Look for These Warning Signs Before You Rent an Office

You don’t want to end up in a frustrating or toxic office environment. Protect yourself by looking out for these warning signs during your viewings.

As a business owner, there’s nothing more stressful than a poor relationship with your landlord. You can fire bad employees and clients whenever you want, but you can’t separate yourself as easily from the person who owns your workspace.

It’s critical, therefore, that you take every precaution you can to avoid getting into toxic rental situations. While you can’t see the future and some problems are inevitable, you can mitigate the risk by looking out for these warning signs. If any of these become apparent during your viewings or conversations with property owners/managers, you should find a new work environment.

(Related: 4 Things to Look for When Viewing Potential Office Space)

Free download: Critical Questions to Ask the Property Owner Before Renting Office Space

The exterior and common areas look neglected

office-building-exterior

Even if the interior of your unit looks immaculate, you should look at the exterior of the building and any common areas, such as hallways, break rooms, bathrooms, lobbies, stairwells, etc.

A property manager or building owner may spruce up the interior because that’s what most people care about. But maintaining the exterior of the building is often costly and time consuming.

Even if your unit looks fine, you have to assume the lowest form of maintenance is what you’ll end up with. So if the lawn is unkempt, the parking lot is littered, and the lobby is a mess, assume your unit will end up in that condition one day and the owner won’t do anything about it.

This is a bigger problem if your business intends to bring clients to the office. Your clients will judge everything they see, even if it’s not technically your problem. A dirty bathroom will make your clients wonder what else you aren’t managing, even if that bathroom is community space.

“I’ll show you a similar unit”

Sometimes less-than-honest landlords will offer to show you a unit that “looks exactly like the one you’ll be renting.” They offer all types of excuses. They might say that it’s occupied and the tenant doesn’t give him permission to enter (which is nonsense because every landlord writes a walkthrough provision into the lease) or it’s under construction (again this is nonsense because it doesn’t prevent you from seeing it).

Never sign a rental agreement unless you have physically stood in the unit mentioned on the lease. We always tell our clients to arrange a full viewing of the unit and property they’ll be renting. If the landlord says he/she can’t show you something that you’ll be paying for, run away.

The owner doesn’t want to sign an agreement

People make a lot of mistakes regarding rental agreements. The biggest one you could make is not having one.

Property owners sometimes want to avoid leases for different reasons. Some want to avoid paying taxes on the income. In some cases, the space isn’t zoned for commercial use or the owner doesn’t have the right paperwork/licenses/certifications in place. In the worst cases, the owner is actively looking to take advantage of you.

Truthfully, this happens more often in residential renting than commercial office space, but it does happen. Even if the property owner offers you an attractive arrangement in exchange for untraceable cash payments, it’s still in your best interest to have an agreement.

Here are a few problems you could experience if you don’t have a rental agreement.

1. You could be evicted early.

Since there’s no official agreement, the property owner can have you removed at any time. In some states you can prove occupancy without a lease, but that takes time, stress, and money to fight. Experts at Real Estate Lawyers agree. They also suggest a common way un-leased renters can be evicted:

“It is better to rent commercial property with a lease agreement, given the possible liability associated with renting. For example, if someone does not have a lease and their property owner decides to sell the property where the business is located, there is no lease to prevent the new owners from giving notice that they would like you to vacate the property. Without a lease, the new owners would be able to tell you to find a new location for your business.”

2. You could lose any money you put into the unit.

Small businesses don’t usually incur a lot of expenses when moving into a unit, but there are some. For instance, you might buy office furniture that fits the space or maybe a yearly parking pass in a nearby garage. If you are suddenly evicted, you could lose those investments.

3. Your rent could suddenly increase.

If you don’t have a lease, there’s technically no legal rental price. The property owner can demand a bigger rent at any time and your only recourse is to move. Sometimes unscrupulous landlords will bait-and-switch you by letting you in without a lease and then requiring you to sign one at a higher rent.

4. The owner might not perform maintenance or repairs.

Lack of a rental agreement means the landlord isn’t legally liable for basic repairs (excluding repairs relating to health and safety, which they would have to handle even if the unit was empty). You’ll have to pay out of your pocket even for the simplest things, like new lightbulbs or worn carpeting.

Remember: A rental agreement should be in place as much to protect you as the property owner. If the landlord refuses, so should you.

The owner won’t answer questions

office-space-warning-signs

Naturally, you’ll have questions for the property owner or manager. Who will handle repairs? Who do you call if the building is locked? Who do you call if someone is parked in your spot? How are conflicts resolved between tenants?

In turnkey spaces, the tenant relies on the property owner for more services than they would in a traditional lease. The owner might pay for high-speed Internet, phone lines, a shared receptionist, or a hundred other things. As a potential tenant, you would have questions about all of this.

But if the landlord doesn’t have answers to your questions, they either aren’t taking the arrangement seriously, don’t know what they’re doing, or don’t intend to abide by any of the promises they’re making. Either scenario is bad for you.

A good landlord that wants to provide a quality space and build a long term relationship with you should be happy to answer your questions. It’s in their best interest. If you get vague responses or “don’t worry about it,” look elsewhere.

The owner is difficult to deal with

Even if there’s nothing wrong with the unit, you can get an impression of what renting will be like by having a simple conversation with the property owner (or whomever is your point-of-contact). Assess this person carefully. Are they pleased to have a new tenant? Are they proud of their building and business? Are they protective of their other tenants?

People are usually on their best behavior when they’re on first dates and job interviews. If the property owner is distant, distracted, dismissive, or doesn’t seem to have time for you, chances are that won’t change once you’ve signed an agreement. Don’t waste your time trying to work with someone who isn’t willing to invest into the relationship.

Download this free list of questions you should ask at any office space viewing.

Whatever you do, don’t settle

There are likely more available office units available than you know. Most are off the main road without signage. You don’t have to settle on the first property you see. The property owner/manager might try to influence your decision with something like “There isn’t much else available in the area,” but that probably isn’t true.

Make sure you find the right space for your business. The success of your business and your team depends on it. We insist that our customers schedule multiple viewings so they can get a feel for what’s available and what they need. Find your next office today.

Must-Know Productivity Techniques for You and Your Team

Getting the most out of your team doesn’t mean working them to death. But with a few productivity optimizations, you can improve your team’s performance.

When you’re building a business, you don’t have the resources for extra people. Maybe someday you’ll have a generous budget, but today you need to get as much work out of your current team as possible.

Getting the most out of your team doesn’t mean working them to death. If you overwork your employees and cause them stress, you’ll struggle retaining talent. Plus you’ll build a reputation as an employer who doesn’t care about employee happiness, which can make hiring problematic.

However, you can make a few optimizations to your workflow, office space, and process to squeeze out a bit more productivity.

Free resource: The 5 Best Productivity Models in the World

1. Schedule Everything

Most of us use a calendar to keep track of our lives, but we don’t use it for everything. You probably mark down important meetings, phone calls or deadlines, but you don’t schedule 15 minutes for household chores or 3 hours to have dinner and watch a movie with your spouse.

