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Over time, you have probably been able to make observations about your call centre and the number of seats required by each department.

As each department grows or contracts they require more or fewer desks and it’s never long before a simple ratio of desks to people is developed.

In a centre that is only open normal office hours and occupies almost entirely full-time advisors, the ratio of desks to people is likely to be 100%.  In theory, this could be 90% to allow for some annual leave and absence, but this rarely happens in practice.

A 24-hour centre, on the other hand, would never have such a ratio.  In the extreme case where there are 3 shifts of 8-hour workers and an evenly-distributed call flow, the ratio of desks to people would be more like 33% (even assuming all staff were full-time).

The ratio of seats per FTE or per person will depend on a lot of factors, and tempers can often fray while operational managers fight for floor space against a planning team trying to maximise occupancy.  If this method is to be used it is best to have the ratios agreed with senior line managers around budget time: they are generally more inclined to accept an operational squeeze than request capital expenditure, unless the business is in a growth stage.

The key strength of this method is simplicity: operational managers can subscribe to it just as easily as accountants can plan from it.  All that anyone requires to calculate call centre desk requirements for the future is to apply the agreed ratios to your headcount plans.

A further strength is that you will be sure to have enough desks even in the case where you have to carry excess staff in preparation for a future event.