Maximizing Office Space Planning

Two men and a woman review blueprints while they do space planning for employees.
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As organizations grow, planning for staffing and space utilization becomes critical. You need cubicles and offices for your new hires while retaining proximity for employees who work together frequently. You need to plan for common areas and conference rooms, creating an environment that fosters positivity, employee motivation, and satisfaction.

When space becomes an issue, managers tend to think "build more offices." Often, a less expensive space planning solution is reasonable with planning and space redesign. Gaining management input for people's needs provides a proven approach to try to stay one jump ahead of your company's growth.

Accommodating What Employees Want 

If asked, almost every employee will tell you that they would be more comfortable, productive, and successful working without distractions in a private office. Often, the decision to use cubicles is a function of space and cost.

Depending on the size of your business, cubicles might make sense. If you are a large business with 300 or more employees on each floor, cubicles maximize square footage and allow employees to remain in neatly categorized departments. However, some find the environment stifling. This allows for the option of an open floor plan office structure, which sacrifices none of the space of cubicles and makes for a less constrictive work environment.

Additionally, building codes and regulations govern some space planning decisions you make. So do aspects of employment law in such areas as employee accommodation and accessibility.

Steps in Space Planning

Recognize that many of the responses will be opinions, and you will need to rely on professional designers and builders for definitive answers and recommendations in space planning. While gathering employee feedback can do wonders for their satisfaction, it is worthwhile not to forget the economic aspects of the change. On large-scale projects, this will be a more important consideration.

  • To determine whether to add-on to the current building, build up, move locations, rent space, build an office building, or redesign current space, your projected headcount for this year and next is necessary.
  • Of this projected headcount increase, how many employees require offices and how many require cubicles?
  • Looking at your current level of staffing, do you have the appropriate housing for each employee (e.g., do you have managers without offices)?
  • Looking at both current and projected employees, is their access to conference rooms, lunchrooms, storage space, and restrooms appropriate? Will this change as you add new employees?
  • List any additional thoughts you have about our space planning. Have you seen successful concepts implemented in other organizations? What else should the organization consider as the space plan is developed? Pictures of space design that have impressed you are also welcome. Send the links to the Human Resources staff.

The Bottom Line

Before building, you need to calculate the amount of space you truly need. Using the existing office as a starting point, consider how you could better utilize the existing square footage before tacking on additional space in the final project. Oftentimes, a simple rearrangement will find you the space you need, even if it sometimes affects the comfortability of employees.

Offices vs. open space remain the major debate although over the past 25 years, the percentage of employees working in a cubicle has increased to 70 percent, according to Robert J. Grossman in an article titled "Offices vs Open Space."