Coworking Space Balance Between Desks and Private Offices

After giving quite a few tours of the Atlanta Tech Village, and talking about the coworking areas with private offices, one of the more common refrains is that people don’t like working in a large open area with 20 other people around them. More specifically, they’d prefer to share a private room with just their colleagues that’s in an area that has the amenities and surroundings of a large coworking space. My understanding, not having worked in a big open area, is that noise and distractions become more pronounced the larger the area, as you would imagine.

One of the questions we’re researching is what’s the balance between communal desks and private offices. Here are a few questions:

  • What percentage of the space should be communal desks vs private offices of different sizes?
  • How much more are companies willing to pay for a private office that seats 2-5 people?
  • How many companies will get both communal desks and a private office that they coordinate sharing internally?

With a target community of tech companies, satellite offices for tech companies headquartered elsewhere, startups, creative people, and professionals that serve the tech community, there’s a range of desires. My guess is that companies want more private space in the facility of a larger community.

What else? What’s a good balance between desks and private offices in a coworking space?

7 thoughts on “Coworking Space Balance Between Desks and Private Offices

  1. This is the exact dilemma we’ve been facing regarding Atlanta Tech Village. We don’t want to work in a large communal space but, instead, have an office with other startups around. Regarding your questions:

    1) Don’t know…i guess you will find out based on the types of tenants
    2) We pay $21/sq ft, 800 sq ft ($1400/month) and have enough space for 5 comfortably + 1 intern. Don’t want to pay much more.
    3) we probably wouldn’t.

    Our small space is helping to build a strong culture — which I want to keep…it’s like a small family at this stage. At the same time, I like to idea of being around other startups and a larger community.

    Look forward to seeing the V.

  2. Communal desks (or dedicated desks in a communal area) + a dedicated private office has worked for me.

    Having developers and salespeople (crucial ingredients for many startups) from different companies in the same room is a recipe for frustration. Plus, it’s tough to signal “seriously, don’t talk to me now, I’m working” without feeling rude.

    Have you considered a communal “quiet room” where nobody talks and everybody silences their phones and laptops? This could be more important if many companies have private offices and visit the main coworking area to socialize.

  3. One of the more brilliant office design ideas I’ve ever seen was a small ad agency that had an open concept floor space and used movable walls to subdivide the space into team areas and offices. They constructed actual floor-to-ceiling walls and used commercial grade Velcro to attach them to the floors. Very fluid, customizable, private shared space.

  4. Odd idea, but since the majority of the teams in the building have some sort of backing from you personally and roughly count 20+ people, why not set up a series of weekly floor space tests?

    Constrain the teams to an area of increasing co-working-to-office mix week over week. Reset the space over the weekends (provide this reset on behalf of the staff). Delivery a satisfaction survey email and provide a happy hour for the teams to breakdown their qualitative feedback on the current setup through informal interview/discussion.

    Assuming you want to attract the same company profiles as the early tenants, this could be a way of safely/cheaply studying the questions you raised about floor space mix.

    As for costs, this is purely knowing who you are trying to attract and either conveying a cheaper price than what they are paying now, or more effectively communicating the amenities included in the currently available pricing. Changing the unit of measure as you have done helps change the conversation, but it makes price comparison shopping harder. It should not take a dedicated blog post to put your costs in terms of standard leasing costs.

    Final comment, I would recommend reading office space research papers provided by your favorite office space providers:


  5. I tend to agree with the potential issues around large shared open spaces. We have a similar type of setup in our offices in Cape Town, South Africa. The feedback that I have had from our smaller teams/businesses is that privacy is just as important as the facilities. I realized that these young startups tend to be very protective of their IP and respective business’s potential… They want the benefits of the space, but the “sharing” sometimes needs to happen on the startups terms….

  6. I like the idea of being around other startups and the energy involved. We’re involved in healthcare work which brings with it serious HIPAA privacy concerns which would necessitate private offices. I’m considering developing some software for our industry, but the privacy issues would keep us from being able to develop or work on something in an open space. with the right office design we could probably work through the privacy regulations.

  7. I have a coworkingspace and I would like to share it with you….

    Location63 is Cebu’s first Co-working space complete with state-of-the art technology and great networking hub providing entrepreneurs a perfect place to build their business, meet with like-minded individuals and achieve their personal goals.

    We are located near from the city and also in Mactan-Cebu International Airport. The taxi’s and jeepney’s stops right on front of the building.
    Moreover, there are some good restaurants nearby and malls.

    Services included :
    -Wifi Internet
    -10MB Up & Down
    -Very Nice Lounge
    -Private Conference Room
    – Kitchen, microwave, fridge

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