Even in an age where remote and hybrid working are increasingly becoming the norm, the office remains an indispensable asset to many businesses. It offers a bustling hive that encourages interaction, stimulates creativity and fosters collaboration among workforces in a way that virtual tools struggle to recreate.
If you’re a business owner in the market for a new commercial property, there’s a dizzying number of factors to consider before you can even think about signing on the dotted line. Whether yours is a small business in need of a permanent HQ or a larger enterprise looking to scale up its surroundings, we’ve picked out five of the most essential considerations to keep front-of-mind when looking for the ideal physical space for your business and its staff.
This first point might be a no-brainer, but buying commercial property is rarely cheap. Ensure that you budget carefully: think about your cash flow and keep an eye on interest rates (since these tend to continually fluctuate) before you purchase. The cost of the property will naturally depend on several factors, including its location, its size, and its condition.
If a ton of building and maintenance work is required to get the space office-ready, these costs will need to be factored in. You’ll also need to consider the ongoing expense of keeping an office running, from utility bills to equipment upgrades. Additionally, think about sell-on value. If you decide to cash out (because you’ve outgrown the space, for example) you should be confident of making a profit further down the line.
Conversely, if the opposite happens and you find your office is too big for you (you may want to allocate space for future growth, or you may need to downsize your workforce) you may want to consider sub-letting the property to other businesses (where allowed by your rental agreement) to help with cash flow.
The average commute to work takes 26 minutes, and you don’t want any employee arriving at the workplace weary and overwrought before their day has even begun. A nearby train station or bus route will ensure those that rely on public transport aren’t saddled with long and stressful commutes (and free up parking spaces as a bonus).
Next, you must consider how easy it is for those who opt to drive. Is the office accessible via major highways or is it so off the beaten path that even Google Maps would struggle to find it? And then there are visiting clients and business partners to think about. Does the office have an airport within reach? Are there local hotels to put them up in?
Just as important as your office’s accessibility is the neighborhood it occupies. An out-of-city location might be a cheaper option, but it’s less likely to be surrounded by amenities that cater for your employees’ dining and lifestyle needs (e.g. local stores, cafés and gyms) or offer noteworthy client-entertaining options (bars, restaurants and leisure activities).
What’s more, your company will be much more attractive to prospective hires and clients alike if it’s headquartered in an enviable location. Choosing a run-down area would obviously keep your costs down, but positioning says a lot about you and your company (regardless of whether you think that’s reasonable). Investing in an office in a relatively-premium area will significantly boost the perception of your company.
Size and Layout
The size of the space you require will naturally depend on your number of employees and your preferred working model. With a hybrid approach, for instance (which is favored by 68% of American workers according to a Prudential survey), you won’t need a desk for each employee: instead, you’ll be able to determine the number of desks you need by figuring out how many employees will want (or be required) to use the office on your average workday.
Think about how many meeting rooms, private working spaces, ‘breakout’ areas and individual offices you’ll need to meet collaborative and lone-working requirements. How efficiently can you use the space? Don’t forget to factor in the need for leisure spaces. You won’t necessarily have to go down the ‘trendy’ office route by installing a ping-pong table or an onsite bar, but employees do need spaces in which they can relax (particularly given that the rise of home working during the pandemic got people used to home comforts).
If you can afford a staff-only café and you feel that it’s fully justified, go for it. If you think that a smattering of comfy chairs will be enough to facilitate chilling and chatting, even better. It’s important to ask your employees what they want, though, particularly since there may be factors you’re not taking into account. If many of your employees are heavily religious, for instance, finding space for a prayer room might do wonders for morale.
Tools and Tech
Once you’ve decided upon the locale and the size of your office space, you’ll need to ensure you have the infrastructure to support it, from the physical technology you use to the network architecture you adopt. At the very least, you’ll need to equip your workspace with computers, monitors, keyboards, printers etc. (and provide laptops for semi-remote workers).
You’ll also need to think about the software you need to run a well-oiled machine: video conferencing tools, email providers, HR systems, and more. This will extend to the software you have running behind the scenes to keep your networks and servers running reliably and securely. Hybrid working is hugely convenient, but it also requires onsite and offsite access.
A multi-layered security service like NordLayer (from the team behind the popular consumer-targeted NordVPN) will help, and you’ll want your online infrastructure — encompassing your website, your employee apps, and anything else you need live — to be underpinned by a managed cloud hosting solution along the lines of Cloudways.
Additionally, you’ll obviously need a high-speed and dependable internet provider (a list of the best options for businesses can be found here), particularly since employees will no doubt want to enjoy streaming media during breaks. This might seem trivial, but making people feel comfortable spending a lot of time in the office can make a huge difference.
Suppose that your business goes from strength to strength in the coming years. Will your existing roster be sufficient to accommodate that success, or will you need to expand your operation? In all likelihood, you’ll need to grow — which means your chosen office space should be scalable, having resources in reserve that you can tap down the line.
Instead of focusing on the needs of your business as they are now, try to look 3, 5 or even 10 years into the future so you can plan for continued growth, both in terms of your infrastructure and your physical space. Does your proposed new property have multiple floors that you can expand into? Is there scope to extend outwards (or upwards)?
It will complicate matters more than you’d like to, but committing to a forward-thinking approach now will leave you far less likely to face the stress of office hunting in the near future — and it’s surely much less work to extend your consideration process than it would be to deal with another office move in a couple of years.
In summary, while a physical office might be seen as an ever-decreasing requirement for modern businesses, it can still play an vital role in fostering collaboration and social interaction among your workforce. If your business is in need of its first dedicated HQ or you’ve simply outgrown your current space, there is a number of variables you’ll need to consider when deciding if a new property is right for you.