General Services Administration chief Gerald P. Carmen has decided to hold off on a plan to shoehorn federal employes into less office space.

While Carmen says he still strongly supports the notion of cutting employe work areas by 20 percent when agencies rearrange their space, he has asked his staff to reallocate the cuts among different grades of federal workers.

Under a recommendation prepared by GSA's Public Building Service, a GS 1-6 would get 45 square feet instead of the current 60, while SES supervisory employes would have 200 square feet instead of 350.

Last week, the agency learned that the Senate planned to instruct it to set a new average standard of 135 square feet for each federal worker, down from the current average of 175 square feet. A GSA spokesman said last Friday that Carmen was sending out his own letter that day, telling GSA space specialists to prepare to square off smaller office work areas, along the lines specified by the building service, when they help agencies expand or reduce their space.

But spokesman Paul W. Costello said that because of bureaucratic delays, the building service's recommendations never reached Carmen and he never sent out his own letter. The first time the administrator saw the specific figures was when he read a report on them in Tuesday's Washington Post.

Carmen received dozens of phone calls that morning from other agency officials, questioning various aspects of the plan. He subsequently told the building service to take another look at it.

"He doesn't object to the goal, but to date PBS has not come up with an acceptable configuration," Costello said. "He's adamant about achieving the 135-square-foot average."

The space assignment figures prepared by the building service would have reduced the office space allotted members of the Senior Executive Service by 33 to 43 percent. Space for almost all other grades would have been reduced by only 25 percent.