Scheduling everything is a critical way to make sure everything gets done, including your personal responsibilities and a bit of healthy entertainment. You want your team to have balanced lives so they can give you their focus at work.

2. The (10+2)*5 Formula

Taking breaks is critical to working productively, but those breaks have to be timed properly. If your breaks interrupt key moments of thinking (like when you’re interrupted by someone else), they can actually inhibit your overall productivity. This is because it takes time for your mind to orient itself to a problem, even an old one.

The (10+2)*5 formula is simple: Work for ten minutes and break for two minutes. Do this five times consecutively before taking any longer breaks (like lunch or quitting for the day). You’ll find that the reward of a two minute break keeps you on track during those 10 minutes.

3. Productivity Colors

We’ve known for a while that colors impact our brain’s performance and motivation. A study by Science Daily discovered that red and blue impact productivity.

Red increases attention to detail and focus. It’s great for reviewing documents, editing materials, or studying proposals. Blue ignites creativity and inspirational thought. Use it when you’re trying to solve problems or write messaging or software code.

4. Look for Shortcuts

Working more productively doesn’t always mean working harder. In most cases it means finding ways to automate tasks. Do you find yourself completing a regular task that doesn’t take much brainpower? Find a way to automate it. It’s not worth your time.

Most importantly, encourage your team to do the same. Tell them openly that you would rather them spend time on creative problem solving, not paper-pushing. If you don’t already, consider investing in licensed software designed to solve your specific administrative problems.

You should also look for tasks that can eliminated from your workload. You should only be working on projects that provide value to the business. If you find yourself doing low-value work… just stop doing it.

5. Assign a Task Master

This is a lesson taken from software developers who use a system called Scrum to organize team activities. A Scrum team has a leader who organizes a task board. The task board has columns for “upcoming,” “in progress,” “ready for review,” and “complete.” Post-it notes are used for each task and moved through the columns.

The Task Master’s job is to prioritize the tasks, assign them to team members, and manage the task board. This is a useful technique when you have a lot of work to do that can be completed by anyone, or are working under a tight deadline.

6. Ban Gadgets from Desks

A study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers found that the average person checks his/her phone 150 times per day. We don’t think that checking out notifications takes long, but it quickly adds up. Leaving the phone on the desk makes the device almost irresistible, but it’s easy to forget about when it’s put into a drawer.

You can eliminate the distraction by creating a policy that requires phones or tablets to be put away during work hours. This could be a challenging policy to enforce and you might actually struggle retaining talent if you come across as a micromanager, so you’ll have to decide if this is right for your company.

7. Quick Morning Workouts

A few minutes of exercise is proven to boost productivity throughout the entire day. Some companies even direct their employees in a bit of morning calisthenics.

You don’t have to suffer through an hour at the gym early in the morning, but you should implement a daily 10-minute workout. Take a brisk walk or a bike ride, or do some of these quick, no-equipment exercises.

8. 15-Minute Meetings

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This means that if you schedule something for 30 minutes, it will take 30 minutes. If you schedule it for an hour, it will take an hour. This happens often in meetings because people feel compelled to stay to the end, even if the meeting functionally ended early.

“Make meetings more productive or don’t have them,” says productivity coach Ciara Conlon. “Meetings waste an enormous amount of money each year for organizations. Too many people are in attendance that don’t have to be there, and most of them are replying to emails and focusing on something other than the meeting.”

If you find yourself sitting bored in meetings it’s because you don’t need to be there. Our brains can only focus on a single topic for 10 to 15 minutes anyway. After that, you’ll start doodling and looking at your phone. Give meetings a short duration. If you meet its objective early, disband the group.

9. Batch Your Tasks

Batching is a form of time management where you dedicate blocks of time to certain task (or tasks that relate to a theme). It allows you to maximize concentration, creativity, and of course, productivity. It also suppresses fatigue and stress.

You see, we struggle to switch between tasks. “Multi-tasking” is nonsense. We can be more effective if we combine similar tasks that require similar resources so our minds can operate in one state at a time.

“Batching tasks works because you’re maintaining the same frame of mind for all the tasks involved,” says self-improvement expert Steve Scott.

Many people like the Pomodoro Technique, but it doesn’t allow for much variation. Instead of sticking to a hard rule, just plan your day to group similar tasks together. Do all of your financial work at one, all of your software coding at another, all of your phone calls at yet another.

10. Turn One Task into Many

Sometimes a big project can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to keep everything sorted in your head, break down large tasks into manageable pieces. Don’t be afraid to drill deeply. For instance, instead of putting “Complete financial report” on your to-do list, add the following:

  • Gather sales data from Tim
  • Gather retention data from Janice
  • Pull online purchase data from dashboard
  • Find report from last month
  • Format financial report
  • Get sales team comments on report
  • Send report to Mike

Listing projects like this may seem like more tasks, but they’re far simpler because each item is pretty basic. There’s little thinking required. Plus, you have a high level view of the project so you can get multiple pieces moving, like requests for more information (which may take time).

Optimize your productivity by using one of these productivity models.

Optimizing Your Team

Productivity is a fickle thing. What one person does to stay productive might distract another person. People are different, so it’s your job as a manager to uncover what makes your team productive and steer them in that direction.

Furthermore, you can’t be productive working out of someone’s basement or meeting in coffee shops. You need office space that’s easy to set up and move into. Search for offices today.

Coworking Spaces: The Way of the Future

Coworking is becoming a popular office environment all over the country. What is it, and is it right for you?

If you’re a remote worker, working out of your spare bedroom or basement can be isolating. Even small teams who meet in someone’s dining room or at the coffee shop can feel separated from the rest of the workforce. Over time, isolation can lead to fatigue and poor productivity.

Furthermore, working in environments that aren’t made for work can be distracting. You’re exposed to stimuli that isn’t conducive to productivity. People in the coffee shop are loud. There aren’t any seats at the library. Or maybe your spouse wonders why you couldn’t do a load of laundry since “you’re home all day.”

If you’re one of those people who struggle working from home or in public places, you aren’t alone. Lifestyles are changing, and many people are now capable of working away from the traditional office setting (especially the millennial generation).

Make sure your coworking space has everything you need with this checklist!

What is coworking?

Image: Zona Coworking / Flickr
Image: Zona Coworking / Flickr

Coworking is based on the idea that working alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. You can still work in an environment designed for work. “Coworking is still an emerging industry and, while many people are now familiar with the term, it’s sometimes hard to explain,” says Diana McLaren of New Worker Magazine.

A coworking space is an office environment with all of the basic work amenities. There are desks, chairs, proper lighting, and access to Wi-Fi and power. In the best coworking spaces, you’ll find tables for small and large groups, quiet spaces for concentration, free snacks and coffee, and a clean, trendy design that clients can respect.

