How Many Square Feet of Office Space Do You REALLY Need?

03 November, 2022 / Bobby Samuels
Collaborative Business Team in a Modern NYC Office Space

A modern, comfortable workplace fitting the needs of your employees is paramount in 2022. It doesn’t matter your budget or whether you’re a hedge fund, international law firm, startup, or small business.

No matter what type of tenant you are, you have unique things to figure out before leasing New York City office space. You may find answering questions about the best amenities to entice employees or neighborhood safety more pressing in your office space search.

However, you need to first answer pressing questions regarding how much office space you need. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and complicating your search for a new office.

On a basic level, how much space do you require? How many offices do you need? What type of company are you, and how will that affect your office layout? Will your staff sit at tables, desks, or cubicles? If you have cubicles, are they small or large? Do you need a conference room? How will your common areas look? Does your company have ambitious growth plans that could considerably change your headcount five years from now?

You can always dream about leasing office space in a modern New York City building. Yet, to get to that point, first determine how many square feet you need to accommodate your staff.

In 2022, answering this question may be more complex than you think.

How Do I Determine How Much Office Space I Need?

The evolving labor market and the new norm of remote work make answering this question more complicated than it used to be.

If you’re a FIRE company (financial, insurance, real estate, and legal), you may have an easier time answering this question. Your office floor plans are likely more defined and designated. You can simply decide how much office space you need per employee based on the size of their cubicle.

In contrast, it might be harder for a TAMI company (technology, advertising, media, or information) to determine office space needs. Many TAMI companies have a flexible open space layout with unconventional arrangements. Employees are only sometimes working at their physical desks. They might prefer to work on sofas, common areas, and perhaps from home.

How can anyone calculate office space needs that way?

There are a few things you should consider.

Usable Square Footage vs. Rentable Square Footage.

When figuring out how much office space you need, you need to consider the number of employees that will use a space, how they will use it, and even if they will use it all.

You could run into a situation where your staff comes into the office only part of the time. Your employees may come into the office as teams that rotate between Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Tuesdays and Thursdays. This issue could affect both FIRE and TAMI companies alike.

Furthermore, consider your growth plans. You want to lease office space based on your current and future headcount to accommodate planned growth. It would be prudent to lease additional office space, particularly if you anticipate growth during your lease term.

When looking for New York City office space, remember that landlords market commercial office space using a number called Rentable Square Footage (RSF). RSF refers to space you pay for but don’t actively use day-to-day for your business. RSF can include fire stairs, electrical closets, utility rooms, or lobby space.

Actual Useable Square Footage (USF) or net square footage that you use day-to-day can be 30-45% smaller. Landlords add the tenant’s proportionate share by building common areas into office space, thus resulting in a “loss factor.”

When evaluating USF, also consider conference rooms when assessing how much office space you need. You may need to allocate more space if you frequently hold meetings or staff gatherings.

How Much Square Footage Do I Need Per Employee?

The appropriate square footage you should allocate per employee is a fluid number dependent on many variables. If you’re curious to get a more concrete answer for the appropriate amount of office space you need, consider checking out our office space calculator.

We know that the number has consistently declined over the last 12 years.

In 2012, data from CoreNet Global revealed that the average square feet per employee in North America declined from 225 in 2010 to 176.

Statista reported that in 2017, the figure fell further to approximately 138 square feet.

Zippia recently reported this figure as low as 113 square feet considering social distancing.

Yet, with COVID now in the background, social distancing is no longer a factor.

Quietly, the trend of smaller square footage could be reversing. One-third of executives anticipate needing less office space in the next three years; however, over half believe they will need more.

150 square feet per employee generally is a good figure to use. Nonetheless, knowing your company and your employee’s work preferences is more important than a quantifiable number. In other words, are your employees interested in returning to the office part-time or full-time? How many prefer to work from home?

Nobody wants to pay excessively for unneeded space.

Projecting the growth of your staff is essential. Evaluating your office space needs takes a balancing act between knowing your current headcount and long-term development plans. Nobody wants to feel claustrophobic at work, and nobody wants to reevaluate office space needs every other year.

Another thing you should consider is that upper management may need larger offices. For example, an executive office could be 10 x 12 or 10 x 15, while junior offices could be 8×10.


The foundation of your search for New York City office space should always revolve around your business and employee needs. Square footage per person is a great metric, but there are many more moving parts too. These moving parts include the industry you work in, employee work preferences, the office floor plan, and the type of private space you want.

Once you determine your appropriate office space needs, the rest of your search will fall into place. Even if the labor and real estate markets are currently complex, determining the amount of space you need is half the battle.

One thing you can do to help make it easier to understand your office space requirements is to speak with an NYC commercial broker. Consider a broker who understands New York City’s complexities and has experience working with various business tenants. One with this track record can help you find office space that perfectly fits you, your business, and your future growth.

Hopefully, after reading this, you better understand how the time-consuming headache of finding New York City office space can become more manageable.

Accessibility Tools