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Five Ideas for Coworking Space Design

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Designing the ideal coworking space is difficult, to say the least. A diverse group of occupants expect workspaces that suit their unique styles. Attracting members or one-time users requires marketing to myriad industries. In the coworking world, one coworking space layout does not fit all.

Thankfully, coworking spaces have one key advantage: flexibility. Unlike traditional work environments, coworking businesses gravitate toward agile, innovative designs. The 1-to-1 desk ratio in a typical office isn’t the norm. Instead, a successful shared space design is one that allows individual workers to mold the environment to their unique needs.

Take a look at five coworking space designs and how to create a welcoming environment—no matter the person or nature of their work.

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1. Open-air benching

Open-air benching is the epitome of modern work spaces. There’s no assigned seating or special considerations. It’s just a table and chair, waiting for someone to occupy them.

It may seem utilitarian, but open-air benching is all most people need to work. In the age of laptops, tablets, and smartphones, there’s little use for full-sized desks or offices. Even the most utilitarian area becomes a veritable workspace when there’s room for a laptop and a few documents.

For coworking facilities, open-air benching takes many of the logistics out of space planning. Count how many seats there are and fill them as-needed. There’s no need to worry about who’s seated where.

Read more: Coworking space benefits and the workplace evolution.

2. Pods and neighborhoods

Pods are a more consolidated form of benching. In true shared space design, these workspaces limit the number of people—usually between three and six—to create a sense of closeness. Small groups foster networking and collaboration, and they’re great for social workers.

Pods also bring the advantage of controlled seating. Coworking facilities can delineate pod assignments in numerous ways to foster a great work environment: a graphic design pod for artistic professionals; a programming pod for software engineers; pods for people who love jazz music. The options are limitless and bring people together on common ground.

3. Private collaborative spaces

Though they demand larger swaths of dedicated square footage, private collaborative spaces are the standard for groups. Startup companies, small businesses, and study groups need private space to collaborate uninterrupted. In coworking spaces, that can mean a room away from the main work areas.

A coworking space may only need one or two of these types of spaces to support groups. Or, they may have larger spaces set up for groups that can be used by individuals when not booked. Offering these spaces by request only is a smart way to prompt bookings and get a sense of utilization rates.

4. Workspace zones

Splitting coworking facilities into zones helps operators better manage them. Zones can create a sense of belonging among frequent guests.

Colors are a great way to delineate areas:

  • Blue Zone: Quiet workspaces
  • Green Zone: Open-air benching
  • Purple Zone: Individual desks

It’s easy to say “Find a seat anywhere in the Green Zone” or “You’ll be at Desk Two in the Purple Zone.” It’s also easy to charge more for different types of workspaces and track utilization of each zone to better understand of facility usage.

5. Individual workspaces

Running a coworking business using only individual workstations is a crapshoot. There’s no guarantee those seats will be filled all day, every day. That said, it is important to make some individual private workstations available. People need privacy for phone calls, webinars, one-on-one meetings, and other sensitive work.

Because they’re not great for space utilization, most coworking spaces charge more for individual workspaces or make them available by reservation only. In instances of high demand for these limited spaces, it’s smart to put a cap on how long someone can reserve them.

Design a coworking space that works

Not all designs are necessary, or appropriate, in a coworking space. Choosing the most viable arrangements comes from looking at available square footage, floor plan layout, and space occupancy limits. Demand may change over time, too. Coworking operators need to track space utilization trends and adapt workspaces to the demands of frequent, recurring occupants. Like the people using them, coworking spaces are always in flux.

Keep reading: Solve the big five problems with coworking spaces.

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Are Coworking Spaces Worth it?

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

New coworking spaces spring up daily in major U.S. cities. Each may offer different themes or amenities, but they share the same value proposition: affordable space for business professionals seeking temporary work environments. Coworking spaces are in high demand, but questions linger about long-term business viability. Namely, are coworking spaces worth it?

