What to look for when choosing an office location

Whether you’re a start-up business finding your feet in the industry or a well-established brand, your office has a lot to do with how your company is perceived.

For a fast-moving, creative agency, choosing an office slap-bang in the city centre may be the best option. On the other hand, the nature of your business may not require you to be in the thick of the action – allowing you to view more practical, cheaper options that are in a less exclusive area.

New research by ava has shown that the location and quality of an organisation’s premises still matters a great deal to consumers and employees alike.

All in all, 78% of people still judge a company based on its premises to some degree.

Around one in three respondents to our survey said that the standard of a company’s HQ was either “very important” or “crucially important”. In fact, only 22% of the poll suggested that they don’t judge a company by its premises.

A second study revealed that 53% of UK workers feel that their current workplace isn’t designed to get the best out of them. This is concerning as numerous studies, including this one from the World Green Building Council, have shown that staff productivity can increase if they are happy in their surroundings.

With this in mind, we’ve spoken to a number of industry experts to get their thoughts on what YOU should look for when choosing an office location.

Here are 10 of their best tips…

1. Location, location, location…

We’ll start with the big stuff.

Peter Ames, Head of Strategy at office marketplace Office Genie, had the following to say:

“Location is as important as you need it to be. There is a lot of talk about how expensive office space can be in popular areas, but this isn’t completely a problem.

“If you don’t need to be in a prime location, then there will always be cheaper options a little further afield. If you do your research, and/or strike lucky, then you’ll set up in an area that’s on the up. So you might soon have all the advantages of a popular location anyway!”

The benefits of having similar businesses nearby are two-fold. Either they will be an invaluable (and perhaps collaborative) resource, or they will recognise competition and inspire your business to be better! Also, don’t underestimate the value of having an eye-catching postcode that will always look good on letters and marketing material.

“If you’re paying a lot of money, embrace the fact that you’re boasting an impressive postcode and that you’re (probably) surrounded by businesses in similar fields. It might be useful to know these guys – get networking!” Peter added.

Think about the client – are you accessible?

It’s all well and good saving money by laying roots in a cheaper out-of-town location, but will this cost your business in the long run?

Co-founder of Station Rd. Marketing, Jason Stallard commented:

“Your first consideration has to be accessibility for clients – we want all our clients to find it easy to visit our office. For example, our current office space gives us access to a boardroom where we can hold training sessions or client meetings.”

How about your employees?

Your choice of location greatly affects your staff

Location plays a huge part in the happiness of the workforce. This isn’t to say that you should shape the location of the office wholly around them, but it does help. If you’re an established business and are moving location, keep in mind your key employees. It’s an added bonus for your key players to work where they live, rather than the other way around.

According to James Barnett, co-founder of modern office provider WorkPad, a bustling office location can often be beneficial to staff output.

“Something that applies across the board is that being in a central location can act as a morale booster for your staff,” he remarked.

“For example, being in a vibrant, buzzing area with shops, restaurants and bars is far better for staff culture than being based on a business park and if the morale of your staff is high, their productivity will follow suit.

“More and more companies want to portray themselves as creative. So we’re seeing law and accountancy firms, funds and financial companies, who are moving away from the city and using cool locations as a means of giving off a modern, trendy vibe.”

2. Thinking outside the box

When you’re scouting locations for your new office, it often pays to think outside the box.

Having a presence in a thriving business district can do wonders for your reputation, but this comes at a huge cost. Sometimes, savvy businesspeople will be able to steal a march on their rivals by identifying up-and-coming areas that could turn out to be ultra-trendy business hubs in a few years’ time.

By latching on to these locations early enough, you stand a chance of catching them before they get too popular and the rent prices go up.

Peter Ames added:

“Outside of the capital, if you look to smaller towns surrounding major cities, you might well find lower prices that come with more room for staff parking and so on.

“Interestingly, trends such as office sharing (see point number 6) are no longer limited to places such as London, Manchester or Bristol. We’ve seen people listing their space for free in Kidderminster, and even space available to rent in a library in Wellingborough.”

3. Don’t overstretch your budget

Budget is always a crucial consideration when choosing an officeBudget goes hand-in-hand with location.

What can you afford? What are your deal-breakers? It helps to be realistic in the beginning, especially if you have a start-up business.

Ensure that the budget you set is flexible enough to allow for last-minute changes, at the same time keeping within what you can actually afford.

Before jumping in, think about any hidden extras you may be expected to pay, such as maintenance fees or parking costs. Then there’s the deposit. Can you provide a three-month rent deposit, up-front?

Enlisting an agent

The pros of enlisting an agent are that you’ll be handing the logistics of the move over to a (hopefully) tried-and-tested expert who will take the most stressful parts away from you.

The cons? You can save money by taking care of things on your end, allowing you to broaden your search. Is that a risk worth taking, though?

Peter Ames continued:

“Decide early whether or not you want to enlist an agent. They cost more money, but we’ve moved office a number of times and they have consistently saved us cash overall.”

4. Size: look to the future

This depends on the size of your workforce. A cramped office space isn’t a great productivity booster, while renting a space too large results in wasted funds.

It’s generally recommended that working areas offer the equivalent of 80 to 100 sq ft per person. This is a very general rule, however, and you should know yourself what your company needs.

Keep in mind that, depending on how you see your company growing, it’s always an option to go for more office space than you may initially need. Investing in more desks is easier than having to look for new offices if your business expands.

This is where it really pays to know your growth forecasts!

