 square feet, the rest of the space is allocated for filing, storage, copiers, meeting rooms, kitchen areas and walking space throughout the office.

Old fashioned call centre?

Old fashioned call centre?

Rabbit hutches!

Rabbit hutches!

Under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers have a responsibility to provide a minimum work space of 40 square feet per person in an office area, not overall for the building and the business per person.

Regulation number 10 of the above states: ‘Every room where persons work shall have sufficient floor area, height and unoccupied space for purposes of health, safety and welfare’.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have produced an Approved Code of Practice which goes on to state:

Workrooms should have enough free space to allow people to get to and from workstations and to move within the room, with ease. The number of people who may work in any particular room at any one time will depend not only on the size of the room, but on the space taken up by furniture, fittings, equipment, and on the layout of the room. Workrooms, except those where people only work for short periods, should be of sufficient height (from floor to ceiling) over most of the room to enable safe access to workstations. In older buildings with obstructions such as low beams the obstruction should be clearly marked.

The total volume of the room, when empty, divided by the number of people normally working in it should be at least 11 cubic metres. In making this calculation a room or part of a room which is more than 3.0m high should be counted as 3.0m high. The figure of 11 cubic metres per person is a minimum and may be insufficient if, for example, much of the room is taken up by furniture etc.

The figure of 11 cubic metres does not apply to:

retail sales kiosks, attendants’ shelters, machine control cabs or similar small structures, where space is necessarily limited; or rooms being used for lectures, meetings and similar purposes.

Learn from past mistakes as below:

In a typical room, where the ceiling is 2.4m high, a floor area of 4.6m2 (for example 2.0 x 2.3m) will be needed to provide a space of 11 cubic metres. Where the ceiling is 3.0m high or higher the minimum floor area will be 3.7m2 (for example 2.0 x 1.85m). (These floor areas are only for illustrative purposes and are approximate).

The floor space per person indicated above will not always give sufficient unoccupied space, as required by the Regulation. Rooms may need to be larger, or to have fewer people working in them, than indicated in those paragraphs, depending on such factors as the contents and layout of the room and the nature of the work. Where space is limited careful planning of the workplace is particularly important.

Many companies need to look at ‘low cost’ office space; however this should not be at the expense of the morale and productivity of staff. When planning your new office, be realistic about the space you have available and don’t create a floor plate that is too tightly packed.

We find that an average of 80 to 100 square feet per person can creates a comfortable working environment.

When choosing workstations for your staff, you should make sure that they are suitable for the people using them and for the work they do. There should be enough space around the desk area, and an effective cable management system for people to leave swiftly and safely in an emergency.

If you are looking to move offices or re-plan existing, then get in touch via the website or call 01392 834980.

For more information on the governments Workplace Regulations visit the HSE website from this link.

Thanks for reading, hope it helped!

Mark