4 Jun

Is the Modern Office Shrinking?

From 30 June 2014, new legislation means that every employee now has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks employment service. For many employers, this will come as good news for the simple reason that, long term, it will enable them to potentially occupy less office space and therefore reduce office overheads as a result.

However, legislation aside, it’s clear that office workers in particular have been increasingly mobile over recent years and many already work remotely from places other than the traditional office. As a result, offices often seem to contain more furniture than people, with lots of empty offices and unused space.

So how do you go about working out just how much office space you really need?

The first thing is to get a clear understanding of how the space is used at the moment; on the whole, businesses usually over-estimate how much space is actually occupied on a day to day basis in a traditional office environment. Clearly, there will be certain staff who are almost always in the office (receptionists, for example) so having their own dedicated desk is the only option. However, despite what is generally thought, most desks are only actually used about 50% of the time. We know this seems very low, but when you factor in people on holiday, off sick, in meetings, on training courses, visiting other branches or working from home, you soon realise that it’s very rare to have everyone in the office all the time.


To get an accurate percentage though, you also need to look at peak occupancy times, as well as averages for the whole week or month. If you carry out this exercise, you’ll probably find that different departments are busy at different times and that it’s rare to have the whole organisation at peak occupancy at any one time. For most businesses, particularly those in the professional sector (solicitors, accountants etc.) peak occupancy still only represents about 60% of the total available space.

A word of warning though. Before you rush off and start reducing your total space by 40%, there are some other factors you need to consider.

Look at Your Layout

Generally, offices have far too much “circulation space”. By this we mean empty space for staff to move freely around the office. Clearly, Health and Safety has to be the biggest consideration if you want to reduce this, but in many offices, substantial savings on space could be made simply by rethinking where furniture is placed and how offices are laid-out.

Efficient Storage

Why is it that no matter how much space you allocate to storage, it never seems to be enough? When it comes to storing all your information, it’s definitely not a case of “one size fits all”. What you really should be thinking of is smarter, more efficient storage. In some cases, this may mean a bespoke solution, but it’s well worth the investment if it improves efficiency.

Size is Everything

If you fill your office space with furniture that’s really too big, it’s taking up valuable space that could perhaps be better used for something else. These days desk sizes, and shapes for that matter, are far from standard, and it’s worth spending a little more to get precisely what’s right for the space that you have, rather than simply buying the cheapest alternative and hoping it’s a good fit. Furniture that’s too big can create a lot of “dead” space.

Meeting Demand

Have you got a boardroom that no one ever uses? Or are your staff continually complaining that they struggle to find sufficient space in which to hold meetings? In our opinion, unless it’s going to be in great demand, a large boardroom is somewhere that goes unused for weeks at a time and it’s often more efficient to have several areas where a number of smaller meetings can take place simultaneously.

Take a good look at your offices. If you look closely, you may find that it’s full of furniture, filing cabinets and empty space rather than people and if that’s what you see, give us a call and we’ll help you design a space that works better for everyone.

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