The most luxurious coworking spaces (and the most expensive) offer some incredible features that might be worth the money. Green Desk offers bike storage and a mail service. CoCo has a room filled with game consoles, dart boards and a foosball table. Hera Hub gives you access to paid staff who will work for you.

You’ll find all sorts of people using coworking spaces. Freelancers and solopreneurs are the most common type, but there are plenty of teams who enjoy the simplicity and flexibility. It’s common for solo workers to meet one another, collaborate, and even do business together in a coworking space. For some people, it’s a fantastic networking tactic.

Typically, coworking spaces charge by the seat. You can buy access on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Permanent desk spaces (where you have an assigned spot and can leave your stuff each day) cost about $387/month on average. Flexible spaces (where you find your own seat wherever you can) cost about $195/month on average. If a coworking space has a large conference room for use, there may be a reservation fee. Most spaces offer special rates for teams.

While there’s nothing preventing large teams from using coworking space, at a certain point (usually around six or seven full time team members), it may be smarter to rent a dedicated office space. In some coworking spaces, seats and desks are first-come-first-serve. If a large team is using a popular coworking space, finding enough adjacent seating can be difficult, which makes collaboration tough.

You can rent adjacent desks in a permanent-desk coworking space, but those cost more. Fortunately, bigger teams can get the same flexibility in a turnkey office space.

What’s the future of coworking?

Deskmag’s 2016 Coworking Forecast found the coworking trend will continue. They discovered that 62% of coworking space owners want to expand their spaces, and one out of three are looking to open another. 80% of coworking space members plan to stay where they are for another year and that overall satisfaction with the model is rising.

According to the Small Business Administration, there are 28 million small businesses in the United States, which account for 54% of all sales. A majority of people work for small businesses. Even though “corporate America” has been downsizing and outsourcing outside the country for years, the small business market has been growing. The number of startups have increased and their failure rate has declined.

This type of environment is perfect for the shared work model, which is why it’s becoming a permanent part of the American workstyle. Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere. Some are big players, like WeWork, which is valued at $16 billion.

“Coworking represents less than 1 percent of the world’s office space. But that tiny percentage, which represents nearly 11,000 shared workspaces exist around the globe, is certain to grow, according to many experts,” says Patrick Sisson on Curbed.

As workers divide into smaller, more flexible companies, they’ll need amenities that allow them to enjoy the benefits of a large business (having a trendy, comfortable work environment) without the cost.

Why work in a coworking space?

benefits-coworking

The benefits of coworking spaces extend beyond costs. There’s a good chance a coworking environment is right for you and your team.

1. Coworking exposes you to more people

Unlike traditional offices, coworkers work for a range of companies in different industries. There’s no direct competition between them. There are no internal office politics to deal with. Don’t like someone? Stop talking to them. There’s no pressure to behave a certain way.

You’ll also work near people with varying skillsets. There’s likely a programmer, a writer, and an executive somewhere in the room. Over time, you’ll learn about how your “coworkers” are adding value to the world, and you’ll be able to lean on each other for help.

2. Coworkers have more autonomy

Coworking spaces are usually available outside normal businesses hours. Early birds and night owls can work in a professional setting at their preferred time. They can choose to work in quiet spaces for focus, or communal spaces for collaboration and interaction. Coworkers are the type of people who prefer autonomous lifestyles, so a working environment that supports that is useful.

3. Coworking adds structure to liquid schedules

Autonomy is beneficial to the modern worker, but so is a little bit of structure. Coworking puts you in an environment where work is expected. Even though comforts are available, it’s still a working space that keeps you motivated.

A coworking office is a far more productive environment than a living room couch or a coffee shop. Plus there’s a community of people to silently judge you if you decide to blow off the day and play video games at your desk.

4. Coworking creates a community

Even though the members of a coworking space aren’t employed together, there is still a sense of community. For the most part, coworkers have a lot in common: They work for small or solo businesses, they are successful enough to afford rent, and they’re driven to work in a professional environment that limits distractions and spurs productivity. Socializing isn’t forced, but it’s available.

Furthermore, each coworking space has its own vibe and feel. Some are trendy, designed for young, tech-savvy and creative people. Some are modern and stark, designed for corporate folk. Others are prim and classic, designed for lawyers and other professionals. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Download this free checklist: Does Coworking Space Have Everything You Need?

So is coworking right for you?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. If you have a large team, then probably not. You need a dedicated space so everyone can be together. But if you’re alone or working with two or three other people, coworking might be a good arrangement.

If you’d like to look into coworking spaces for yourself and/or your team, contact us.

What Do Millennials Want in Office Space?

Now that millennials have entered the workforce, we should understand their preferences to create productive office environments that attract talent.

A millennial is anyone born between 1982 and 2000. When people read those dates, they are always shocked. There’s usually someone who says “I didn’t realize I was a millennial.”

Millennials account for 25% of the American population. They are the largest generation in the workforce, bigger than the Baby Boomers by almost 10 million. Even though millennials are one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse generations, they’ll be pushing some broad trends into their work environments.

It’s no surprise that companies go out of their way to seduce talented people. If you’re smart, you’ll find out what your ideal employee wants and build an office environment that suits them.

That’s a critical strategy for hiring millennial employees, who change jobs every one to four years. According to State Street Global Advisors, 44% of millennials plan to leave their current position in the next two years, which means keeping them around is harder than previous generations.

You don’t need orange slides that wind between floors or treehouse offices to attract and retain millennials, but you should make these concessions.

Before you hire millennials, make sure you understand these common myths.

The end of the 9 to 5

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A Bentley University study found that most millennials prefer a flexible work schedule. 77% say that open-ended work hours would make them more productive. They prioritize work/life balance over work itself, and want to be available for life experiences.

The same study found that 80% of millennials are willing to check work messages and contribute to company goals well after work hours. Interestingly, they integrate their job functions into their life, so that responding to a work email at a restaurant or taking a quick phone call on Sunday doesn’t feel like an interruption, so long as personal interruptions are permitted during work hours.

How does this preference affect your office space? To court millennials, you should provide an accessible office. Give them access during nontraditional work hours, even if it means giving everyone a key. Let them use their own tools (laptops and phones) so work is always available. Most importantly, stop thinking of an empty chair as poor work ethic. Instead, measure results.

Your tech should be cutting edge

Millennials were born into technology. The oldest millennials have been using cell phones since they were in high school. The youngest had smart phones in elementary school. They work, socialize, and live their lives through technology.

Art Papas, CEO of Bullhorn, Inc., says it perfectly: “Millennials don’t look at technology as an extra. They expect to be able to use it in all aspects of their lives, including at home, in the community, and on the job.”

Millennials look for ways to make their jobs easier and faster. They want the flexibility that can only be achieved with modern technology. Don’t burden them with ancient computers. Be prepared to pay for that premium software tool. That said, many millennials are comfortable with “bring your own device” policies because it gives them freedom to work wherever and whenever they please (which could save you money).

Furthermore, give your younger, computer literate team members the freedom to implement and design their own tools. If you give them the tools you need, they will reward you with productivity.

