- The first step in designing a coworking space is to figure out your business model and work backwards
- You’ll want to figure out what your needs are, configure a floor plan, and begin the buildout
- Finally you’ll want find the right furniture, find the right tech, and stay agile in what you offer
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to designing a coworking space.
You need the space to be functional but inspiring, practical but welcoming, and professional but homey. Striking the right balance between these elements can feel overwhelming.
We spoke with Optix Founder and former coworking space operator, Kia Rahmani, on the best way to design a coworking space. He shared with us his method for creating a dynamic coworking space that fits your business as your needs evolve.
If you’re building out a coworking space from scratch and you’re not sure how to get started, this is the guide for you! Follow the steps below to help you set your space up for success.
How to Design a Coworking Space
Step 1: Start with your business model
The first step in designing your space is to figure out your business model. Then, you can work backwards from there.
Understanding how your space makes money will help determine your product offering and therefore, your layout.
- Is your focus on selling long-term team spaces? You’ll want more space for larger private offices
- Is it catered to daily drop-ins and travelers? Dedicated desks and open spaces will be paramount to your design
- Do you want to rent out event space? You’ll need large open spaces that are sectioned off from the rest of the space
Another way of thinking about it is to consider your ideal client profile and what kind of space they will need. A coworking space for startups may require more meeting room availability, while a space for solopreneurs would benefit more from private offices.
Understanding your business model and product offerings first will help you determine the layout of your coworking space.
Step 2: Figure out what your needs are
Once you determine your business model, next you’ll need to figure out what your needs are. Kia uses the framework of Services and Essentials to help him organize his needs.
Services are the large, physical resources you’ll provide to your members. For most coworking spaces, this is some combination of:
- Individual desks
- Private offices
- Meeting or conference rooms
- Event space
If you know, based on your business model, that you’ll need 12 private offices, you’ll want to know that before you begin working on your floor plan.
Essentials are non-negotiables that you’ll need to have in your space. These are things that your space will need to include, no matter what. It can include:
- Kitchen or food area
- Closet/storage space
Together, Services and Essentials make up everything that will be in your coworking space. The goal of this step is to get a comprehensive overview of all of the pieces of your coworking space. It can be helpful to compile them into one list.
Now, it’s time to put them together.
Step 3: Configure a floor plan
Configuring a floor plan is one of the most exciting and challenging parts of designing a coworking space. Here, you’ll figure out how big your open space will be, the size of your private offices, how many desks you can fit in your team rooms, and more.
There’s a lot we don’t think about when we enter into a well-designed space, like lighting, structure of the kitchen, or access to common areas.
But Kia notes, these are some of the most important things to consider.
Here are some tips for thinking about your floor plan:
- Get inspiration from other spaces
- Do your research on what makes a great space
- Look at (lots) of floor plans
- Employ the help of a professional – an architect or interior design firm is a great place to start for some expert advice
When you’re ready to get started with your floor plan, you can use a tool like MagicPlan or RoomSketcher to help you design it. These are digital platforms that help you create floor plans, 3D renderings, and more on your mobile device or tablet. They are easy to use and super helpful if you’re unfamiliar with office design.
Step 4: Begin the buildout
When you buy or lease a commercial space, you will often need to do a buildout. This refers to all of the construction inside of the commercial space. If you’re not familiar with a buildout, this guide does a good job explaining the concept in its entirety.
At this stage, you’ll employ the help of a contractor to oversee the process. You’ll work closely with their team to ensure everything runs smoothly. You may also want to bring in a designer or architect at this stage.
The cost of a buildout varies on the size of the space, the area that you’re located in, and the tenant improvement allowance (TI). TI helps subsidize the total cost of the buildout by covering a fixed amount of the cost.
You may be able to get your landlord to pay for the entirety of the buildout by pursuing a flexible lease arrangement, such as a coworking management agreement.
Step 5: Find the right furniture
Now that the important stuff is out of the way, it’s time to get creative. This means finding the right furniture and overall design of your coworking space.
Having the right furniture is essential to your coworking space. Uncomfortable chairs or inaccessible desks will not make people want to stay.
However, overloading the space with trendy couches may not be the right move either. Below are some best practices when choosing furniture for your space:
- Don’t sacrifice design for comfort (or vice versa): It’s easy to think a chair will look nice in your space, without considering how functional or comfortable it will be. Consider both design and comfort when you’re deciding which furniture to bring into your space.
- Opt for ergonomic furniture: Office people spend a lot of time at their desks, which can quickly lead to aching backs and tight shoulders. Use ergonomic chairs and placements to provide a more comfortable experience for your members.
- Look at the big picture: Don’t think about your furniture in isolation. Consider how all of the pieces will fit together, both in a single area and in your entire space.
- Go with the best you can afford: A coworking space should be an experience. Having wonderful furniture is an opportunity to create more than just a place to work, but an entire experience for your members.
- Mix it up: Include a mix of different types of furniture including desks, larger tables, couches, single chairs, and perhaps even a swing to give people the choice of where they’d like to sit.
A well-placed couch and an accent chair can go a long way in bringing the space together.
Step 6: Deploy the right tech
Another important, and perhaps overlooked, element of designing a coworking space is the technology that you use.
While you can deploy coworking technology in your space at any point in your journey, choosing the right technology when you’re just starting out will save you ample time and energy down the road.
The most important ones to think of when it comes to your physical space are:
- Access control system: This automates access to your space and can enable your space to be opened remotely and automatically. It usually involves the installation of a hardware and software system.
- Security system: A security system helps keep your members comfortable and your space secure throughout the day. Opt for a cloud-based system that notifies you of disturbances in the space via your mobile device.
- Coworking management software: This is the heart of your coworking space and can help you manage and automate all elements of your space, regardless of where you’re physically located.
You’ll want to add more tech to your ecosystem as your coworking space evolves. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to manage your coworking technology systems.
Step 7: Stay agile
The most important part of designing your coworking space is staying agile and flexible, both during and after the design process.
Your business needs are likely to evolve as you do. Therefore, Kia notes it’s important to create a space that can adapt in the wake of these natural changes.
A private office can be converted into a meeting space, a couple of phone booths can be added to an under-utilized open area. Keep this in mind as you go through the design process and don’t be too married to your ideas about how people will use the space – you won’t know until you get started.
Designing a coworking space can be a challenge. Having an approachable framework at your fingertips can help you feel like the work is more doable and less of a mountain to climb.
We provide many great resources for individuals looking to open a coworking space. Check out a few of our links below to learn more about opening your first coworking space: