Beginning a search for office space is a lot like any other real estate sector in that the first determining factor is square footage, as too much or too little office space can be deadly to your bottom line. Before factoring in location, building class, amenities, layout, parking and tenant mix, you must first nail down a total square footage number prior to doing anything else. Don’t even think about looking at listings before you a have a number, that is a quick and easy way to waste time and steer yourself down a path that could cost you a lot in rent in the long-term.

So, now that you believe that you need that solid square footage number…how do you calculate it? Below we outline the industry accepted rules of thumb when it comes to determining office space square footage requirements for any business. Good luck and get that calculator out, you’re going to need it!

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Office Space Calculation #1: Number of Employees

office spaceThe first place to always start when calculating your office space square footage needs is determining how many, and the type of people, who are going to be working in that space. In 2017 the updated calculation is allocating 100 – 200 square feet per employee. Narrowing that range depends on the type of space you need.

100 SF per Employee

This is for office space with an open layout plan: no private offices and shared, open workstations. Think call centers and sales offices.

150 SF per Employee

This is the industry average. Not too small that you are considered “open layout” but not too big that almost everyone in your business has a private office. Think real estate office or tech firm.

200 SF per Employee

This is for a traditional office space. Think dedicated reception areas, support rooms (kitchens, file rooms), halls of private offices, and large conference rooms. You would see a law office or professional services firm using this type of calculation.

Try this employee square footage calculator to get you started.

Office Space Calculation #2: Business Layout Needs

office spaceNot every business is created equal and, as such, each has it’s own personal set of space needs. In addition to employee square footage calculations, each of your room needs has an attached square footage range. Below is a list of room options that you may need for your office space:

  • Private Office (Large, Medium, Small)
  • Open Workstations
  • Work Group Areas
  • Reception Areas
  • Conference Rooms
  • Mail Room
  • File Room
  • Lunch/Break Room
  • Kitchen

Our friends at Cresa have a great online calculation tool for all of the possible areas you need for your business. Check it out here.

Office Space Calculation #3: Look to the Future

office spaceIt’s not just enough to calculate employee headcount and layout needs in the present; you need to make sure you account for business growth in the future. A typical office space lease is anywhere from 5 to 10 years, and a lot can change for your business during that time. After all, no one wants to move offices in the middle of a lease because they do not have enough space.

When thinking to the future determine not only how many employees you may be adding in the coming years, but the type of employee. As a sales or support staff position would only need 100 SF, but a senior level executive with a private office would need 200 SF.

In Conclusion

Taking the time to calculate your office space square footage needs will help you find a space that is not only appropriate for your current needs, but that align with future needs as well, allowing you to grow with your space. This planning saves you tons of cash, from paying too much for rent to shelling out relocation costs from having to move to a new space that can accommodate your needs.

If you are looking to buy or lease office space in the Charlotte market, please contact one of our expert Office Advisors. With over 50 years history in the Charlotte commercial real estate market, our staff is a go-to resource. Good luck and happy hunting


SVN Percival PartnersPercival Partners is one of Charlotte’s most recognized and respected commercial real estate firms with more than 50 years experience in the region. Our professional and experienced real estate Advisors are in the business of listening, understanding, and adding value. No matter the commercial property type you own or seek, you can count on the Percival Partners team to maximize your return and peace of mind.  To reach us, you can call us at 704.632.1000 or follow us on Twitter at @SVNPercival, LinkedIn or Facebook.