Open office layouts aren’t what they seem

Image source: K2 Space / Flickr
Image source: K2 Space / Flickr

For years now, there has been a push for giant, open floor plans where everyone works in the same room. The idea is that millennials value communication and collaboration, so companies have literally attempted to break down barriers between employees. In fact, research shows that newer offices have been deliberately designed to represent the open spaces of college work/study environments. Fewer walls mean more talking, right?

Sure, but that’s not always a good thing. Open spaces create a pressure to look busy. When a CEO walks into the room, everyone wants to be at their desk, seemingly at work, even if collaboration (which is good work in the context of an open space) is better performed at the water cooler.

Furthermore, open offices are distracting. An employee’s productivity and creativity are squashed when everyone nearby can hear their conversations. This is especially important for salesmen or customer service representatives who spend a majority of their day on the phone.

Laura Munoz, saleswomen at Groupon, told Monster, “I loved feeling part of that community but as an inside sales rep I hated having people listen to all of my conversations. It was to an extent nice to pick up sales tips from listening to others, but it really made me act differently—either carefree or totally nervous. And of course, there was the occasional private conversation that you wish you didn’t hear.”

Nevertheless, open offices do create a sense of community that translates into job satisfaction. So how do you foster that community without damaging productivity? For small companies, the solution is to find out what your employees want and provide that layout.

Larger companies see success by offering a concept called “hoteling.” The idea is to provide different types of work environments to staff and let them work wherever they please. This means having an open workspace for collaboration and impromptu meetings, as well as quiet, reserved space for concentration. Technology being what it is means people can easily relocate workspace depending on their needs.

Sprinkle in some amenities

office-amenities

Happy employees are productive employees. (There’s really no need to back that up with science, but here it is anyway.) If you smooth out their frustrations, ease their fears, and solve their problems, you’ll create a workforce that gets more done and stays with your company for the long haul.

Some of the biggest companies have made tremendous investments into employee incentives, like personal concierge services, free catered food at all hours, free childcare, on-site gyms, and free laundry service. But those are likely out of your budget.

Still, you can easily improve your employee’s happiness and job satisfaction without giving them raises. Figure out what would make their lives easier that can be solved within your budget.

Does your team of five drink coffee throughout the day? Free coffee for a small team would only cost a few hundred dollars per year, but it would make your team grateful and productive. No late arrivals because the coffee line was long. No mid-day jaunts to the convenience store.

Does your staff like to educate themselves continually? You could reimburse a portion of their tuition or send them to industry conferences. Do they take fitness seriously? Pay for nearby gym memberships (you could probably get a group rate!).

Most importantly, a little perk for your employees makes your company known. You can be the business that lets employees bring their dogs to work, or the office with bagels every morning. Word will spread that will help you attract larger pools of job applicants.

Download our guide: Myths You Need to Stop Believing About Millennial Employees

A final word

I’ve done a lot of generalizing in this article about a large group of people, but at the end of the day, you should create an office environment (and a business, for that matter) that makes your company the most successful.

Maybe your millennials need beer kegs, a ping pong table, and Spotify subscriptions. Maybe they want traditional cubicles and taupe-colored walls. The only way to find out what makes them productive is to ask. Use that data to create a work environment that maximizes your chance for success.

Ready to find a new office? Find your next office environment today.

How to Set Your Employees Up for Success in Your New Offices

Successful employees are happy and productive. Make sure everyone stays successful in your new office by following these tips.

It’s no secret that office space is a significant business expense. Signing that rental agreement is an exciting new stage for your company, but it’s also a big commitment.

Think of your new office like an investment. It should increase your revenue by making your team more productive, giving you a place to meet with clients, and allowing you to expand your operations.

But in order to protect that investment, you have to do everything you can to ensure a good return. That means setting you and your employees up for success in your new environment.

What does success mean? For one, you want your team to like their jobs.

The University of Warwick found that happy employees are 12% more productive. The research team said: “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”

There’s plenty more science behind that, too. Shawn Achor, a Harvard psychologist, found that our brains actually work better when we’re generally happy. Happiness, he asserts, isn’t innate. It can be managed. “It’s a cultural myth that we cannot change our happiness.”

Furthermore, productivity can be influenced outside of happiness, as well. A few changes to work schedules, environment, and even lighting can fan the flames of productivity without pushing workers like a slave driver.

Here are some ways you can make your team successful in the new office.

Haven’t rented space yet? Ask your team these questions beforehand to make everyone successful.

1. Give them whatever information they need

give-employees-information

Make your employees’ transition comfortable by supplying them with information about your new office environment.

Pick up some maps or whatever literature the town/city provides on public transportation. They’ll need bus routes, subway stations, train stations, pricing, etc. If there are any nearby parking lots or garages, pick up flyers with their rates and hours.

(Extra tip: Look into negotiated parking or public transit rates for your business. Some places offer reduced rates if you’re buying bulk. Your team might appreciate the savings.)

You should also grab menus from local restaurants or take out places. Yes, your team can easily Google for location food spots, but this will make them feel like you care about easing their transition.

Furthermore, make them aware of any company policies that change or come into effect because of the new office. For instance, you might implement a dress code or more structured working hours. Put all of these changes in writing for later reference.

2. Be flexible with their schedules

Give your team a little leeway with their work schedules once you move into your new office. If this is your first office, they’ll be adjusting to office life after a period of time working from home. If this isn’t your first office, they’ll be adjusting to the new commute. They’ll be learning the new route, traffic patterns, and when to leave the house.

If possible, use the transition as a time to experiment with not worrying about work hours at all or getting rid of the eight hour work day. See if you can depend on your team to work a fair day, even if it’s not exactly nine to five. You might be surprised that people appreciate the latitude and try not to overstep.

Depending on how much you trust your team, you might also give them total access to the unit. Give everyone a key so they can come and go as they please. If someone wants to work late and start late the next morning, give them that option. If you treat people like professionals, they’ll usually respond in kind.

3. Schedule uninterrupted work time

If your employees are used to working in a home environment, they had all the peace and quiet they would ever need. They could turn down their phone, ignore their emails, and log out of Slack chat any time they needed to get something finished.

In an office, we lose that luxury. There’s ambient noise, other people typing, and it’s easy to interrupt each other.

Designate a portion of the day for uninterrupted, solitary work. This is called time-blocking. Usually this is best for early hours when the work day starts. That’s when creativity and productivity are at their highest.

Time blocking is an excellent way to focus on a task without becoming distracted. When we’re interrupted for other things, we have to reorient ourselves back to the project at hand. This constant reorientation costs time and erodes the quality of the work. It’s also stressful.

Gary Keller, author of The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, blocks off time each day to address his top priority for the year. You could encourage your team to do this by identifying the one thing you want them to do best and giving them uninterrupted time each day to work on it.

During this blocked off time period, team members have the right to work quietly without being interrupted. It doesn’t mean they have to, however. If two people decide to work together or don’t need the quiet block that day, they can work as they please. The key is to give everyone the opportunity so they can really push their own productivity.

