Procurement · 4 August 2015

Could shacking up with another business be the right move for you?

Making the move from working remotely to an office space can be tricky if you don't consider your business needs beforehand
Making the move from working remotely to an office space can be tricky if you don’t consider your business needs beforehand

Looking to branch out into your first office space? Here’s why sharing a workplace could be the right fit for your business and what you need to consider beforehand.

Record-high commercial rents are making it more difficult for micro businesses on a shoestring to move from home to a more client-facing environment.

But despite this, there’s an eagerness for more flexible workspaces. Just as people in recent years have embraced sharing their home, car and parking space, the sharing economy has also crept into the workplace – with many sharing their offices with businesses distinctly different to their own.

Office sharing is an increasingly popular concept that allows companies who own or manage an office to rent out spare desks to smaller companies looking for flexible workspace.

It’s an idea that took off during the credit crunch, and it emerged as a useful way for businesses to avoid downsizing following redundancies. It creates revenue for the company that runs the office, and provides a relatively cheap alternative for small companies looking for an office outside the home.

So, what are the benefits?

The first thing to consider is that shared office space is a highly cost-effective model. By only paying for the exact number of desks needed, micro businesses avoid wasting money on desks that inevitably won’t be needed.

Shared offices tend to be in all-inclusive environments, with desk-renters also sharing their host’s utilities and services, so all the initial costs are covered. You can enjoy access to kitchens, facilities, and meeting rooms, but the costs are cut considerably by sharing your office with another firm.

The benefits, however, are more than just financial. For many embryonic firms, it might be that you’ve been working remotely or at home, and whilst this can be great in certain ways, the chances are you might want some human interaction – either within your existing team, or with others in general.

Shared office environments can become opportunities to network. You might find that working around other like-minded businesses will enhance your own, either through leads or referrals, opportunities for collaborative projects, or simply through the energy or dynamic it helps to create.

And the things to consider…

Shared offices are referred to as a flexible form of workspace. You’re typically not tied into a long contract, allowing you to expand, downsize, or go back to working remotely with little trouble.

But those looking for even more flexibility might be better suited to co-working.

If you tend to find that working remotely or at home is for you, but you want the option of renting desk space at certain times, co-working, or hot-desking might be the cheaper option.

This gives you access to communal desks, breakout areas, kitchen and meeting facilities, but it’s generally far less permanent – you often don’t have a set workstation to call your own, and you can’t leave your things there over night. You can rent space for as long as you want, and you pay normally on a monthly membership basis.

Individuals, or small teams of around four or fewer members who tend to work remotely or flexibly, but sometimes crave human interaction, might find this a better model for them.

But remember – there’s a lack of control over your space. Before lone workers sign up for a shared office space, things such as decor won’t be up to you. It may be too hot or too cold. Other things such as broadband speeds may be annoyingly slow. If you’ve been working from home for any period of time, you’ll be used to having complete control over your environment which you will have to be prepared to sacrifice.

Another point to consider is that while sharing the same office can help expand your business contacts, it’s important to anticipate potential irritations between co-habitees. Think about the nature of what your business does – do you need quiet, or do you need to be sharing with a business who doesn’t mind noise?

There are more forms of flexible office space available on the market than ever before for small teams on a budget. But cost is not the only consideration with shared offices.  Just as you might have regrets about hiring someone who doesn’t fit in with your company culture, the same applies when you share an office – the dynamic needs to be right.

Image: Shutterstock

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Peter Ames is the head of strategy for Office Genie, the first desk space marketplace in the UK – under the umbrella of Genie Ventures (a digital marketing and e-commerce company). The site is responsible for letting out millions of pounds worth of space to the country's small businesses and freelancers.

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