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Office and workspace
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Office and workspace

When renting, planning and furnishing the office, you should be clear in advance about the office space you need. The respective size depends on a variety of factors. How many employees will be working in the office? What activities will be carried out? What premises are needed in addition to workstations? Occupational health and safety also places requirements on companies. In this guide, we summarize the legal requirements.

The most important requirements at a glance

  • Office space from workspaces in principle:
    • at least 8 m² per employee for one workstation.
    • at least 6 m² for each additional workstation
  • In practice:
    • Workplace in cellular offices: 8 to 12 m²
    • Workstation in large room: 12 to 15 m²
  • Movement area at the workplace
    • at least 1.50 m² movement area
    • Depth and width at least 1.0 m
  • Clearance height of offices
    • depending on floor space
    • at least 2.50 m

What legal requirements apply to office space?

Occupational health and safety is governed by several pieces of legislation. The Occupational Health and Safety Act obliges employers to ensure that employees can carry out their work without endangering their physical and mental health. It is irrelevant whether the workplaces are on the employer's premises or in the home office.

With regard to the furnishing and design of offices, the German Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV) contains minimum health and safety regulations. It states the room dimensions and movement areas in the office:

1.2 Dimensions of rooms, air space

  • (1) Workrooms, sanitary facilities, break and standby rooms, canteens, first aid rooms and accommodation must have sufficient floor space and, depending on the size of the floor space of the rooms, sufficient headroom so that employees can use the rooms or carry out their work without impairing their safety, health or well-being.
  • (2) The dimensions of the rooms depend on the type of use.
  • (3) The size of the required airspace shall be determined according to the type of physical load and the number of employees and other persons present.

3.1 Movement area

  • (1) The free, unobstructed area at the workplace must be dimensioned in such a way that employees can move freely during their work.
  • (2) If this is not possible, employees must be provided with another sufficiently large movement area in the vicinity of the workplace.

Further requirements on the specifications of the Workplace Ordinance can be found in the Technical Rules for Workplaces (ASR). Points 1.2 and 3.1 ArbStättV are specified in ASR A1.2. There you will find minimum specifications for the required office space per employee or workplace.

Link to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: ASR A1.2 Room dimensions and movement areas

Office size: What office space is required per employee?

Workspaces and offices must have "sufficient floor space and height". This is to ensure safety and health protection. 

Irrespective of other factors:

  • Each workspace must have an office area of at least 8 square meters.
  • A further 6 square meters must be available for each additional workstation.

In addition to the number of workstations, sufficient floor space is derived from other factors. 

  • Additional space for employees to move around must be available at every workstation.
  • Areas for traffic routes must be taken into account. Traffic routes that also serve as escape routes must have a minimum width of 0.875 meters. Other traffic routes, such as to the heating or to the window, must be 0.5 meters or more.
  • Work equipment such as laptops & monitors and furnishings require appropriate storage space
  • Functional surfaces, such as opening doors or drawers on office cabinets, require additional space.
  • Safety areas must be planned in order to maintain the necessary safety distances.

These aspects determine the required office space. In practice, the following values have proven to be good calculation parameters:

  • Cubicle offices: 8 to 10 m² per workstation
  • Open-plan office: 12 to 15 m² per workstation

Movement areas in the office - what size does a workstation need?

Every office and VDU workstation must have sufficient space for employees to move around to enable them to change their working posture and make compensatory movements while working. This area must be at least 1.5 m².

Movement area at the workplace
Movement area at the workplace
(Source: VBG Hamburg www.vbg.de)

The following additional factors apply to the depth and width of the movement area:

  • For working while sitting and standing upright 1 m each
  • For working in a bent position: depth at least 1.20 m
  • Several workstations next to each other: Width at least 1.20 m
Minimum distances for multiple workstations
Minimum distances for multiple workstations
(Source: VBG Hamburg - www.vbg.de)

In addition, movement areas must not overlap with other areas.

Office height: How high should workspaces be?

In addition to floor space, offices must also meet minimum requirements in terms of headroom. The specifications are determined by the freedom of movement for employees, the use of the workspaces, technical requirements such as the space required for ventilation and lighting in the office and other requirements for the well-being of employees. Based on this, ASR A1.2 specifies the following minimum heights, subject to further special regulations:

  • up to 50 m²: at least 2.50 m
  • over 50 m²: at least 2.75 m
  • over 100 m²: at least 3.00 m
  • over 2000 m²: at least 3.25 m

Definition of relevant terms

Different terms are used both in the Workplace Ordinance and in the Technical Rules for Workplaces. Below is an example of the floor space of a workstation in an office and a brief explanation of what is meant by the terms (source: ASR A1.2)

Example of required floor space at office workstations
Red: Movement area
Green: Functional area
Blue: Traffic area
(Source: VBG Hamburg - www.vbg.de)

Movement area

Movement areas are continuous, unobstructed floor areas at the workplace that are required as a minimum to enable employees to change working postures and make compensatory movements during their work.

Freedom of movement

Freedom of movement is the continuous unobstructed space at the workplace that is required as a minimum to enable employees to change working postures and make compensatory movements during their work.

Traffic area

The circulation area includes the aisles to the workplaces and to occasionally used operating facilities (heating, windows, electrical supply). These are paths that provide unhindered access to the respective areas.

Parking spaces

Storage areas are the floor areas required for work equipment (e.g. raw materials and supplies, products of the respective work step, work chairs, work trolleys, tool containers, lifting equipment), installations, equipment and other objects (e.g. waste), regardless of whether they touch the floor or not.

Functional areas

Functional surfaces are the floor surfaces that are covered by moving parts of work equipment, fixtures and fittings.

Safety surfaces

Areas for safety distances are the floor areas at workplaces, work equipment, installations and facilities that are required to prevent hazards to employees.

Do you need help planning your office?

Compliance with all occupational health and safety regulations can quickly become very complex. Our employees will be happy to help you set up your office at any time. Arrange your personal consultation now.