4. Make the environment pleasant

You may have worked amidst an untidy mess in your spare bedroom, but that won’t work in a proper office.

Your employees expect a professional environment. They don’t want to be crowded by excess furniture, squint their eyes all day due to poor light, or pinch their noses against odors. It’s your job to create an office environment that’s comfortable and encourages productivity.

Working in a pleasant environment can have a tremendous impact on workers’ performance. A relaxing atmosphere with a few extra amenities may not seem cost-effective, but they can go a long way to influence the attitude of your team.

Lighting is extremely important. Poor lighting can cause eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, and overall poor productivity. Natural lighting is best, but if that’s not an option use lights with adjustable filters.

Finally, give your employees options in regards to their furniture. In turnkey spaces, you’re usually renting the space with basic furniture, but customize whatever you can for comfort and ergonomics. Give your team their preferred chairs, computer monitors, and other tools (wherever possible).

5. Ask your employees what they want

Image: David Wall/FlickrM
Image: David Wall/FlickrM

The best way to learn how you can support your employees is to ask them directly. Find out what they need, what they like, and what would make them more successful on the job. Do they need a special tool or software? Noise-canceling headphones? Flexibility with a certain policy?

Getting honest feedback isn’t easy, though. No one wants to complain to the boss and disrupt the work environment.

Skip the “anonymous” suggestion boxes. If you have a small team, it’s pretty clear who’s making the suggestions. Plus they foster an office culture where suggestions can only be made anonymously due to fear of retribution.

Instead, encourage your team to have honest conversations with you about how the business environment can be made better. Don’t expect your employees to come to you with complaints or new ideas; ask insightful questions regularly.

To rent the perfect office space, survey your team with this list of questions.

Final thoughts

Any time you make a substantial change, there will be an adjustment period. Don’t expect you and your team to become perfectly comfortable in your new office environment right away. Change takes time.

For instance, if your employees are late every day for the first two weeks, chalk it up new routes and traffic, not sudden laziness. Over time, everyone will settle into their new environment, and happiness and productivity will soar.

If you haven’t found your new office yet, start your search today.

Designing a Productive Office Environment

Every business cares about productivity, especially growing ones. Learn how to design an office layout that helps your team work better and faster.

Your office is more than the place you do business. It’s the heart of your company. If the heart doesn’t pump energy to the rest of the body (you and your team), your work will suffer.

Productivity is on everyone’s mind these days. How do we get more done in less time? How do you improve the quality of your work without disrupting the balance of your lives?

You don’t need to hire an expensive office designer to create a productive work space. Nor do you need pricey office perks like ping-pong tables, nap pods, or beer fridges. For small, growing businesses, those aren’t options anyway.

In a turnkey office space, you don’t have the luxury of redesigning your space. Want to blow down that wall? A generous property owner may give you that freedom, but don’t count on it. They typically want to preserve the space so it’s easy to rent in the future.

But that doesn’t mean you can neglect office design. There’s overwhelming evidence that a carefully designed office can increase employee well-being, happiness, and productivity. You just need to make some basic changes.

Use this easy checklist to create your own productive office space.

Comfortable lighting

productive-office-lighting

Lighting is an often overlooked office feature. Poor or painful lighting can cause fatigue, headaches, and eyestrain. Working in poor lighting conditions over long periods of time can actually cause depression.

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consistent light exposure during the day makes workers sleep longer and better at night, feel inclined to participate in physical activities, and report a better quality of life.

Dr. Ivy Cheung, co-author of that study, told CNN that “light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body.” It improves mood, communication, focus, and even regulates physiological functions, like blood pressure and heart rate.

It’s a simple formula: Healthy light = healthy people = better work.

Natural light is the best lighting for work, so for best results, open the blinds or use daylight color balanced CFL bulbs. They’re naturally energizing. Moods and productivity will improve.

Ergonomics and appearance

A person can’t be productive if their back hurts, their chair is too low, or if any of their equipment creates discomfort. Just using a computer can be painful, says OrthoInfo: “Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage.”

Supply your team with equipment that facilitates comfort for your specific working environment. For example, if your team spends hours sitting idly, you need ergonomic chairs for maximum comfort and monitors positioned parallel to the worker’s neck. But if your team is frequently moving, opt for standing desks (or desks that convert to different positions) for easy access and less body strain.

Encourage your team to take opportunities to adjust their bodies depending on their own needs. Let them stretch their legs with a short walk. If it’s all the same, consider taking a walk during meetings. Or, provide alternate types of seating based on their preferences.

Appearance is important if you regularly bring clients into your office. For instance, attorney clients expect large, heavy desks and shelves with legal books. Even if these objects aren’t necessary for a modern team, they build a perception your clients expect.

The right technology

office-technology

It doesn’t matter how positive you are, how talented of a leader you are, or how diligently your team works if you don’t have the right tools. Technology is key to building a competitive business.

This infographic from Intuit explains how much of an impact technology has on productivity.

  • Dual monitors can increase productivity from 9% to 50%.
  • Laptops instead of desktops improve productivity by 100 hours/year.
  • 69% of IT professionals say cloud computing improved their productivity.

I can’t tell you what the “right technology” means for your business. That would depend on what you do. But I recommend using newer devices, modern tools (like shared Google Docs over Word), and a strong Internet connection.

De-clutter-ize

According to Princeton University, “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that clutter in your workspace negatively affects your ability to process information and stay focused.

The best way to reduce clutter is to digitize everything. Maintain all records electronically – just make sure to regularly back up your drives. Even calendars and notes should be replaced by apps so they aren’t lost, damaged, or misplaced, and can be shared.

Create a standard file naming convention across your company so anyone can find files on anyone’s computer or shared folders.

Anything paper that must remain should be clearly labeled and filed in a drawer or cabinet so it’s out of the way. Anything that doesn’t have immediate use or anticipated use should be archived.
Insist on a clean desk policy. Some employees may resist, but the increase in productivity will soon be apparent.

Spatial arrangement

office-spatial-arrangemet

Often, offices are furnished quickly without much thought to the actual space. The movers drop a table against a wall and it stays there. You can enhance the productivity of your team by positioning items and equipment where they make sense.

For example, it doesn’t make sense to position Joe and Sue’s desk away from one another when they have to collaborate throughout the day. Every time they need to speak, they have to swivel around. It may take only a second, but over the day (and year), those wasted moments add up. Every unnecessary action costs something. Plus, they’ll be less inclined to speak to one another because it means repositioning and breaking from their current task. Over time, this handicaps your teams overall productivity. And that’s just one example of a tiny flaw that can do damage to your business.

And what about Eric the receptionist? He uses the copier several times an hour, but it’s on the other end of the office. Each time he needs it, he intrudes on other people’s workspace. It would make more sense to put it right near his desk.

Even if you have a simple turnkey space, you don’t have to stick to the original arrangement. Get creative with the furniture. Should everyone face each other? Should desk space be sacrificed for a conference table? Who should be near the door? There are countless permutations.