Coworking is relatively new commercial real estate trend (learn more about coworking). The concept has been around for more than a decade, but only recently gained major market traction. As a result, there’s not a lot of long-term data to show if the business model is sustainable. Couple that with the fact that lease management is a cost-heavy endeavor and it paints a rough picture of a viable business.

Despite the clear and present concerns about the coworking business model, there’s also a lot to love. Operated efficiently, the positives of coworking can outweigh the cons. And, coworking can be quite lucrative. You just need to understand the costs.

Keep reading: The benefits of coworking.

Breaking down the cost of coworking

Is coworking space worth the cost? A cost-benefit analysis will reveal the answer. If a coworking space costs $5,000 a day to run, it needs to make more than $5,000 in profit to remain viable. It’s a pretty cut-and-dried business model—measure expenses to paint a picture of profit.

There’s a lot of overhead in running a coworking space. The space-as-a-service model must cover commercial real estate leases, which range in cost depending on square footage and location. Or, if a coworking company chooses to buy or develop a building, the cost comes in the form of a commercial real estate loan.

Next, there are operational costs. These include utilities, insurance, employee salaries, upkeep and maintenance, technology—anything vital to the everyday operation of the space. These costs are variable, yet easy to budget. Additional costs including furnishings, decorations, amenities, etc. Let’s not forget contingencies for unforeseen repair costs, one-time purchases, and other outlays that affect profitability.

A business model built on variability

Figuring out cumulative monthly expenses provides a baseline for creating successful coworking spaces. From there, it’s about setting the right fees and attracting patrons. This is where the true pros and cons of coworking spaces come into play—namely, variability.

Coworking has two types of clientele: members and walk-ins. Members pay monthly subscription fees to show up at any time; walk-ins pay per use. A viable coworking business must balance the needs of both client types.

Membership model

Member fees generate consistent monthly cash flow, whether someone uses the space or not. You give up a modicum of control to generate guaranteed profit. This profit is also subject to utilization. Someone using the space 20 times per month is getting more value than someone using it 10 times per month and paying for the same subscription. Another issue: too many subscription users and you run the risk of overcrowding.

Walk-in clients

Walk-in clients are unpredictable, but easier to manage. Walk-ins tend to pay higher one-time fees, which are more lucrative for the business. The problem is consistency—it’s hard to predict occupancy based on a group defined by high turnover and unforeseeable behavior.

The balancing act between members and walk-ins is a product of whatever combination is most manageable and lucrative. It also depends on the number of available seats, total workplace capacity, and operating cost. Here’s an example:

A coworking space with 60 seats needs to generate $6,000/mo. to stay profitable. It sells 50 monthly subscriptions at $100/mo., knowing not every person will use their subscription every day. This equates to $5,000 in monthly revenue. For walk-in clients, the price in $20 per day. This means they need to bring in a minimum of 50 walk-in clients throughout the month for the remaining $1,000. 

There’s immense variability in how a coworking space can structure its subscription vs. walk-in pricing and accommodations. What matters is maintaining proper availability for members and meeting profitability goals consistently.

Keeping up consistent occupancy

Another key consideration is who uses coworking spaces. Do they need a consistent workspace? Can they afford the subscription fee? Geographically, is there a broad enough user pool to accommodate high turnover?

External variables like these play a big part in determining the profitability of a coworking model. The best way to manage uncontrollable variables is to set prices that drive consistent occupancy without falling short of profitability. Often, it’s a model that relies more on subscriptions.

Justifying the cost of coworking

Running a coworking facility is a numbers game. There are big upfront leasing costs and property ownership, plus upkeep costs to consider. However, there’s a major upside in a membership subscription business model. Given the ability to keep seats filled and customer loyalty high, coworking spaces are worth it. There are many companies and coworking spaces out there proving themselves every day.

Keep reading: Who uses coworking spaces?

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Who Uses Coworking Spaces?

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
SpaceIQ

The workforce as we’ve known it has changed. Working from home isn’t uncommon anymore and the gig economy has grown by leaps and bounds. It all adds up to one of the biggest evolutions in how and where we work: Coworking.

