The popularity of flexible office spaces is growing fast. They offer businesses lower up-front costs and flexibility, but are they the right choice for every company?
Flexible office spaces come with a range of unique benefits that you might not find in a traditional office. Think gym classes, on-site bars, regular events and the freedom to bring your pets to work.
However, the size, growth and culture of your business will be important factors in determining whether a flexible office space or a traditional lease is right for you. We take a look at your options below.
The types of flexible office space
Coworking office spaces are creative hubs where you will share your office with other like-minded entrepreneurs. While these spaces may feel less like ‘your own’, you will be working within a community, which provides great networking opportunities, as well as the possibility of collaboration.
Allocated space in a serviced office provides more privacy than coworking spaces, but without the running costs of a standard office lease. The management and upkeep costs are factored into the price you pay for the lease, meaning everything is taken care of on your behalf.
The benefits of a flexible office space
With both coworking and serviced offices, a huge advantage is not having to worry about the upkeep and management costs of the space. Most of what you need can be provided for you – meeting rooms, receptionists and food and drink are all sorted so you can focus on your business.
Flexible office spaces also come with flexible contracts, meaning you are not tied into any arrangements that may impede the growth of your business. If your company does start to grow, or your way of doing business changes, you can easily find a new space to accommodate these alterations.
As mentioned earlier, a specific advantage of coworking spaces is the opportunity for networking and collaboration with the other businesses sharing your space. How much or how little interaction you have with other people sharing your workspace is entirely up to you and you are under no obligation to share business information with others if it isn’t in your interests. However, you always have the option, and you never know what opportunities may come from it.
The limitations of a flexible office space
One of the main disadvantages of flexible office spaces is that you don’t have authority over building design or space management. This means there will be limits on what you’re allowed to do in terms of customising the space to suit your requirements and stamping it with your brand identity.
Coworking spaces also may not work for everyone. You might find the presence of other companies sharing the same space distracting, and while coworking spaces do provide the opportunity for networking and bouncing ideas off one another, it may not be conducive with your business model.
Which companies would suit a flexible office space?
Some have suggested that ‘smarter ways of working’, such as the flexible office, will replace the traditional lease. However, it’s important to keep in mind whether it’s right for your particular company, before going with the trend.
Smaller to mid-sized companies are likely to see the most benefit from flexible office space, and particularly those who are new startups wanting to remain flexible. When your business is new, you never know where it is going to take you, and flexible spaces keep you free from unnecessary concerns around upkeep costs and long-term contracts.
Startups may also benefit from coworking spaces specifically, as the potential for networking is invaluable, and you may be able to benefit from the advice of the other businesses sharing your space.
If your business is in a period of high growth, a flexible office space will probably be best until you have an idea of how the future of your business is going to look. There’s a good chance you’ll end up losing money if you opt for a traditional lease to accommodate your growth, only to have to move again before that contract has finished.
Larger, more established businesses will probably benefit more from a traditional lease than a flexible space. Whilst traditional leases require higher up-front costs, being able to commit to a longer-term lease will save you money in the long run. As the office will also then be yours, you can put your personal stamp on it in terms of design and your company branding, which will create a lasting impression for clients when they come to visit you.
If you are considering moving your business into a flexible office space, it’s best to keep in mind the size of your business and the potential for growth. You also want to consider whether you will see more benefit right now from the flexibility and networking potential of a serviced or coworking office, or from the ability to lease your own space and establish a brand identity within it.
Kian Siabi is the director of Flexible at Making Moves London, the commercial property finders who work on behalf of their clients to negotiate and manage office moves from start to finish.