By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

When you’re in the market to buy a house, one of the major deciding factors is square footage. Not just total square footage, but the dimensions of every individual room. Square footage has a role in determining everything from the value of your home to how you’ll live in it.

Space is important, which is why square footage is also the chief factor in gauging the average size of coworking space. If people don’t have enough space to work, they’re not going to see the value in their coworking membership.

Like a home, coworking space covers two metrics: total space and individual space. Total available square footage informs how to proportion individual spaces and what desking arrangements are suitable for each particular area.

Making decisions about individual vs. total space comes down to understanding averages. How much space does the average person need? How much space, on average, does this desking arrangement require? Finding averages unlocks options.

A look at the full facilities

Before we can understand coworking space ratio, we need to know the total space of the facilities themselves. How much space is available determines how it can be split up and organized across different desking arrangements.

According to Coworking Insights, the average size of a coworking space in North America is 9,799 sq./ft., with an average capacity of 100 people. This equates to roughly 100 sq./ft. per person. On a grander scale, however, it makes budgeting different spaces easier.

If a benching concept requires an average of 1,000 sq./ft., the average coworking facility can accommodate nine separate benching areas, with space to spare. Likewise, if a four-desk cluster averages 500 sq./ft., the average coworking space can accommodate six clusters and six benching areas. It’s up to coworking managers to put together the right facilities within the parameters of total available square footage.

Average square foot by workspace type

To complete a coworking floor plan, it’s crucial to understand the different desking concepts and the average space they need to be effective. For example, the average coworking desk size will vary greatly from the dimensions of a collaborative workspace. Knowing the average size requirements for each space type makes it easier to allocate total available space. Here are a few examples of average workspace type, courtesy of The Balance Small Business:

  • Private workspaces require an average of 150 sq./ft.
  • Open workspaces demand an average of 125 sq./ft.
  • Conference rooms need 50 sq./ft., plus an additional 25 sq./ft. per seat

Using this information, coworking operators can piece together a robust picture of space allocation. Twenty hot desks takes up 2,500 sq./ft. A six-person conference room translates to 200 sq./ft. The individual cogs of a coworking space come together to shape the whole.

Average space size as part of a whole

Average workspace requirements are fixed. The actual space allocated to a type of desking concept is variable. For example, a conference room may demand 50 sq./ft. plus an additional 25 sq./ft. per person, but that doesn’t mean every conference room has the same space demands. A four-person room is much smaller than a 10-person room, which means it takes up less overall space.

It’s also important to consider average workspace as a function of the spaces around it. A shared office layout with 10 seats may require 1,250 sq./ft. based on average seating, but it could easily be 1,500sq./ft. if the room already has these dimensions. Or, it may be 1,250 sq./ft. that blends into a nearby zone of desk pods, where ~150 sq./ft. are shared between the two zones.

Considering average space as part of a whole reminds us that there’s wiggle room in how we use space. Think of the average as a best practice example, then understand that deviation above and below is okay—to a degree. Giving someone a private workstation that’s 125 sq./ft. instead of the recommended 150 sq./ft. likely won’t make a huge difference.

Allocation varies across coworking spaces

The average space required for people and different desking arrangements isn’t absolute. It’s meant as a guide to designing cohesive coworking spaces. Deviating above or below the average is okay, so long as it’s done to better accommodate people.

A small half-bath in a home is more valuable than a walk-in closet, even if both fit in the same space. The concept is the same for coworking. Turning a 200 sq./ft. workspace into two desks may fall short of the average, but it’s worth it to accommodate another person.

Understand your space. Know the averages. Play with allocation. Every coworking space will be different, which means fitting pieces of the puzzle together to make sure everything fits.

Keep reading: 5 Ideas for Coworking Space Design.