Support for coworking is undeniable—it’s a rapidly-growing segment of the commercial real estate industry. But who uses coworking spaces and why are they so popular?

Understanding the appeal of coworking in the modern era comes from looking at how “work” has evolved. With more people free to create their own work arrangements, demand for flexible work environments has also risen. Coworking has emerged as the best solution to accommodate larger numbers of professionals with different demands—all under one roof.

What is coworking space?

The coworking space definition holds a lot of clues about who might find it valuable. This space-as-a-service model is defined as: A space supporting a group of people from different companies, working independently or collaboratively.

Coworking spaces offer the convenience of a professional environment and a social atmosphere, minus the rigid formalities of traditional offices. More important to today’s workforce is coworking’s relative accessibility and fee structure. Many offer a pay-as-you-go fee structure, with diverse options in most major metropolitan cities.

Read more: What is coworking?

Why use coworking spaces?

The biggest benefits of coworking spaces align with the current demands of an agile workforce.

Just because people can work from home doesn’t mean they want to. Work-life balance extends to remote workers who want a pseudo-office they can leave at the end of the day. “Leaving work at work” is easier when you can physically pack up at the end of the day and go home.

Coworking is also the perfect mix of social and professional in a single environment. Coffee shops tend to trend more social, while traditional workplaces are too rigid for many modern workers. At a coworking space, a person can choose to put their head down and work, chat leisurely with others, or take breaks when they want to. Coworking also supports general flexibility—like leaving to pick up a child from daycare or stepping out for a dental appointment in the middle of the day. There’s almost no rigidity in the coworking model.

Convenience also plays a role in the rise of coworking. Thanks to cloud computing, all remote workers need is high-speed Internet access to work. Coworking provides even more. Whether it’s access to food and drink or a space large enough to bring a team together, coworking delivers convenience in ways few other remote workspaces can.

Coworking has a diverse following

Coworking’s many benefits appeal to a diverse group of working professionals. Some, like consultants and freelancers, are familiar with working outside the traditional office. Others, like startups and new remote workers, find coworking a good bridge between what they know and this new style of work. Here are examples of professionals using coworking today:

  • Freelancers: Freelancers don’t have a home base outside of their actual home. Coworking helps break the monotony of working from home, while giving them social opportunities to expand their professional networks.
  • Business travelers: When far from the office and home, business travelers often turn to coworking spaces to get work done. For them, it’s the perfect blend of professional environment and accessible accommodations.
  • Remote workers: Employees who may only go into the office once or twice a week may have a difficult time transitioning. Coworking gives them the familiarity of a workplace with the unstructured convenience of working where and when they want.
  • Startups: Startups don’t always have the budget for office rent or building leases. Moreover, they may need space to collaborate in-person. Coworking keeps costs lower and under control, while providing the much-needed physical space to plan and execute.
  • Small businesses: Small, growing businesses—especially service-based companies—may find commercial real estate costs too high. They turn to coworking as a way to keep costs low without scattering their employees too far from a home base.
  • Consultants: Consultants operate outside the general scope of workplace operations. When they’re on the move, meeting clients, or working on a proposal, consultants need a space conducive to their professional and flexible demands. Coworking is that space.

As more of the workforce finds itself working remotely, the coworking scene will become even more diverse. Already, gig workers and niche professionals embrace coworking like the professionals listed above. The natural alignment of benefits and workforce trends makes coworking an appealing proposition for just about anyone.

The growing appeal of coworking

The widespread accessibility of coworking makes it easy for anyone to try. A well-run coworking space may find itself with a diverse pool of frequent visitors who attract more members through their dealings. As more people choose to work outside a traditional office, coworking becomes a natural draw. Anyone who can do their job remotely will recognize value in a coworking space.

Read more: Seven reasons to use coworking software.