5. Is it the right building for your company?

Is your office building serviced? Does it have everything you need?

As well as location, the amenities within your office building will impact your business immediately.

Is the building safe?

Security is of the utmost importance when looking for a new office building. Is the reception manned, and is there a clear emergency-exit plan? These are not to be taken lightly if you want your company to succeed (in the safest way possible).

Is there parking and bike storage?

Some employees will drive – are there parking spaces to accommodate their cars? There should also be ample bike-sheds, considering that cycling has fast become a popular mode of transportation for workers and many firms have gained favour by offering cycle-to-work incentives. All of these factors together contribute to the overall happiness of the office.

 6. Have you thought about shared workspaces?

For start-up businesses, deciding between location and budget can leave you in a difficult situation. Having the ideal location for your business comes at a price, but then if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere you lose out on networking opportunities.

Shared workspaces are an option to consider.

David Kosky, of shared workspace providers Work.Life, commented on the benefits of shared office space:

“Small businesses, due to high rents, were previously relegated to run-down spaces in basements and forced to meet clients in coffee shops to avoid the embarrassment of meeting at their offices.

“Instead of coffee shops or always going to meet the clients, shared workspaces give the opportunity to invite prospects into beautifully designed spaces [that are meant] to wow.”

With a shared office, you’ll cut down on rent while being able to work in an attractive, lively setting. No more taking your clients to Starbucks.

7. Branding your business

Your HQ should reflect your brand identity

You don’t need a crack-team of interior designers to make your office look attractive. Simple, efficient décor can transform an office instantly, while a few personal touches can add a bit of character.

Have you thought about office branding?

Office branding is simply a visual extension of the business; it represents the kind of image a company wants to uphold.

Peter Ames had this to say:

“Office branding is not a new phenomenon, but it can be something that really takes your space to the next level. Whether you do it in-house or enlist a dedicated agency, when you design your office it can really pay to ‘brand’ it to align with your company image.”

Having a space that speaks for your company is vital, for both clients and employees. Inviting clients to your prideful office is a show of confidence. For your employees, it helps that they share the company’s vision and are surrounded by its ‘brand’.

David Dews, Creative Managing Director of Speed Agency, commented on how important it is to ‘present’ your office:

“First impressions are key. Your office needs to reflect your personality. If you’re on a budget and your first office is a bit pokey, or maybe it lacks character – have some fun on the design of the interior and try to make it reflect your culture.”

Remember; the devil is in the detail. Leave no stone unturned when designing your office – if done well, it’ll pay off in the long run.

Keep things tidy!

Once you have your office brand nailed down, it’s imperative to keep things neat and tidy. Your employees spend most of their time in the office, so it’s nice for things to look presentable – this also communicates a professional manner to visiting clients.

A spick-and-span office is more important than you might think. David Dews added these comments:

“I’m a stickler for keeping spaces tidy, so we try and clear our desk every evening so that we come in with a tidy office the next day. If you look messy then the perception will surely be poor project management and no attention to detail.”

A lesson in housekeeping: leave your spring clean until the end of the day. Coming into an uncluttered workspace the next morning will boost productivity as well as office morale.

When choosing a space, always have one eye on how easy it will be to maintain.

8. Stay connected

Always check the average local broadband speed before committing to a new location for your business

A weak (or non-existent) broadband connection can be catastrophic for your business. Are you an IT firm? You’re going to need a strong connection. Do you work in PR, perhaps? Without an internet connection you’re not likely to get much work done.

Jason Stallard had this to say on the subject:

“The location you choose will also affect your broadband connection. This is currently a major deal-breaker and a massive bugbear of mine, as a bad internet connection can seriously hinder the business operations.”

This wouldn’t have been such a key selling point 10 to 15 years ago, but in the modern world you simply must have a strong online presence. Keep a close eye on when and where suppliers will be installing fibre connections in your desired area.

As well as weighing up costs and how your company will be viewed by clients and your employees, you need to find a location that enables you to maximise your output. Choosing an office that hinders your day-to-day operations is going to cost you more in the long term.

9. Building management

It’s important for you to have a healthy relationship with your property manager. In an office building, your first point of contact with the building owner is the property manager – this is who you would contact if, for example, a repair is needed in the building. Just one reason why you should stay in their good books.

Before making a decision, consider the property manager and their level of involvement with the building. Are they approachable? Reliable? Are the tenants happy with the space?

Here are some things to think about before making the move:

• Make sure that the heating, ventilation and air conditioning are working well.
• Are the janitorial and cleaning staff thorough?
• Do you know if the elevator is in working condition?
• Is the parking easily-accessible?

In many cases, employees of the company that runs your building will be the first point of contact for your clients when they come to visit you. While you can train your own staff to portray your business in the best possible light, can you trust your building managers to do the same?

It’s a crucial consideration.

10. Look at the small print…

Check the small print in your tenancy agreement

By making sure you’re informed on every detail in the lease, you’re protecting yourself against any problems further down the line.

What if you want to sell the company during your lease?

A question you may find yourself asking. In this case, ensure that the lease is transparent about owner responsibility. You’ll want to be crystal clear on your obligations.

Have you looked at the lease and rental rate?

You don’t want to get settled into a location then discover that at the end of the lease the landlord is letting it out to somebody else (or even hiking the price up).

Enquire about how long you can let the space; it seems like common sense, but if you make sure from the beginning, you may have some room to negotiate.

You can find out more about ava’s business address services here.