A spacious environment is seen as key to providing a happy and productive working environment and can help avoid needless sick leave. In addition, a well-designed office can help maximise space for workers, or can allow a bigger workforce without needing larger premises. However, it is also necessity in law.
Health and safety guidelines specify a sufficient minimum work space for each individual worker.
An office design must also ensure that any worker can get to and from their workspace freely without being obstructed by other workers or furniture. This allows them to access other facilities, such as the toilet or office equipment, with ease. If a worker cannot access equipment or move freely around the office, it will have detrimental effect on worker productivity and job satisfaction. This in turn may lead to sickness absence.
When calculating space, all office furniture must be subtracted from the total space in the room if the office is to be up to standard. This includes desks, decorations (for example plants), filing cabinets, and other office tools like printers and photocopiers.
Regulation 10 of Workplace in the Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations (1992) states that each employee must have at least 11 cubic metres of space to work in. There must also be some unoccupied space (free from furniture and other fittings), sufficient ceiling height and floor area for access and work. All low beams and ceilings (such as in older buildings) should be clearly marked.
To calculate the amount cubic space per worker, simply work out the floor area and multiply that by the height of the room. For example, if an office measures 2m by 3m, and if the height from floor to ceiling is 2.5m, then the total room is 15m3 (2x3x2.5=15). So that is enough space for one worker if there is not more than 4m3 of furniture in the room and they can access all they require to work easily.
Also if a room is over 3m high then all calculations of cubic space per person must be calculated as 3m. Remember that each person must have 11 cubic metres of free space and that includes all furniture in the room.