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Solve the Big Five Problems with Coworking Spaces

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
SpaceIQ

Coworking is a booming industry that’s growing ever-larger by the year. As technology mobilizes the workforce and remote work becomes more common, demand for workspace rises. But coworking isn’t a panacea. There are problems with coworking spaces that, if not addressed correctly, hinder workers instead of helping them.

Coworking is about more than providing a desk and chair for a temporary occupant (learn more, read what is coworking). It’s about creating a balanced, shared workplace where anyone can work in whatever capacity their job demands. Beyond high-speed Internet access and a place to sit, coworking spaces should offer atmosphere, comfort, convenience, and accessibility. Workers need to get more out of a coworking space than they would in a home office, coffee shop, or a traditional office.

There are five big problems workplace managers must overcome to turn coworking spaces from disaster to success.

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Problem #1: Constant distractions

One of the most prevalent challenges of working in a coworking space is noise pollution. The clacking of dozens of laptop keyboards, people chatting on the phone, and the bings, dings, and other computer prompts can drive the most patient person crazy. All make it difficult to concentrate.

Noise-cancelling headphones are one solution, as is mentally blocking out noise. Both put the onus on workers, when it’s the coworking space manager’s job to mitigate distractions as much as possible. Setting and enforcing etiquette rules is a good first step, such as silencing phones and computers to holding phone conversations in designated areas.

Facility design also helps. Consider natural and artificial barriers to split up the workplace without closing it off, or face desks to reduce peripheral distractions. Some coworking spaces even hand out ear plugs—whatever it takes to reduce constant distractions and keep workers focused.

Problem #2: Shared-space friction

Put a diverse group of people in a confined space and it won’t be long until sparks fly. They may not be in a “traditional” office, but coworking professionals still have deadlines to meet and projects to focus on. When they’re interrupted or feel like their space is violated, they’re going to get defensive. The coworking model works when managers find ways to reduce friction.

A good desking arrangement can prevent friction by allotting each person enough space to spread out. Moreover, assigned spaces or delegating specific areas to certain work functions cuts down on conflict and confusion. Here again, etiquette goes a long way.

Make sure visitors have the space they need to work, but be sure to put limits on sprawl. Different types of workspaces are a great way to get ahead of this issue—individual desks for minimalist workers vs. private, collaborative rooms for groups working on projects.

Problem #3: Lack of privacy

Lack of privacy is one of the biggest coworking space challenges. Nothing beats the privacy of working at home, which means coworking spaces should offer some degree of seclusion.

Desk arrangement and space allocation are keys to creating privacy. Maximizing space between individual workstations is a simple way to offer isolation, though it comes at the expense of efficient space utilization.Creative layouts can also help. A well-placed plant can block views into a workstation. A soundproof workspace offers privacy for phone calls and face-to-face meetings. Even simple fixtures like screens can help boost solitude.

Problem #4: Meeting diverse expectations

One reason coworking spaces fail is because they try to hone-in on specific worker expectations. Many niche spaces thrive because they attract unique groups. But general coworking spaces don’t have the luxury of being that specific. To attract the most recurring workers, you need to set the highest baseline expectations.

Meeting diverse expectations requires a twofold approach. First, ensure the layout of available workspaces is diverse and inclusive. Then, create ambiance through design. Every coworking space needs to promote productivity and provide accommodating workspaces. Not every coworking space need look the same. Create a floor plan that encourages unimpeded work and ensures a good experience. The ambiance of your unique coworking space design will keep people coming back.

Problem #5: Managing the ebb and flow

In many ways, a coworking space is like a gym. Not everyone with a membership will be there at the same time every day.. As a result, both business models rely on selling more memberships than total available capacity permits. The secret to keeping members happy is monitoring trends to mitigate overcrowding and friction.

A mix of assigned desk spaces and open areas creates balance in coworking spaces. Managers can also monitor check-in and volume trends to determine when spaces are busy vs. unoccupied. This helps coworking spaces set better pricing, offer specials, or conduct outreach marketing to better manage the ebb and flow of people.

