Battery Chicken Britain: Office Space London

Apr 26 2016

Darren Best

Compared to a decade ago, London has more people flooding the transport system and crowded streets of the capital during rush hour than before. In 2014 alone, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) saw a 3.5% increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting London from that of the previous year. In 2015, the BBC documented more than ‘17.4 million overseas visitors, 8.6 million residents’ and as noted by the Telegraph; a workday population of approximately 6,408,607.’ But what effect does this have on office space for those working there? With less space in which offices can expand and with an increasing number of people wishing to work in London; the answer is surely obvious? Well, no, actually. After digging a little deeper into recent surveys and current statistics, we found the results to be rather surprising. 

Highest Density Job Locations

With business thriving in the capital and with a large visitor population, most would assume that offices which have little space for expansion would offer little in the way of work space. However, despite a higher volume of people working in London; statistics from the BCO show that ‘the South West was recorded to have the highest density for office work space at 8.6 sq. m. per workstation, whilst London offered an average of 11.3 sq. m. and the South East, 12.7 sq. m.’ battery-chicken-office-savoy-stewart  

With the aformentioned figures for South West and London in mind, it is important to establish how these figures compare with national guidelines for office space. outlined that the ‘total volume of the room, when empty, divided by the number of people normally working in it should be at least 11 cubic metres. In making this calculation a room or part of a room which is more than 3.0m high should be counted as 3.0m high. The figure of 11 cubic metres per person is a minimum and may be insufficient if, for example, much of the room is taken up by furniture etc.’

The figure of 11 cubic metres does not apply to:

  1. Retail sales kiosks, attendants' shelters, machine control cabs or similar small structures, where space is necessarily limited; or
  2. Rooms being used for lectures, meetings and similar purposes.

In a typical room, where the ceiling is 2.4m high, a floor area of 4.6m2 (for example 2.0 x 2.3m) will be needed to provide a space of 11 cubic metres. Where the ceiling is 3.0m high or higher the minimum floor area will be 3.7m2(for example 2.0 x 1.85m). (These floor areas are only for illustrative purposes and are approximate). Surprisingly, it would appear that on average, London offers a relatively sufficient amount of space for its employees. Whereas many employees in the South West flout the specified guidelines. This considered, it is important to determine whether the situation is improving or declining?

A decade ago saw employees experience a denser working environment when working on the trade floor. Although the stock exchange still offers a dense working environment; it is in no way as busy as it once was. As noted by Business Insider, ‘in 1997, there were close to 10,000 traders on some trading floors. It was physical. It was loud. It was total mayhem. "The physicality in the pit was ridiculous. We got to the point where at times the pit was so physical that before the start of the opening bell we could pick our feet up off the ground and not fall”.’ However, with modern technology slowly taking over, most trading pits have now closed in favour of computerised technology, allowing traders more space.

Photo credit: monkey business images/Shutterstock 

Although improvements have been made for those at the stock exchange, this is just one area in which improvement needed to be sought. Certain job roles do not appear to allow for a large work area., published figures suggesting that the ‘average required space per person for clerical or secretary positions in an open space office is 60 to 110 sq. ft.’, which equates to 1.83m2 per person. For reception areas, it was advised that ‘125 to 200 sq. ft. was allowed for receptions where there were 2 - 4 receptionists working’ and ‘200 to 300 sq. ft. for receptions where 6 - 8 people were working.’ These statistics would see the former with 1.6m2 and the latter with 1.5m2 of workspace each. Considering that a vast proportion of office based work is carried out at the desk or behind a computer; the additional office workspace in the rest of the office does not always aid in making your workstation feel less cramped.

Highest Density Jobs Sectors

Despite the 11 cubic metres being specified as being potentially ‘insufficient if much of the room is taken up by furniture etc.’, many job sectors ignore this clause and continue to fill an employees workspace with materials which reduce their actual workspace to below the required 11 cubic metres. Nevertheless, there are still job sectors which fall below the 11 cubic metres. A survey carried out by stated that the, ‘occupational density on a call-centre floor is usually high, typically 5-8 m2 per person.’ Even then, some of the workspace may be filled with filing cabinets, desks, chairs, drawers and lockers, which can see the employee with a measly 0.5m2 per person.


Cruise ship staff, flight and train crew are no strangers to cramped working conditions. With sleeping quarters akin to a glorified shoe box; jobs such as these are not for the claustrophobic.

Photo credit: sky colors/Shutterstock 

Potential Solutions

Although some job roles such as airline crew assistants does not allow for greater working space, other sectors can explore other avenues to fix their shrinking office space problem.

Hot desking

This practice is for businesses that have more employees than desks available. It is commonly used for companies with shift workers, where the desk is likely to be available for one employee after the other has finished their shift. 

Photo credit: sirtravelalot/Shutterstock 

Virgin listed some of the potential flaws of this practice as:



  • It is thought that hot-desking can reduce a company’s costs by up to 30%, with UK businesses able to save a total of £34 billion a year.


  • Hygiene: Risk of infection is thought to be higher in offices where hot-desking is present, with only one third of workers washing their hands after visiting the bathroom.
  • Clean desk policy: Offices which use hot-desking more often than not introduce a clean desk policy, meaning no personal belongings are allowed on desks at the end of the day, the impact of this on work is the subject of much debate.
  • Collaboration: Despite hot-desking supposedly being a way to promote this within the workplace, many argue it is hampering staff: “Employees that do not have a desk of their own have a weaker sense of cohesion within a team.”

Moving location

If your office space in London, or indeed anywhere else is simply inadequate; it may be worth contemplating moving your business presmises to another location. Should this be the case; employers will need to consider the legalities of moving for example, giving notice, offering redundancies and the secure handling and transportation of certain documentation. Although improvements have been seen across a variety of sectors, many continue to flout government guidelines, subjecting their employees to cramped workspaces. Employers need to work faster to find solutions to their shrinking office space and abide by the guidelines specified by law. 



Feature image credit: JuliusKielaitis/Shutterstock 

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