Coworking spaces are a popular option for companies supporting a mix of remote, traditional, and hybrid workers. When some choose to work from home, others always come into the office, and a third group comes in on a hybrid schedule, it’s important to have a flexible space. But just how much space do you need for each employee?

A coworking space covers two metrics: total space and individual space. Making decisions about individual vs. total space comes down to working with averages.

Start with the space’s square footage

When you’re in the market to buy a house, a major deciding factor is square footage. In fact, it’s one of the first questions people ask about a property. And it’s not just the total square footage. The dimensions of each room and the percentage they take of the overall space are also important. So, 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 determining the average size of a coworking space. If people don’t have enough space to work, they’re not going to see the value in their coworking memberships. It would be the same as showing up at a restaurant that doesn’t have any food. You’re not meeting the most basic reason people are there.

Once we have the total available square footage, we can decide 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 and working with averages. How much space does the average person need? How much space, on average, does each desking arrangement require? Finding averages unlocks options.

Once we know how much space there is total and how much each desk option needs on average, we can calculate how many can comfortably fit in the space. From there, it’s a question of how to arrange each workstation inside the total space to best meet the needs of the people who will work there.

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 industry reports, 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 for 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.

How do they decide between benches and clusters? Again, it pays to look at the averages. Are people tending to use the space in groups or alone? Do you need more single desks or spots that support connection and collaboration.

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 from 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 take 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

The thing to remember about averages is that you might not have any single item in the group that matches the average perfectly. Just because the average height between three people is six feet doesn’t mean that any of the three is six feet.

So, while average workspace requirements are fixed, the actual space allocated to a type of desking concept is variable.

For example, a conference room may require 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 the 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 practices 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. And once you have a plan in place, make sure to double-check it often. As more people move from fully remote to hybrid or even full-time in the office, the number and types of workers in the space on any given day can change. Those individual desks, for example, might need to be benches. And the spaces you’ve set aside for hot desks might have to make way for permanent desks.