Coworking success = Worker satisfaction

Address these problems and coworking operators can overcome the biggest drawbacks of managing shared workspaces. Eliminating distractions, preventing friction, and improving privacy ensures a space amenable to productivity. Meeting the broad baseline expectations of workers keeps them coming back. And, managing the flow of occupants keeps coworking facilities organized. The result is a better coworking experience.

Keep reading: The benefits of coworking.

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Five Considerations for Space Planning Offices

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

As workplaces evolve, the number of variables used to plan them also grows. In traditional offices, if a desk fit, it worked! We know today that it’s about more than just physical space. Consider space planning using hot desks and it quickly becomes evident that the workplace is a delicate ecosystem. Considering every variable is important.

Whether rearranging an existing workplace, implementing a new desking concept, or occupying new facilities, make space planning a priority. It’s not about getting desks to fit or filling the space to 100% capacity. The objective of good space planning is to provide employees the workspaces they need and a way to utilize them effectively. Here are five important considerations:

1. Available square footage

Available square footage determines what you can do with it. It qualifies (or disqualifies) certain desking arrangements and narrow the number of people who may occupy it. And, when you do decide who and what will occupy it, square footage lets you quantify the cost of the utilization. A digital office space planning software tool is key to understanding the workplace at its base level.

2. Room capacity

Available square footage naturally lends itself to another important factor in space planning: room capacity. Knowing how many employees comfortably fit in a room also dictates what you can do with the space. This figure also helps narrow desking options, which in turn streamlines utilization options.

Again, room capacity is useful in space planning at micro and macro levels. A facility manager can look at the total office capacity of a floor vs. employee counts from entire departments to piece together an applicable floor plan. Likewise, they can look at a single area that’s underutilized to reimagine the desking arrangement based on the number of employees that space accommodates.

3. Workspace demand

Effective space planning meets the needs of employees with applicable workspaces. That means the best office space planning ideas come from looking at demand. Consider workspace demand when evaluating how to improve workplace utilization and usage.

You can measure demand directly and indirectly. If employees tell you they need more collaborative workspaces because existing ones are always occupied, it’s a direct demand. If you collect data on workspace utilization and find hot desks aren’t well utilized, it’s an indirect observation of demand. Put together a picture of demand to inform space planning decisions.

4. Workspace type

Utilization stems from the types of workspaces offered and how they’re successfully used—given the space they occupy. It’s possible to create a workspace with high demand, yet see poor utilization because of inadequate space planning. Likewise, a workspace may be perfectly situated, yet see low utilization due to lack of demand. In either case, workspace type is the critical factor. Choosing the right one and ensuring it has the room to flourish are what’s important.

It’s smart to use space planning software when designing a floor plan. Digitally mapping a space  helps facility managers see what works and what doesn’t before they make changes. It’s a great way to tinker with a workspace type vs. the elements that’ll make or break its utilization.

5. Floor plan design

It’s possible to create great workspaces that fall short of their potential, simply because of how they’re laid out in relation to the greater workplace. Employees might not use a meeting space because it’s too far away from their desks. Or, hot desks might go unused because they’re too close to a loud, busy environment. Floor plan design is critical to successful space planning.

Putting workspaces together is a puzzle. The final picture is a workplace with the correct types of spaces to adequately accommodate employees and in proximity to where they’ll best be utilized.

Successful space planning starts small and scales up, from a workspace to its place in the total workplace. Square footage dictates capacity, which predicates workspace type, which is subject to demand. As each individual space develops, it’s pieced together with others to create a workspace that meets the two core tenants of good space planning: provide employees with workspaces they need and ways to utilize them effectively.

Keep reading: Space planning software buyers guide.

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The Emotional Side of Hot Desking

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
SpaceIQ

A hot trend in today’s workplaces is hot desking. Mobile devices, remote working, and team collaboration are freeing employees from their workstations. However, unassigned seating may leave employees feeling disconnected from colleagues and lessen their sense of importance to the company.

