Time to review your office space? Thinking City or suburbs, your own space or shared? It may be easier and more worthwhile to move than you think

Office space, culture, cost and location are a big part of your expenses as a business owner and I am about to move for the second time in three years and end a lease early (yes! it can be done) due to a wide range of factors that you may want to consider too.  After twenty years in business, it’s been a constant buzz to innovate, adapt or die. It’s what keeps me motivated, relevant and successful and it’s also been challenging and intelligent to constantly review my business situation and look at what I can do better.

When a high-profile girlfriend chose to move her 80 people into a city co-working space at Christmas (a space I had myself looked at three years ago and knew well), I again reviewed my own office environment in spite of being in a 4 year lease. Having evaluated the options, we are now moving to a co-working space just 400 metres down the road in 3 weeks time and I am lifted and excited as are my team and my peer group. The verdict has unanimously been ‘’it’s a no brainer’’.

So why move offices and what should you consider in the evolution of your business environment?

Before my first office move when I moved into the city three years ago, I had spent a settled 18 years in a pretty, light-filled, cost-effective heritage listed building consisting of my own access and two floors amongst the coffee shops in Artarmon. I was grateful for a location just 500 metres from my home and for the Taurus team, the close proximity to the train station and only two sets of light to the freeway, 10 mins drive to the city.  After such a long and successful history, it was a big decision to move to the city at that time.

My decision was driven by a number of operational and business factors including my own ideas of what success looked like and the benefits a city location promised to bring including an up-turn in new business, a city brand that would ‘’look the part’’ and make it easier to attract staff.  More than anything, in a competitive marketplace I was keen to give my team that city agency experience.

The beautiful George Street office I sourced three years ago, bang opposite The Strand could not have been more perfect at the time or prettier. Right opposite Westfield with views up and down George Street, our entire floor is heritage listed, high ceilings with our own meeting room and lift access directly onto our own floor.  The team loved it. However, there has been a downside.

Beware of unforeseen effects on your environment. The light rail project means we have experienced continual construction and the 8-month time frame outlined has blown out to ongoing work some two years later. The rent that seemed so reasonable at the time, has actually been much larger due to regular increases in outgoings that bear no comparison to the years prior we painstakingly researched and were represented in our negotiations. Having a floor with single lift access has been challenging and while outgoings have increased our lift service reliability hasn’t. There doesn’t seem to be a month go by where our lift is out of action and my team are walking up and down multiple concrete stairs to get to their desk.  The security entrance with front street access has also meant we have to buzz people up which causes some confusion for guests arriving. Our floor is so beautiful and my team so professional and gorgeous, that we get frequent interruptions in the form of tours from perspective residents of other floors as we are held up as the ‘’poster child’’ tenants.

Meanwhile, I have watched the change in office space, the future of working environments and have been keen to maximise benefits for my team including facilitating more buzz and challenge thinking through the environment I provide to my team. A team of 10 people who like and care for each other has been peaceful, warm, team-spirited and productive but it is also insular, comfortable, cosy and friendly. In the fourth industrial revolution era, we as professionals have to pivot and change and re-direct thinking at the flick of a switch even faster than we’ve witnessed in the past 20 years.  I am not sure traditional office spaces inspire and reflect this increasing requirement for speed and agility of thought so I’m hoping to provide a faster, dynamic and diverse opinion set which includes challenging the ‘’norm’’ in the new Gravity co-working environment.

So what is worth bearing in mind when you think office space in this new dynamic?

Sharon’s office space tips

  • Your rent is your base price but check your outgoings – even if you research the past years of your new buildings usual outgoings, the landlord can increase outgoings with little notice or controls
  • Think twice about taking on an office with only one lift access – if the lift is down, seek how your team will get to their desks
  • Be prepared to put down a bond that could be cash up front for as much as 3 months gross rent – a lot to tie up in rent for small businesses and start-ups
  • Factor in removal costs which can be significant
  • Factor in the cost of buying or selling furniture – fit-outs don’t always come cheap and furniture is expensive if you want to look the part
  • Factor in any roadworks or building work that may or could be scheduled around your environment that could affect you doing business
  • Your landlord will ask you to make good when you leave and can pretty much be unreasonable about everything – remember he is holding your bond!
  • It is possible to break a lease if you are reasonable and there will be a get out fee. You can expect to pay estate agents fees, legal fees and be thrashed by your landlord for doing so on all other costs. Be prepared to negotiate hard

So to the benefits of the new co-working environments

  • Co-working spaces are a blend of small private spaces and large public areas designed to encourage a sense of community, providing break out rooms, meeting rooms, communal kitchens and a social and education event stream all of its own
  • You buy seats per month so you pay a fee per seat – ranging from $7-900 a month which makes you think carefully about head count and the cost of hiring and maintaining team members, every seat must count
  • The spaces started out being very much a start-up environment for one man bands but now host the likes of Microsoft and Facebook
  • Other than a fee for the seat and desk, most other things are taken care of – office furniture, cleaners, food, kitchen, IT (except phones) toilets, access, reception, lifts – all those things you used to worry about, now you don’t and they are included in the seat price above. Staff amenity costs will reduce
  • You have multiple other people, businesses, ideas, colours, brands to interact within offices that utilise the latest design and space innovations from tech giants such as Google
  • The space will put on social nights so no more worry about how you are celebrating with your teams, the space will do it for you in the form of guest speakers, wine nights, social events etc

Every new phase has an upside, every change takes some getting used to but as business owners unless you are prepared to upset the status quo and review and rewrite the “norm’’ constantly, it’s easy to fall behind

Good luck with your office space review!