A Guide to Finding a Flexible Workspace

22 January 2020


Whether you’re finding your first premises or moving into a new office, it can be difficult to know where to start. Our flexible workspace guide is designed to help you define your requirements and make the move as smooth as possible.

If you’re reading this flexible workspace guide you’ve probably already decided that, rather than a traditional lease, you want to move into a serviced office. A flexible agreement will enable you to grow or shrink at relatively short notice. The fit out, furnishings and WiFi are already set up for you so you don’t need to worry about mounting costs either.

Which type flexible workspace is best for you?

Broadly speaking, flexible workspaces tend to fall into one of three categories. The type you choose will depend on both the size of your business and how much privacy you require.

Coworking membership

A coworking space is a shared, open plan workspace. Think long bench desks and work pods populated with freelancers and very small teams. Coworking space members share desk space and amenities like the kitchen, bathroom and breakout areas. 

Some coworking spaces also contain private offices. 

Coworking memberships are usually tiered. You can sign up for a part-time casual membership, hotdesking or dedicated desk membership. Contracts tend to be monthly rolling, enabling you move on (or scale up to a private office) at short notice.

Flexible workspace guide
Bath Place in Hackney

Serviced office

A serviced office is a commercial building that contains private offices. The word “serviced” refers to everything else that’s included in the price other than desk space. Every serviced office operator will offer something different, but  the most common services include:

  • Receptionist support
  • High speed internet connection
  • Cleaning and maintenance
  • Free hot drinks and kitchen access
  • Social events for occupiers

Some serviced office centres contain coworking spaces – confusing isn’t it!

Managed solution

Managed offices are popular with larger, established businesses that want to benefit from a flexible agreement but require a larger self-contained space. It’s “managed” because the building is run by an office operator who handles maintenance, etc. 

Like a serviced office, you usually pay a single monthly amount that covers both rent and everything else – from electricity and rates to tea and coffee. One of the main differences is that you have control over how the office is designed and furnished.

What’s your preferred location?

In our experience, location can be a key driver for attracting new talent. Of course, you need to base your businesses within easy reach of existing employees and clients, but it’s important to keep your future goals in mind when choosing an office too. 

Don’t waste your time touring buildings in areas you don’t intend to move to – focus on the options available in viable locations.

Networking opportunities

While your location will be dictated by where you and your employees live, you’ll also want to factor in where your clients, competitors, collaborators are. For example, let’s say you run a tech startup. Old Street has the highest density of tech startups, according to Honeypot.

Flexible workspace guide

Securing a HQ in one of these locations will no doubt enable you to meet other industry players. It’ll also provide you with quick access to a pool of tech talent. However, it’s worth looking at other, “up-and-coming” locations, too.

Take Plexal, for example. Located in east London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Plexal is a tech startup and scaleup “mini-city”. It offers coworking memberships, events and innovation services. Hackney Wick is a 10-minute walk away. 

So while it’s not Zone 1, it’s probably worth a look.

What’s your budget?

Your budget will obviously have some bearing on where you’ll be able to afford to rent. London is the second most expensive place to rent office space in Europe, but prices in individual London locations are always fluctuating. 

For the latest average desk rates, search for market reports online or speak with a broker. Looking outside of London? Check out these 5 new regional mixed-use developments with flexible workspace. Other things to think about include:

  • Dilapidations and fees involved if you’re leaving a lease
  • Fit out and furnishing costs (n/a if you’re moving to a serviced space)
  • Cost of moving items to your new office
  • The cost associated with operational  downtime during the move

Tip: Always check your flexible workspace agreement to see exactly what’s included in the cost, and what will be charged separately (or not included).

What services and amenities do you need?

Before you start your search, outline what’s important to you in terms of services and facilities and involve your team. Every coworking space, serviced office centre and managed office operator will do things differently, so it’s helpful to outline your requirements.

For instance, if you’ll be having regular client meetings, you’ll want somewhere that has a receptionist during business hours to meet clients; a place that provides access to meeting rooms fitted with AV technology. 

Perhaps your priority is to build a team culture. 

If this is the case, consider moving to an office that runs regular events, has ample breakout areas and encourages collaboration between occupiers. 

Look out for:

  • Reception support services
  • Meeting room access
  • Events
  • Fitness & wellbeing, i.e. yoga
  • Groups and clubs
  • Networking 
  • Seminars and talks
  • Business support, e.g. HR clinics
  • Outdoor space
  • Cafe

What’s your preferred design aesthetic?

Most offices are designed to accommodate one person every 10m2, which sounds like a lot, but accounts for shared space too. Each flexible workspace will have its own design aesthetic that matches its own brand identity that of its clients.

For example, operators catering to startups and creatives tend to opt for a stripped back, industrial approach to design, whereas those serving professional services tend to go for polished fixtures and formal fittings. Trends are always changing, of course.

Acoustics

Noise can have a large impact on productivity. When touring a workspace, look out for strategic placement of screens, barriers, work pods and walls that create privacy and serve to minimise noise coming from different parts of the office space.

Breakout space

Taking a break and spending time away from your screen is an essential part of the working day, which is why you should prioritise office buildings with ample breakout areas that encourage positive interactions between employees.

Flexible workspace guide
Fox Court on Gray’s Inn Road

Agile working

Having access to a part of the building where employees can hot desk accommodates agile working approaches. It also enables individuals to meet people from teams they usually wouldn’t interact with. Private working areas such as phone booths are important too.

Sustainability

If sustainability is high on your agenda you might want to opt for a workspace operator that prioritises it in their approach to design. Is the heating energy efficient? Does the lighting adjust to the natural light from outside to prevent unnecessary usage?

How will you conduct your search?

Once you’ve got a basic understanding of your requirements, it’s time to find the perfect fit.

Independent online research

One way to find an office is to conduct your own research online and go directly to flexible workspace operator websites to see what they offer.

The problem with this approach is that you’re unlikely you find all the available options. This is because a select few, i.e. the operators with larger marketing budgets, dominate search engine results. In other words, there could be another office out there that’s more aligned to your requirements, but because it doesn’t rank highly online it slips through the net  – literally.

Using a flexible workspace broker

Being able to see and compare all the available options is one of the reasons people use  flexible workspace brokers. A broker like First Office Hub will search the market for you, showing you the options that align most closely with your requirements. 

Brokers know the flexible office market inside and out and have contacts everywhere; they can arrange viewings on your behalf and even negotiate more favourable contractual terms before you sign on the dotted line. But the best thing about this service is that it’s FREE. 

Ready to start your search? 


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