The psychological impact and emotional connection to a workspace is a big deal for many workers. Desks are home for family pictures, plants, and other personal touches that create a sense of security and permanence. Unplugging someone from their space and offering hot desks can be anxiety inducing.

Do you remember your first lunch in your high school cafeteria? Talk about free address. It was an awkward feeling not knowing where to sit or worrying about picking the wrong seat. Even as adults, hot desking may give us that same social anxiety. So how do you manage the emotional side of hot desking? Data.

Workplace Utilization vs. Individualism

Like most people, I enjoy decorating my space with family photos. I like having my favorite bottle of lotion on hand. I have an ergonomic keyboard that I picked out. And who doesn’t love a good snack drawer? These items are small but symbolic ways to tie me to my workspace.

Personal touches also connect us with coworkers. Like the colleague who decorates every holiday. Or a teammate who has a sign on their desk that says “Ask me about my dog.”

While recently traveling for work, I visited an office where I I sat at a workstation left empty by someone on vacation. I immediately noticed they had a charger in the shape of a Starcraft Protoss Pylon (it looks like a blue crystal flame). As a fellow gamer, I felt an instant connection with a colleague I’d never met.

These unobtrusive signs of individualism are diminished when companies switch to hot desking or hoteling. You feel like you’re in high school again, constantly schlepping your belongings around. Even an assigned locker can feel impersonal. It’s easy for employees to feel like a cog in a machine.

Hot desking can also unintentionally create an atmosphere where people are disconnected from one another. With shared desks, it’s harder to socialize when the person next to you changes on a daily basis. It may be several days or even weeks before you encounter them again. Plus, someone clearly doing heads-down work may not want to chat. Forbes also points out that brief, impromptu meetings are nearly impossible.

Employees need regular, authentic interactions to make connections—especially across departments or subteams. A shared kitchen or cafeteria is great for casual chats, but neither can foster the type of camaraderie that strengthens over time. Elevator small talk can only build connections to a certain point.

Create Hot Desking Balance with Data

Remote working has become a standard perk, so how do you balance the freedom to work wherever with the cost of office real estate? If you sacrifice too much individualism in an effort to shrink your square footage, you can make employees feel unwelcomed at the office.

I’ve experienced this isolation when I visited a 100% free addressing office. It was my first time at this site, and I had a hard time figuring out where I should or shouldn’t sit. It felt chaotic finding a place to work, much less determine where the people I was meeting were located.

It was also obvious there was a premium on certain workstations. People seemed to jockey for those spots and showed up early to get them. The phone booths also had a squatting problem because no one limited themselves to the 30-minute occupancy suggestion. That told me people didn’t always feel comfortable or productive working in the open.

Don’t get me wrong: I recognize the need for hot desking, especially when the majority of employees can work from home. It’s a fine line to improve workplace utilization without sacrificing the employee experience. This is where office usage data is your ally. I agree with this article by Fast Company that organizations should “ undertake a rigorous research process to understand the diversity of work style types and assign people to a pool of shared seats.”

Occupancy data from badging systems, WiFi connections, seat sensors, motion detectors, and hot desk reservations can help establish the ratio of people who regularly come to the office and if they need a dedicated desk. Remember that every company is unique, as is every location. Even usage from one department or neighborhood can vary.

Imagine how you could optimize the workplace if you knew:

  • Jill can work remotely but always books the same hot desk four days in a row. She would benefit from a permanent workstation.
  • Frequent travel means sales team members are in the office less than 30% of the time.  You can free up space by creating a hot-desking zone with a 2:1 desk ratio.
  • Rob regularly reserves a small conference room for team meetings. Because he’s a manager, Rob probably needs a private office.

As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. With data as your guide, there are thoughtful and strategic ways to implement hot desking. At the end of the day, the ideal workplace layout is one that helps people work at their best.

Keep reading:
How to make hot desking work within departments.

