04/17/2012 04:27 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2012

Which Is Better: The Bigger Office or the Better-Located One?

The other day, a reader of my blog Corporette wrote in with a great question: should she leave her well-located office and move to a bigger one down the hall?

There is a large office that has been vacant in our firm for 9 months or so (another associate was let go). I have a small office, but I like the location of it. It's right next to the partner I work for and the assistant we share, and there's always activity around it, which suits my work style. The large office is down the hall a bit, in a quieter area with less activity and visibility, all of which are "cons" for me. I've been going back and forth with asking to move (I know they'd say yes). I think the large office looks better to clients, I've been here for several years now, and I'm the only attorney still in a small office, the rest are occupied by paralegals. Any thoughts as to size versus location and which is more important?

Tough, tough question. My gut reaction is you should stay put because you seem happy in your current office... but your points about the paralegals and clients are serious things to consider. Whichever one you choose, you may want to read our suggestions on office decor.

I suppose the first question to ask is whether there are any dream offices -- i.e., larger offices, near your partner or in other active areas -- even if they may be occupied at the moment? If so, first look at who's occupying them. Does anyone have their door closed frequently because the activity level is too much for him or her? Is anyone far from his or her assistant? I might approach that person and see if he or she would be interested in moving down the hall to the vacant office, perhaps with the promise of a nice lunch out on you (or help moving?) or something of the like. If that doesn't work out, have a conversation with whoever is in charge of office assignments and put in an informal request to have your dream office once it becomes vacant.

If your choice is still between the small but well-located office or the larger but remote office, I think you have a few questions to ask yourself, such as:
  • What percentage of your time is spent in meetings? Will this percentage greatly increase in one year, or two years? Are there conference rooms nearby that you can use for meetings instead (and a reliable reservation system to make sure you have a room when you need it)? Alternatively, can some of your meetings (such as new business pitches, etc) be held over lunch? If so, invest a little time in perfecting the networking lunch, such as picking one nearby spot with excellent service (and decent food) for lunch, and getting to know the staff there so the meal goes incredibly smoothly. If you would still prefer to hold meetings in your office, continue to the next question...
  • Can you declutter your current office, perhaps by claiming file space near the vacant office? If your office is smaller than everyone else's, it should be as clean and as orderly as possible (although in general, readers have said that that a messy office only crosses the line "when it looks like you can't get work done in there.")
  • Finally: Do you need to break any bad patterns? You mention "the partner I work for." I don't know the particulars of your situation -- maybe many associates in your firm are assigned to only help one partner. But in some companies, it can be a bad sign if you're only working with one boss. Seriously take stock of that relationship: are you getting the opportunities you need for growth? Are you learning what you need to accomplish your goals, whether you want to become partner, go in house, open your own practice, etc? (Even if your goal is to be a stay at home mom, I would advise working with as many people as possible so you have numerous doors open to you if/when you return to work.) Would you benefit from feedback from other partners? If you take stock of that relationship and don't like what you see... moving offices could be a great way to break up the pattern that has been established, and to start working with other partners at your firm.
HuffPost readers, what are your thoughts -- would you prefer a big office, or a well-located one? How much does "keeping up with the Joneses" play into it, versus having an office that suits your workstyle?