Starting a business from the ground up requires hard work, dedication and, of course, somewhere to work from. Tech giants Apple made their first computers in a garage, and they are not alone in launching their fledgling business at home—research shows that 69% of US entrepreneurs started their enterprise at home. However, operating from the living room is only manageable for so long. There comes a time for expansion and finding a proper base for your business.
The right office is more than just a building; it’s an investment in the future of your business. A formalised office environment encourages teamwork and collaboration, and effectively improves the quality and productivity of your staff. It can also open up new paths of communication, as you’re always surrounded by colleagues on hand to help with projects.
But once you’ve made the decision to invest in an office, what are the main things to consider?
Types of office
Each office style has its own set of pros and cons, which are entirely contingent on the type of business you’re running. For instance, a company requiring employees to work the traditional 9 to 5, five days a week will need a different office set up compared to a business which primarily works offsite. To choose an office, you need to understand what your business requires. As a starting point, consider how many employees you have, or plan to have, and how widely you’re looking to expand in the future.
1. Coworking spaces
Coworking spaces involve individuals from different companies working independently or collaboratively in a shared office space. These spaces are the most flexible option for a startup, as desks or offices can be rented for a year, a month, or even by the hour. They offer every service and facility you’d expect from a traditional office, including Wi-Fi, meeting rooms and printing equipment, without the extortionate rent costs you’ll find with fixed office spaces.
Flexible working environments are becoming more coveted, with 92% of millennials listing it as one of their top priorities when job hunting. So, if you want to attract millennial employees, you should make sure to be accommodating to the way they prefer to work. Co-working spaces are a great way for startups that encourage this level of flexible working, while offering a rolling contract which makes it easier for business owners to move elsewhere when they are ready to expand further.
2. Virtual offices
Another option is a virtual office, which lets employees work remotely by using typical office services online. This form of workspace gives businesses an official office address and phone number, even if all members of staff work remotely, making it seem as if you have a permanent office when you don’t. With an office address, rather than your home address, you’ll gain credentials as a trusted business, boost your online visibility and protect your own privacy, particularly if your address is printed on marketing materials. A virtual office can add a level of professionalism to your business, one that a reputation for being a ‘home business’ fails to achieve.
3. Rented and leased offices
You can also go down the traditional route of renting or leasing, although these options are similar they’re not the same. A lease agreement is a contract signed between a landlord and tenant, covering the rent of a property for twelve months or more. This document is often very detailed and specific in highlighting the responsibilities of both parties, and the length of your stay, and monthly costs are rigidly set, without room for change. By contrast, renting isn’t a long-term contract, instead requiring regular monthly payments on a short-term basis, and allowing the conditions of the contract to be changed monthly, if necessary.
These options require a bigger commitment to your office space. Renting or leasing will allow you to save valuable funds, as you won’t have to pay for upkeep and maintenance of the office building. These types of offices are ideal for e-commerce startups, or those requiring regular client communication and meetings.
Where you choose to base your business could also have huge ramifications on your reputation. For instance, an office in the middle of nowhere with minimal public transport links will make it harder to attract staff and clients. In a survey conducted by Clutch, 49% of employees said working in an office near their home was their most important factor.
Situating yourself in an area linked to your chosen industry will give your business a greater chance of being seen as legitimate by its target audience, and also allows for improved networking opportunities with other local organisations. However, more desirable locations will also run up higher costs, especially if you plan to set up in a city centre. It will also determine how much you pay your employees, as the average wage differs across the country.
Having a good range of local amenities nearby is also important, with coffee shops and places to eat giving you a variety of locations to have meetings or lunch options. You should also consider the location’s noise levels and traffic congestion when visiting, as well as its accessibility.
As a startup, your funds may be tight, so deciding where your money goes is important. Consequently, it’s crucial to set a budget and stick to it, otherwise, you may choose a fancy office space that’ll put your business in debt before you’ve even opened your doors. Figure out how much space you need, as the cost of your rent will be determined by the square footage of your office. It’s also worth thinking about how long you plan to stay in one space, and the duration of your contract with the landlord.
Remember there are other costs to account for when preparing your first office, including utility bills, office equipment and supplies, furniture and basic food and drink supplies.
Here’s how to save money on office space:
- Share your office space. If you find yourself with a few spare desks, rent these out to any freelancers or independent workers you know.
- Utilise the smoke model. This is essentially a core team—either your sales or marketing department—who are based in the office. Then you can have the rest of the team working remotely. You’ll require less office space this way.
- Recycle your furniture. Instead of buying brand new products, you’ll likely find just as high quality pieces second-hand.