Whether you’re thinking of moving to a bigger office, starting your own business or simply looking for a change of workspace, you’re likely to have one thing in common; the desire to get stuck into business and not have to sweat the small stuff. Sound familiar? If this isn’t the first time you’ve moved then maybe the thought of logistics has you postponing for a ‘less busy period’ (which, let’s face it, isn’t likely). Or if you’re a startup, buying an office outright might be out of your budget.
To save your business time and money, looking into a serviced office could be the answer. But with a variety of office rental choices on offer, knowing which approach to take can be confusing – not least of all understanding what a serviced office is, where you can lease one, and the associated costs. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to serviced offices, covering everything from what they are to the best questions to providers.
Not sure where to start? Confused by the difference between a managed office, a “conventional” lease and what exactly a serviced office provides? And how much does it all cost? Read on to find out.
First things first: what is a serviced office?
Simply put, a serviced office is fully equipped with everything you need and is suitable for immediate occupation. All serviced offices come inclusive of the essentials, meaning that the price you pay includes not only rent, but service charges, cleaning, furniture, utilities and repairs – no nasty surprises as your rent covers your core costs. This means your company only pays extra for any additional services – think telephone calls, printing or the cost of hiring a meeting room – but on a pay-per-use basis.
And often these additional services come at great rates, as the company that owns your office will have access to the kind of large-scale deals a single business wouldn’t be able to purchase.
All right, how much does it cost to rent an office?
So, a fuss-free office sounds appealing, and now you want to know how much it’ll cost you. Unfortunately that’s a bit of a difficult question to answer directly. Due to the very flexible nature of serviced offices there’s all sorts of variants in contract: from office location, to size, to number of desks, all the way to how many telephones you think you might need (and let’s not even get into whether or not having windows in your office is important to you!).
But to give you an idea of the price range, here’s a few different options based on different factors:
The prestigious address: the Gherkin from £649 p/m
The networking hub: Manchester business park from £199 p/m
The transport-friendly: Temple Gate in Bristol from £284 p/m
The affordable: Glasgow’s Washington Street from £99 p/m
As you can see, it’s really dependent on where you’re looking to operate, how much space you’ll need, and the nearby amenities to the building. Similar to many big purchase decisions, your best option is to shop around, get an idea of the range of prices and then choose based on your company’s individual needs.
Something to bear in mind is that while base costs may be higher for a serviced office, remember that it includes just about everything you need to get working on the day you move in. There’s no service charges, furniture costs, utility bills nor any of the other additional bills that can creep up: what you pay for is what you get.
How do I know renting an office is right for my business?
Let’s look at the 3 main types of office leases and break it down into which one works best for you:
Similar to a serviced office, managed offices can be taken for a relatively short time period, though this will typically start at up to or over a year’s initial commitment. They typically provide basic amenities such as carpets, partitioning and cabling, but there’s usually no furniture and often you’ll have to provide your own IT or telecom facilities. Day to day basics like office cleaning are usually offered, but it’s unlikely there’ll be a reception area in the building.
Is it right for me?
If you’re thinking of staying put in one place for a reasonably long time, or you have your own furniture, then a managed office may work for you. Bear in mind you’ll likely have to set up your own utilities.
Just like serviced and managed offices, there’s always variation in what’s on offer, but the main difference in a conventional office is that your lease terms will be longer, sometimes between 3 to 5 years as a minimum. Conventional offices are almost always unfurnished and without existing IT and telecom facilities. Communal toilets and kitchen areas may exist within the building or you may need to create these within your rented space. You will typically find no additional business services or manned reception onsite.
Is it right for me?
If your business needs a lot of additional space for stock storage or display, a conventional office could be a good option for you. Or, if your company wants a very permanent location for the business (with the associated control over creating your own space) then a traditional office might be your opportunity.
Simply put, serviced offices are premade workspaces that you can sign up for and move into with minimal fuss. They’ll provide a fully equipped working environment, with furniture, utilities, IT and telecom facilities and a manned reception area. They’re also very flexible in terms of leases, with options starting from per desk per day up to longer term arrangements.
Is it right for me?
Start up companies and SMEs are very well suited to serviced offices, as they do not have to fork out for office equipment or large deposits, helping to keep initial overheads low. The flexible tenure is also a great opportunity for any business (regardless of size) to rent space for shorter periods without getting tied into a long term contract.
The pros and cons of a serviced office
Flexibility of tenure
One of the main appeals of a serviced office, flexible lease arrangements mean you can react to business requirements and expand as your company requires. This is in contrast to traditional long-term leases, which tie you in to a fixed size and space.
If the idea of hauling office furniture makes you break out in a cold sweat, then you’ll be pleased to know that hopping between different rented offices is a lot less painful. With the option to plug in and go, disruptions to productivity levels are minimal. Even better, minimal rental deposits mean securing the office isn’t a massive outgoing: a big win for startups and other small businesses.
