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Office jobs entail a great variety of physical and mental activities. Often, the core activities of any office job take place at the desk or at the workstation. OSH Answers has more information on office ergonomics.
CSA Standard Z412-17 Office Ergonomics – An application standard for workplace ergonomics defines "workspace" as:
Workspace – any location where a person’s work is performed, including traditional office spaces and non-traditional office spaces (e.g., home offices, vehicles, and temporary locations), as well as the furniture, accessories, equipment, environmental conditions, and psychosocial workplace factors within these locations.
This document discusses a traditional office space.
In addition to the physical dimensions of the workspace and furniture, other features should also be considered in any design, reorganization or relocation. Some questions to ask are:
There is no one clear-cut answer to what seems like a simple question because the answer has to deal with many aspects. Major aspects include:
Nature of work. If most of the work day is spent on field assignments, meetings, site visits and consultations, a smaller office space may be satisfactory. However, for office workers who perform their job at their workstation most of the time, a small space may create discomfort due to feelings of confinement. Some job functions that, for example, include frequent meetings in their office space or require the use of multiple sources of material for consultation, research, writing, etc. or require multiple pieces of equipment (e.g., multiple computer monitors) may be assigned more work space.
Cultural aspects influence our perception of sufficient space. For North Americans including Canadians, as well as northern Europeans "adequate" personal space is an important factor. For people from other cultures often associated with dense population, much less space could be considered "adequate", or in other words, enough. This can be a significant issue in a multi-cultural society such as Canada.
A corporate climate. Our perception of a designated personal space is a matter of comparison. Employees generally accept the fact that those at higher levels in management positions may have larger offices. However, regardless of how large an individual's space actually is - if it is not as big as what our peers have - then, it is too small.
Individual perception. The amount of space available can have profound psychological meaning. It is natural for people to strive to occupy more space, for "more" space may signify importance, respect and more authority or power. In the workplace the amount of our personal space is often linked with our status within the organization.
Anthropometry (body dimensions). Actual office space requirements depend on the size and shape of employees simply because an office has to accommodate them, enable them to move safely and unhindered in the workspace, and allow them to complete their jobs.
Office spaces should allow for easy movement, accommodating visitors where necessary, and storage. The table below provides some ranges:
|Application||Minimum Requirement Ranges*|
|Two people can meet in an office with a table or desk between them - such as a supervisor and an employee||60-72" x 90-126"||152-183 cm x 228-320 cm|
|A worker has a primary desk, and a secondary surface such as a credenza or a filing cabinet||60-72" x 60-84"||152-183 cm x 152-213 cm|
|Executive office: 3-4 people can meet around a desk||105-130" x 96-123"||267-330 cm x 244-313 cm|
|A basic workstation - such as call center||42-52" x 60-72"||107-132 cm x 152-183 cm|
* All sizes are from Panero, Julius and Zelnik, Martin. Human Dimension & Interior Space, New York : Whitney Library of Design, 1979. (Although this is an old reference, no recent information was found that would change these recommended values.)
However, the allocation of the amount of working space for offices, and for workplaces in general, is complex and it is difficult to find standards that would apply to all kinds of work situations. This fact is why existing standards and guidelines similar to the ones mentioned here specify only the general requirements, if any.
The CSA Standard "Z412-17 Office Ergonomics – An application standard for workplace ergonomics" provides general recommendations, including that each office worker should have sufficient space to carry out his or her tasks safely and comfortably. The amount of space needed for any one individual is determined by considering:
Other items to be considered include:
The "Government of Canada Workplace 2.0 Fit-up Standards" as published by Public Works and Government Services Canada (2012, and updated in 2017) created 4 worker profiles and corresponding work space based on the amount of time spent at the workstation:
The workstations may vary in size up to the maximum, and the actual dimensions and configuration will vary depending on the site, functional requirements, and availability of space. The height of the panels recommended for workspace separation is a maximum of 1.37 m (54") stating that lower panels allow for increased light distribution and airflow and provide seated privacy. The Fit-up standards also state that "the reduced amount of space used for individual workstations provides clients with the flexibility to create collaborative, teaming and open meeting spaces".