Temperature

A study by Careerbuilder found that working in an office that’s too hot or too cold affects productivity. Workers are easily distracted, prone to mistakes, and more concerned about alleviating discomfort than producing quality work.

What’s the right temperature? Software Advice conducted a study of office workers. They found that 50% of people are dissatisfied with the temperature in their workspace. Medium temperature preferences for men are about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas women prefer 72 degrees.

However, the correct temperature is the one your employees prefer. The only way to find out what they like is to ask them. Just make sure to match your required office attire to the temperature so employees can be dressed properly.

Setup a productive office environment of your own with our free checklist!

Productivity and simplicity

The single best way to be productive with life and business is to simplify what’s on your plate. Remove any tasks that aren’t necessary to burn through your to-do list.

The biggest advantage of a turnkey office space is how hands-off you can be. Instead of wasting your time dealing with contract negotiations, facilities maintenance, billing, and construction, you can write your rent check on the first of the month and let someone else worry about the details.

If you’re ready to find your next office, start your search here.

How Physical Office Space Can Grow Your Business

Physical office space isn’t just a sign that your business is growing. It can actually help you grow in several ways.

The mark of a business owner and entrepreneur is hours spent every day obsessing over the growth of your business.

There are plenty of ways to do that. More sales, obviously. Reduce costs, for sure. You might change your marketing message to attract new customers, move into a new vertical to capture a certain type of business, or develop a strategic partnership with another company. Hey, you might even pivot to a completely new industry! Those are all great, measurable tactics.

But it’s important to consider the unmeasurables: the little improvements to your business that can’t be quantified, but have an undeniable effect on your productivity and success.

Many businesses categorize office space as an expense. Well, as far as your accountant is concerned, an office is an expense, but you shouldn’t look at it that way from a strategic point of view.

Consider office space an investment. It’s not just a sign of growth. It can also be a cause.

Download our free resource: Why You Need a Physical Place for Your Clients and Customers to Visit

Interaction and Collaboration are Easier in Person

office-space-collaboration

We live in a world where communication is easy. You probably rely on tools like email, Slack, Skype or Trello to work with your team. There’s no doubt they give businesses plenty of flexibility. You can hire talent in another country and stay productive during travel or inclement weather.

But online tools aren’t perfect. There’s always something missing: The human element.
Collaborating with your team is far easier when everyone is in the same room. A majority of information is lost when we are forced to communicate through text or voice-only.

In 1971, psychologist Albert Mehrabian concluded that a significant component of all communication is nonverbal – especially pertaining to emotions. Mehrabian estimated that verbal communication only accounts for 7% of the information we’re trying to share when we communicate our feelings. Trying to pass emotion through your Slack channel is virtually impossible, no matter how adept you are with emojis. 🙂

“The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that’s only felt in face-to-face conversations,” says Mina Chang, CEO of humanitarian group Linking the World International. A lack of in-person communication can be damaging, she says, as team members “miss out on the reasoning behind decisions, making them less likely to engage. What’s more, it’s easier for them to feel less accountable. When making any kind of request, the probability of getting your desired answer is greater when you have a face-to-face meeting.”

According to a Cisco report, business leaders believe that in-person collaboration resolves conflicts (work and personal) and generates relationships for long-term success. Executives say that face-to-face meetings are important for project kick-offs, strategy sessions, coaching, crisis management, and contract agreements. (Check out this information for more on the study: The Power of In-Person.)

There’s no argument that the most effective teams are made of people who know each other well; people who spend a lot of time with one another. You and your team need to be emotionally invested in your company’s mission. That type of dedication requires solid relationships that just won’t form on Skype or Google Hangouts.

Plus, in-person communication is faster. Email and chat isn’t truly instant, and they’re both easy to ignore. A question across the table or check-in at the watercooler will keep your business moving.

Office Space Makes You Seem “Bigger”

office-makes-company-bigger

Perception is everything, right? Your clients and customers want to partner with a business, not one guy working out of his spare bedroom or a remote team that only meets monthly at a Starbucks.

Every business tells a few white lies to make the company seem bigger than it really is. You probably referred to your company as “we” and “the team” when you were still a solo founder. Or maybe you excused yourself for “a big meeting” when there was no such item on your schedule. A lot of small companies even pay for a post office box just so mail isn’t sent to someone’s home address.

There is a percentage of customers who are comforted by the perception of size. Their anxiety is alleviated by the success of their partners. They want somewhere to visit. They want to see your name on something – a sign, a door, anything!

B2B strategy and marketing consultant Lisa Shepherd says, “Risk-averse buyers regard size and an established market presence as bywords for credibility and reliability.”

An office makes your clients feel stable, like they have put their trust in the right place. A business who has gone through the trouble of setting up their own place in the world is less likely to run away with their money. You could have millions of dollars in the bank and a library of intellectual property, but some people just won’t do business with you unless you have an office.

Furthermore, office space improves your employees’ perception of the company. An office is grounded. It makes the business tangible. They can say “Here is where I work.” When they step into their new office space for the first time, they’ll have a real understanding of how well the business is growing and a desire to keep themselves a part of it.

If you’re looking for more ways to make your small business seem bigger, check out Secret Entourage’s list: 50 Tips To Make Your Small Business Look Bigger.

Networking is No Joke

office-networking

Have you ever wondered why similar businesses group together? Why is Silicon Valley a tech haven? Why do financial firms clamor for space on Wall Street?

It’s because we prefer to do business with people we know. We’ll even pay a premium to give business to our friends or someone proven.

John Swanciger, CEO of Manta (a small business advocate organization), says “New and aspiring business owners need to network to gather as much information about prospects, competitors and the industries they are targeting in order to make the strategic decisions that will set them up for success.”

Conferences and trade shows only take you so far. If you want to really meet the right people, you need to plant yourself in the midst of complementary businesses.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you should move to the hotspot in your industry. That might be many states away and unfeasible. However, many parts of the country have business districts where you’ll find like-minded entrepreneurs who also want to grow their business.

You may not be within driving distance of your industry’s titans, but maybe the accountant down the hall will trade advice for lunch. Maybe you’ll hire the marketing agency upstairs, or merge with the development firm across the street. Introduce yourself in the area, make friends, and always steer the conversation towards what you do.

The possibilities are endless, you just need to meet people. You can’t do that from your home office.

Oh, but make sure you investigate the area well when you view potential office environments. Find out who works nearby and how they might help you in the future.

Download our free resource to learn why you need a physical location for your clients and customers.

Over to You

Like I said before, office space boosts the unmeasurables. You can’t drop them into an equation, but an office makes your business credible, reliable and successful. Those feelings will resonate with other people (even subconsciously) to empower your business.

So what’s holding you back? Start your office space search today.

4 Things to Look for When Viewing Potential Office Space

When you start viewing office spaces for your business, make sure to keep these four important points in mind.