Headache free maintenance
With a serviced office, any setbacks encountered along the way aren’t your responsibility, and so your time won’t be spent solving the problem. Of course, this makes it vital that you choose a reputable provider with a good track record of solving maintenance issues: check reviews and any testimonials to be sure.
While the ready-to-work aspect is a definite positive of a serviced office, many businesses like to build a space that’s wholly defined by their company branding and guidelines. In this case, a serviced office – that’s been furnished and decorated for you – might not be the correct option.
Bills, cleaning, internet and business rates are included in your monthly payment, making budgeting easier. There are no unexpected costs. Here’s what Laura Carr, PR company owner said:
“I knew we needed office space when I realised we had the demand for more staff to help us handle all the contracts we had won but didn’t have a lot of money in the bank that I was prepared use to fork out on a big upfront bill for it! For us, using a serviced office was almost the only option. It was an easy and affordable way to move into a clean, bright, ready-to-go (in our experience!) office where we just had to plug our laptops in and go.”
Part 2: Making your decision
So you’ve opted for a serviced office, but you’re stuck at the next stage: choosing the right office for your business. These answers, tips and helpful pointers tell you what to look out for (and what to avoid!).
Things to look out for when choosing an office
So what do business owners think of when they choose an office? We spoke to two businesses with very different needs:
Alan McDonald, startup web designer:
“When me and my brother set up on our own we looked at offices in trendier places just outside the city but found that for us, we needed to be in the city centre. Our clients are mostly based in or around town and would prefer us to travel to them to present so our office space was solely our workspace and needed to be in a convenient place for us.”
Your location can greatly affect your business as it’s a client’s first impression of your company. How was their journey? Does the area have parking or is it well-served by public transport links? Or if you’re like Alan, your office needs to be in location that does all of the above for your staff.
John Gordon, who owns a communications company:
“When we first moved into our offices there was no receptionist: I’d get a member of staff not involved in the meeting to pretend to be the receptionist (in the early days) which was a hassle but better than there not being one!”
A serviced office space with a receptionist can be a huge factor for your company – you’ve found a great location but the next rung of the good impression ladder, for any client, is being greeted by a professional who is expecting them and will let you know they’ve arrived. Turning up to a desolate office block won’t endear anyone to you.
Choosing which size of office you need
Serviced offices are often quoted on a per workstation basis: this is done so you can approximately work out how much the office will cost even if you don’t know how much actual office space by sq. ft. you need. After all, it’s much easier to know if you need a four or a six person office!
As a rule of thumb we suggest 70 sq. ft per person, however, you may need more or less than this depending on how your company works and the budget you have.
When taking a serviced office you’ll need a lot less space than if you were taking out a conventional lease. For serviced offices you only need to calculate the actual space you’re going to work in – your net space – rather than the gross space for a conventional lease where you need to calculate the space you’ll work in, along with space for reception areas, walkways, dead areas, meeting rooms, toilets, kitchens etc.
Remember that a square, open plan office will provide the most flexibility for growth, whereas L-shaped offices are often a cheaper option that locks you into an arranged layout.
Questions to ask while viewing a serviced office
You know what you need, you know where you want it and you’ve got a budget in mind: it’s time to get viewing! Make sure you book viewings to the properties you’re interested in, because while it can seem time-consuming it’s a great way to deep-dive into whether the space will work for your business. Here’s a list of questions you should keep in mind when you’re visiting a potential candidate for your new office:
- Do you offer pre- and post-sale support? While the sales representative showing you around the property will undoubtedly be lovely, they’ll cease you be your point of contact fairly early in the process. Ask to be put in touch with the day to day contact ASAP.
- What’s your meeting space policy? Meeting rooms can often come as an additional cost, but there may be options for ‘breakout areas’ that could be used as meetings. Ask to see these and get information on the options available. Make sure you view the meeting rooms!
- How are the facilities? Take the time to check this out. How does the kitchen look? The toilets? How many companies are these facilities shared between? Take a look at the parking facilities and whether there’s any accommodation for employees who bike to work.
- What are the options around expansion? Thinking ahead can save money, and checking whether there’s the ability to add to your headcount without changing offices can save a real headache further down the line.
- Do you host networking events? Meeting other companies is one of the biggest positives of serviced offices, so you should check with your provider whether it’s possible to host networking events in your space. Alternatively, ask if there are regular networking events for building tenants.
- How does the building’s security operate? You want to minimise risk, so checking the security policy in an important consideration at the earliest stages. Does your chosen space provide solutions against break-ins by using CCTV, security receptionists or patrols?
- Are there additional costs? Sometimes a good deal can seem too good to be true, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask about any additional costs and their necessity. Assess whether your business can keep core costs down by only paying for what you need.
- Do you offer any incentives? As a business owner, you know there are always deals to be made. It’s your job to do the asking, and this could save you and your company hundreds of pounds: so don’t be shy!
If you’ve got a question that you don’t see an answer to in the guide, feel free to leave us a reply or give us a ring on 02036276956. Or, head on over to our Twitter and we’ll do our best to help.