Key Things to Consider When Choosing an Office Space
Choosing an office space is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there are all the opportunities your new space offers for growth, cost savings and culture development; on the other, there are all the worries and challenges to be tackled before moving day.
To help you overcome the daunting and focus on the inspiring, we’ve put together this list of key questions to ask when choosing your new office space.
1. The Location
Is it convenient for staff and clients?
The most important factor when picking your location is convenience for employees and clients. If your offices are tricky to find, difficult to get to or simply miles away from key staff members, you risk losing customers or valuable members of your team. To avoid this, give employees a say in selecting an area, and make sure you’re easily accessible to top clients.
How good are the transport links?
Picking an area with good transport links is one way to ensure you’re easy to reach. An office within walking or cycling distance of an underground, train or bus station is a great start; however, be sure to also check local timetables and the popularity of these routes. It can be helpful to map out the daily journey of a few employees – how comfortable would you be with their commute?
If most of your staff drive to work, take a look at local traffic patterns during commuting hours. Endless traffic jams will be an ongoing stress for you and your team.
Is the area safe?
Can employees and clients walk safely to and from your offices? It might be tempting to take a cheaper space in a rougher part of town, but it could affect the happiness of employees who walk to work each day, or even leave a poor impression on clients arriving for face-to-face meetings. There are plenty of free interactive crime maps online to help build up a picture of potential locations.
What’s on offer locally?
It’s always a good idea to have a wander around the neighbourhood, either in person or using Google Maps. Find out what the area has to offer to get a fuller sense of what it’ll be like to work there every day. Are there a few great places to grab some lunch? Is there a gym nearby? Do you pass a supermarket on the way to the station? All of these local amenities and more will have a real impact on the lives of your employees.
What impression will it give?
It’s no secret that image is important, so ask yourself what impression the area will leave on potential clients and new hires. Cutting costs is smart, but not if the resulting space undersells your capability. Equally, lavish overspending could leave clients questioning your business acumen.
Try investigating the offices of local businesses of similar size, ideally in your industry, to set realistic goals on the type of buildings and location you should be aiming for.
2. The Building
What’s the condition of the building?
Whether you’re buying or renting, ensuring the building is in satisfactory condition will save you a lot of hassle in the future. If you’re renting, checking the condition of the building can also reveal whether your landlord takes maintenance seriously. Ask existing tenants if they feel well looked after or arrange a viewing at short notice to dig deeper into the service you can expect.
Is it secure?
Whether it’s confidential information or expensive equipment, losses from theft can be a real setback. What’s more, in most cases, security is simple to get right. Make sure doors and windows provide reasonable protection, and find out what other measures, such as alarms, CCTV or security personnel, are in place. If you have special requirements, check that these can be met.
What common areas and services are available?
When renting alongside others, some common areas are usually unavoidable, others might be desirable. Find out what’s provided, how much it will cost and whether these areas are included in the stated floor area beforehand. If the office is serviced, be sure to clarify precisely what’s included, so you can ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.
How is the infrastructure?
For many companies, office infrastructure is now as important as floor space. Top of the list is the cost, quality and reliability of your internet connection. If there’s already a connection in place, find out its real speed using a free online broadband test. Also, check telephone connections, including the easily forgotten but ever important mobile signal, and postal services, especially whether there’s easy access for your favoured courier.
For some, another vital concern is the building’s green credentials. In this case, you’ll want to evaluate construction methods and materials, energy efficiency, waste disposal procedures and more.
Is it accessible?
Firstly, if you’re renting, make sure your office space will be open and available whenever you need it. Secondly, check the building meets legal requirements for disabled access, and any special requirements of your own staff.
3. The Space
Is it big enough?
An absolutely critical question without an easy answer. The rule of thumb suggests you’ll need anywhere from about 125 ft2 to 300 ft2 per employee, depending on the type of office you intend to build. Of course, a space filled with large private offices and conference rooms will take you to the upper end of that range. An open office or cubicle environment will minimise the space needed per employee. If you’re searching in London, try this office space calculator for a quick estimate.
It’s also important to factor in growth alongside the length of your lease – will you be hiring more people before the end of the year? On top of all this, don’t neglect other vital areas, like file rooms, storage rooms or space for employee lockers.
Is the layout right for your business?
It’s not just the amount of space that counts; it’s how you’ll use it. Can you visualise a layout that will work for your business? The trick here is to spend some time at each possible location. If you’re still struggling, try using an online floor planner like Room Sketcher, or simply mark up a layout with tape, newspapers or whatever’s to hand.
How much freedom will you have?
Before getting too carried away with your dream layout, it’s best to find out just how much freedom you’ll have to change the décor. Using the space to support brand identity or company culture may be high up your list of priorities, but it’ll be a struggle if you can’t paint the walls. If you’re given free reign, are there any conditions set on how to leave the space once the lease is complete?
Is the ambience right?
What researchers call ‘ambient factors’ are consistently shown to have a clear impact on employee happiness and productivity. These commonly include everything from temperature and air quality to noise levels and lighting. Essentially, those factors that go unnoticed until there’s something wrong, at which point they become an inescapable nuisance.
Is there room to grow?
As obvious as it might seem, this is an easy one to miss. It’s extremely frustrating to create the perfect office only to be forced to move a short time later. If you hope to grow, think ahead.
4. The Cost
Is the property good value?
It’s often difficult to judge a fair market value for commercial property. You might be able to estimate the price of a residential property in your local area, but the factors affecting office rents are more complicated. Information is the key to making an informed decision. If you’re searching through a property agency, ask them for information on similar deals in the area – it’s their job to know the market. Otherwise, researching similar properties online will give you a basic grasp of the area, and how your offer compares.
Are there any hidden costs?
Firstly, be aware of the various floor area measuring practices – GEA, GIA, NIA or the newly standardised IPMS – as confusion here may lead to some nasty surprises. Next, find out the business rates in your location, check which utilities are covered by your rent and if there are other building service charges. Finally, take account of any one off costs, such as legal costs or surveyor fees. It might also be worth investigating the potential costs of a fit out.
Is the rental rate secure?
There’s nothing worse than being forced out by aggressive rent hikes just when you get settled. Do what you can to include a rent cap clause within your lease agreement. In London, that’s a special priority due to the city’s exploding office rents.
Are there any late payment fees?
Hopefully, business is booming and you’ll never have to pay them, but it’s useful to know what’s in store if you have a difficult month.
5. The Contract
Are your dates right?
The simplest things are all too quickly forgotten. Make sure your dates align with your future landlord’s to avoid starting on the wrong foot.
Who is responsible for what?
Specifically, who is responsible for paying utility bills and carrying out standard repairs and maintenance? What’s more, how extensive are these obligations: do they include responsibility for the structural portions of the building, such as the roof, exterior walls or plumbing? And is there any written expectation for repairs to be carried out within a reasonable timeframe?
What happens if you sell the company?
Be especially wary of any guarantor clauses, or an authorised guarantee agreement. Guarantor clauses can render you personally responsible for lease payments regardless of the type of company you run, whether you’re still affiliated with it or not. In the case of an authorised guarantee agreement, you could even remain responsible for the liabilities of future tenants.
For a full contract checklist, click this link.
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