Phone conversations with the property owner, pictures, or even video can’t give you a true appreciation of the unit. You need to stand in the potential space to understand its size, smell, and feeling.

During your office search, there’s a good chance you’ll make the same mistake many small businesses make: You’ll overestimate your needs. (You might make some other mistakes too.)

Many people think an employee needs far more work space than they actually do. Once you stand inside a unit, however, you’ll probably say “Wow, this is more space than we need.” That’s not something you can learn from a photograph.

(Tenant Advisors has a handy calculator to help you discover how much space you need.)

But one viewing isn’t enough. You have to view multiple properties before you can confidently rent one. This is especially important for businesses who have never rented space in the past. There’s no way to know what’s available or what you want without touring around a bit.

A viewing can be an exciting moment for you. You’ll feel like your business is growing right before your eyes. Don’t become overwhelmed with excitement and forget to thoroughly investigate the potential space. Enjoy the hype in the car ride, but when you step into the unit, it’s time to focus.

As you view office environments, make sure to carefully consider these factors.

Make sure to bring our office viewing checklist with you to each walkthrough so you don’t forget anything!

1. Common Areas

office-space-common-areas

It’s important to consider hallways, walkways, patios, courtyards, rooftops, lobbies, and other common areas of a potential office. You can use them as a meter to determine how well the property owner cares for the individual units.

Are the common areas clean and free of clutter or debris? Are there any ongoing projects that look like they’ve been in-progress for a while? Are there any easy-to-fix blemishes (like scuffs or dents in the walls, worn carpeting, or broken fixtures) that haven’t been repaired?

The office environment may have shared spaces that are included in your rent as well. For instance, you might have rights to use the conference room on your floor, but so does everyone else. There’s likely a shared bathroom. In some cases, you might share a receptionist with several units. (He/she will answer your phones in your name and transfer calls accordingly.)

Make sure these spaces are appropriate for your business. For example, an accessible conference room may sound useful, but if your three-person team can easily meet within your unit, is it worth paying extra for the space?

What about the other units on the floor? If the conference room is shared between twenty businesses, how often will you get to use it? If there’s a reserve schedule for shared spaces, examine it briefly to see how often it’s used.

2. Infrastructure

office-space-infrastucture

The beauty of a turnkey space is that you can start working on the first day of your lease. The leases are simple, written in plain language, and the units often come with their own amenities.

Most businesses need a reliable Internet connection (and you’re probably one of them). Don’t be satisfied with the property owner’s opinion here. If a connection is important to you, ask the other tenants about it. If you really rely on your connection, ask a tenant if you can plug in for a few minutes and test your most taxing task.

Second, test your cellular service in the building. Even if you can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, you’ll still want the ability to make phone calls.

If having mail delivered is important to you, you’ll want to make sure the postal service delivers to the building. Or will you have to rent a PO Box across town?

3. Space

turnkey-office-space

Source: BAKOKO/Flickr

I don’t recommend stressing over the square footage of a potential unit. The exact footage is important if you have a lot of employees or bulky equipment, but if your business is just a few people and their computers you can get all the information you need by standing in the space.

Keep in mind that your business may grow. You don’t want to move in a year or have to break your lease because your team expanded suddenly. Think ahead: Will you be hiring more people soon? If so, does the unit make room for them?

Consider the acoustics. Is there a lot of ambient noise that would disrupt your work? Does sound echo within the unit? Can you hear traffic, other businesses, or machinery?

Finally, make sure you’re happy with the layout. Smaller turnkey spaces can have interesting layouts because a property owner is attempting to use every nook and cranny in his building (but most are laid out reasonably). Do you need an open plan or office separation? HubSpot has a great guide on determining the right layout for your team.

Don’t be afraid to consider the style of the unit. With a turnkey space, you don’t have a lot of leeway to customize the unit (plus wall art and new carpeting are unnecessary expenses for growing businesses). Do you enjoy sitting in it? Does it make you feel productive? Will you be comfortable bringing clients or customers in? Would you be proud to show pictures of your office on social media?

4. Location

office-location

It’s important to investigate the area before or after your viewing. Take a walk or drive around the neighborhood to get a feel for where you might be working.

What’s nearby? Are there places to eat lunch, or maybe a nice restaurant to take clients/customers? Everyone has basic needs, so check for a supermarket or convenience store if you need a stack of napkins or tin of coffee. Your employees would love it if their new office came with a nearby bank, pharmacy, post office, or dry cleaners.

Is the neighborhood trendy, casual, family, or business-orientated? Will the scene hurt or help your business in anyway? For instance, a disruptive startup would benefit from a trendy entrepreneur scene, but not from an old town center.

Is there any construction in the area? Look for crews breaking ground on big projects. You might prefer a quiet setting, but it won’t be if a mall or shopping center is built nearby. (If you’re especially concerned about this, big projects are pretty easy to look up online.)

Finally, check the commute situation. Is there enough space for your entire team (and future team)? If you rely on public transportation, is it adjacent to any hubs? If you plan to have clients or customers stop by, make sure directions to the location are easy to explain.

(Ideally you should have considered the length of the commute for you and your employees before you arranged the viewing. If you didn’t, track the time it takes to arrive at the property from your home. Don’t forget to take into account traffic conditions.)

Don’t miss anything by keeping our handy checklist nearby when you view potential office units.

Making a Decision

Try to make a calculating, objective decision, but don’t rent any space that doesn’t feel right. Tenants rarely learn to love their office space. If you aren’t happy with what you see at the viewing, you won’t be happy in a few months or a year.

That said, if you do like the unit you’ve viewed, don’t sit on the decision too long. Turnkey spaces are rarely held for tenants. The property owner will still show it to other people, even if you verbally express interest. Sign the paperwork and get back to growing your business.
If you’re ready to find your next office, start your search here.

12 Common Office Leasing Mistakes You Should Avoid

Renting office space doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are the most common office renting mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Renting office space is an exciting time for your business, but it’s also one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make. After payroll, it’s likely to be your largest expense. You owe it to yourself to be as educated as possible to avoid a bad deal.

If this is your first time renting office space, you’re bound to make some type of error. That’s part of the learning process. But it’s best to insulate yourself from costly mistakes as much as possible so you don’t handicap your company’s growth.

Below you’ll find the most common mistakes businesses make when they rent office space and how you can avoid them.

Is this your first time renting office space? Download our free guide that explains the process step by step.

1. Rushing in Without a Plan

renting-office-space-without-plan

Before you make the jump to your own office you need to have a plan. Sit down with your key employees and figure out what your business needs in terms of office space. Ask yourself some questions.

  • How much room do you need?
  • What amenities do you need?
  • Do you require a specific layout (like open space or separate offices)?
  • Does it need to accommodate clients, customers or equipment?
  • Will you be bringing in your own furniture or do you require furnishings?
  • Do you know what you can afford to spend?
  • Which areas do you prefer?
  • Does parking or security matter?

Companies who rush through the process and don’t take the time to consider their needs objectively regret it later on.