About Nai Kanell

Nai Kanell is the Director of Marketing for SpaceIQ, a California-based company whose cloud-based platform helps turn facilities and workplaces from cost centers into strategic business assets. She interacts and collaborates with customers, prospects, industry analysts, and other workplace management professionals to promote and improve the SpaceIQ platform. Nai regularly authors articles and presents to local, national, and global business groups on workplace management culture, current issues, and future trends .

Nai holds a Business Marketing degree from the University of Utah. She is the Marketing Chair for the Murray Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Group and is a board member for the Utah Festival of Trees. Nai is a passionate growth marketer and martyr for women in business and leadership.

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What is Stack Planning?

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer
SpaceIQ

When workplace managers need to make a major change, they can’t afford to focus exclusively on that one modification. The workplace is interconnected. Changing one aspect has rippling effects across facilities and for the entire company. That’s why stack planning is important.

Stack planning is a valuable tool in predicting how changes to one area of the workplace affects others. Stack planning helps facility managers (FMs) determine if change is needed, and if so, where. It’s the most holistic way of looking at facilities and everything within them.

What is stack planning?

Stack planning is a macro way of looking at space utilization. The “stack” is a complete collection of floor plans, showing every level of a building and each floor’s distinct features. A stack shows which groups occupy what space, where open spaces are, and floor plan capacities.

Goal stack planning involves quickly rearranging large employee groups to better utilize existing space. An FM might use stack planning to rearrange entire departments across three floors of a building or model workspace conservation under a new desking arrangement.

Understanding total facilities

In terms of space utilization, stack planning is extremely valuable. Because it provides a holistic view of facilities, workplace managers can easily work out problems and see possible solutions on a macro scale. Seeing the full stack provides context for change. It also opens the door to more possibilities.

An example: Marketing wants to hire two new employees, but it already crammed 12 people in a space meant for 10. One solution is to break up the department and move employees to available workspaces. But stack planning may offer better alternatives:

  • Swap space: Human Resources consists of eight employees in space meant for 14. Swapping department locations may make sense.
  • Move floors: The first floor has two vacant eight-person areas. Marketing can move without disrupting any other department.
  • Create adjacenies: IT is currently next to Marketing. Six Product Development employees sit in space meant for 16. Product Development and IT consistently collaborate, so it’s smart to seat them next to each other.

Each option maximizes workspace while accommodating the unique needs of every department. A top-down view of the workplace stack provides context for decision-making when it comes to space utilization.

Forecasting and modeling

As a company grows, stack plans become more important in forecasting and modeling. It’s less about finding desks for one or two new employees and more about forecasting new hires six months or a year down the road. Stack planning makes it possible to scale quickly to accommodate growth spurts.

Looking at the stack as a whole—instead of individual floor plans or areas—is valuable for forecasting. Here’s a simple goal stack planning example:

A growing company of 10 people occupies two floors of a building, which equates to 60% overall capacity. Then, they land a big project that demands staff expansion. Leaders need to hire four more full-time people and dedicate square footage for a project staging area. Is there enough space?

A look at the stack plan shows there’s enough space to accommodate everyone. There’s no need to move or expand into existing building space. More importantly, the stack plan allows leadership to model with space utilization in mind. The new stack reflects revised workplace layouts that now inform new decisions about how to utilize and manage space.

Cost planning is also within the realm of forecasting and modeling. The stack provides instant information about total facility utilization. If the stack shows you’re only using 60% of space in a $3,000/month lease, you’re wasting as much as $1,200 monthly. On the flip side, if you expect 20% growth in the next three months, running a utilization deficit now may be smarter. Regardless of the approach, the stack plan is instrumental for for good decision-making.

Stack planning integration

The best part about stack planning is that it’s not difficult. Most workplace managers keep up-to-date floor plans for each part of their facility. Putting these together and looking at them holistically is the next step toward stack planning. Combined within an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) or Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) platform, it’s even easier to swap between floors and make stack adjustments.

The real benefit comes when these changes are actually deployed. Stack planning as a space utilization tool ensures optimization with fewer unforeseen rippling effects. It’s the smarter way to manage a growing workplace.

Keep reading: How do you calculate space utilization?