Allocating more office space per person could enhance productivity and wellbeing, as well as help meet energy and carbon reduction targets.
The British Council for Offices (BCO) has recommended that organisations calculate the office space they need per person, rather than per desk, to better reflect the realities of hybrid working.
It said the office space “sweet spot” is 10-12m² per person. In 2018, the average UK office space allocated 9.6m² per desk.
Not only will this promote staff performance and comfort, it is also likely to reduce the office space’s carbon footprint, the Future of UK office densities report claims. This is because higher office densities require additional mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, resulting in higher energy consumption.
Neil Pennell, chair of the BCO’s technical affairs committee and head of design innovation and property solutions at real estate company Landsec, said: “The UK has adopted a legally binding net zero carbon target for 2050 and the built environment has an important role to play in helping the country meet its ambitions. Making sure workplaces are designed and operated in the most efficient way will be key to reducing both embodied and operational carbon.
“Our latest report finds that updating the allocated space per person, and optimising office facilities, is one way to make our workspaces more sustainable, whilst also supporting wellbeing and productivity.”
The report claims that by giving employees more space to work, common issues such as overcrowding and noise distractions are alleviated.
It adds that office owners, designers and occupiers should ensure their workspace reflects varying degrees of occupancy, with enough space for people to work during mid-week peaks.
It recommends a shift away from single desks to the creation of more collaborative workspaces with breakout spaces and a focus on hot desking.
Nigel Oseland, director at workplace design and strategy company Workplace Unlimited, said: “The ‘sweet spot’ we have identified is based on research evidence and balances the competing demands of the modern office: On one hand, the post-Covid shift that has seen increasing numbers of office workers spending more of their time working from home, with many companies implementing hot-desking for their staff when in the office. And on the other, occupiers’ and building owners’ sustainability targets, which are expected to become more pressing as energy bills rise in the coming months.”
The BCO’s recommendations were based on 18 interviews, 202 survey responses and various quantitative and qualitative data sources.