2. Failing to Read the Rental Agreement

It’s amazing how many people don’t read the things they sign. They usually figure they don’t need to because they’ve already spoken with the landlord/property manager/realtor. Sometimes they assume they don’t wouldn’t understand the terms anyway.

“While a lease allows tenants to stake their claim on a particular space, it can also end up trapping them in an environment that doesn’t live up to expectations,” says Ron Bockstahler of Amata Office Solutions, a real estate provider of massive corporate offices. It’s important to read the lease so you don’t get trapped in something unsuitable. If something is incorrect, you could be obligated to honor what you signed.

We recommend turnkey office spaces to our clients because they come with short, easy to understand agreements without hundreds of clauses.

3. Renting an Unseen Unit

Busy people are often tempted to agree to rent a unit without seeing it first. This is always a mistake. Even if you are given pictures, you can’t be sure what you’re renting until you actually stand in the space.

Clever photography and well-crafted ad copy can be deceiving and won’t give you an idea of the area or any odors or noise. Plus, can you visualize what 1000, 1500 or 2000 square feet of space looks like?

If a property owner isn’t willing to let you into a unit before signing an agreement or taking some money, the opportunity is most definitely a scam. Immediately stop speaking to the scammer.

4. Not Consulting Your Employees

not-consulting-employees

It’s best to have a discussion with your employees before you rent a particular space. Find out if anyone has any problems with the unit, the commute, the parking, or the neighborhood. You can’t please everyone, but it’s smart to ask their opinions in case there’s a problem you didn’t foresee.

5. Not Documenting the Unit’s Condition

At the end of your lease, you’ll be billed for any damages or alterations you caused. Sometimes tenants get accidentally charged for things that were already there.

It’s a smart idea to take photos or video of the unit during your walkthrough or just before you sign your agreement. Even if the landlord has photos, there’s no telling if they’re accurate or unaltered, so obtain your own. Look for dents or chips in the wall, carpet stains, window cracks, or anything that doesn’t work properly.

Send your photos to the landlord immediately so you have dated communication. Explain that you don’t mind the imperfections, but you’re speaking up so you don’t get charged at the end of the term.

6. Forgetting Renters Insurance

The owner of the building will have insurance on the property, but not your belongings. If you have any property or equipment you wouldn’t want to lose (like computers or electronic devices), I strongly recommend buying renters insurance. It only costs a few hundred dollars for the year, yet (shockingly) only 37% of renters buy it, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

7. Only Viewing One Property

If you rent the first property you see, you’re setting yourself up for a bad experience. This is especially true if you’ve never rented office space before. You need to see multiple units to get a grasp of what you like and don’t like. For instance, you may not know you want lots of natural light until you see a unit with big windows.

Furthermore, viewing multiple properties gives you leverage with the property owners. You get to say something like “I’m seeing five spaces today. I’ll let you know what I decide.” Language like that tells the property owner that he has to compete with other units.

8. Failing to Benchmark Similar Properties

Before you buy anything, you should make sure you’re paying a fair price. Office space is no exception.

The best way to do this is to arrange appointments to view multiple properties and spend a few minutes glancing through ads. Compare units with similar square footage and amenities to the one you like. Is the price reasonable? Does it feel like a value?

9. Failing to Negotiate

Just because you’re renting a small unit with a simple lease doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate. In fact, property owners expect it. In the case of a turnkey space, you be able to negotiate alterations to the space, but you can haggle over your overall rent and which amenities you have access to (like common areas and shared receptionists).

10. Falling in Love

falling-in-love-office-space

Sometimes a renter will fall in love with a particular location. They’ll love the lighting, the layout, the furniture (if provided), or maybe the neighborhood. It’s good to enjoy your space, but make sure it serves your business’ purposes. Is it worth cramming into a small room just to have a coffee shop nearby? Are you willing to spend extra to be right on the main road?

“You have to go into negotiations knowing that if you don’t get a fair deal, you can move on and your business will thrive elsewhere,” says serial entrepreneur Melody Stevens. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement.

11. Miscalculating Growth

When you rent space, it’s important to consider your company’s future size. How many people will you have? Will you be buying new equipment that requires spaces? Will the growth be steady and predictable, or sudden and urgent?

If you miscalculate growth, you might end up in a space that’s too small for your company, or a space that’s too large and waste of money. Take some time to figure out what your company will look like by the end of the rental term.

Career and Workplace Expert Heather R. Huhman recommends anticipating product launches, expansions, employee turnover, industry changes, new business investment, and your goals.

12. Being Picky with Location

Yes, it’s important to find a great location, but there are probably lots of suitable areas within a reasonable commuting distance. Instead of limiting your search to an area you like, figure out what you like about it. You may like the closeness to public transportation or the nearby healthy lunch options. Measure new areas against your requirements.

Don’t begin the rental process without an idea of how it works. Subscribe to receive our free step by step guide on renting office space.

As you view properties and move through the renting process, keep these mistakes at the forefront of your mind. If you can avoid making common errors, you’ll land a quality unit that supports your business’ growth without cumbersome expenses and hassles.

Can You Afford to Rent Office Space?

Renting office space is a big step for your business. Before you visit properties, ask what you can truly afford.

When you begin dreaming about working in your own professional office space, you’ll likely have visions of trendy layouts, colorful walls, and ergonomic chairs. You’ll imagine yourself tossing a ball around with your team while you brainstorm ideas and impressing clients with gourmet coffee. Hey, maybe there will be a foosball table!

It’s great that you have big dreams, but in business, everything boils down to one factor: cost. Before you start visiting properties and signing paperwork, you have to understand what you can afford.

Are you truly prepared to sign an office space lease? Ask yourself these questions before you sign.

Evaluating Your Budget

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Ideally, you should have a thorough business plan that projects your expenses over a few years. A business plan is a fantastic document that not only gives you an overview of your company now, but makes educated predictions about what your company will look like in the future.

But if you’re a little less prepared, don’t fear. You’re in the same boat as many entrepreneurs. In fact, U.S. Trust found that “A large number of business owners have not articulated a strategy…” All you need is a careful understanding of your budget.

(I’m going to give a basic budgeting overview, but Info Entrepreneurs has an excellent guide.)

Step 1: Calculate your income

Gather all information about monthly income you can depend on. In this category, you should round all of your numbers down. Use worst-case scenarios.

Don’t use last year’s numbers. Use what you can expect next year. For instance, if you made $25,000 at a trade show, but don’t plan to attend it this year, you wouldn’t calculate that as income.

Step 2: Calculate your fixed costs

Add all of the costs you expect each month. This category includes salaries, licensing fees, insurance, fees, web hosting, and anything you’re paying for your current workspace.

Step 3: Calculate your variable expenses

These are expenses that may change each month. It includes items like utility bills, material costs, commissions, marketing costs, travel, equipment rental fees, etc. Most of these expenses scale up or down with your sales, so when the bills get higher, you’re also making more money.

Step 4: Predict big expenses

This is tough, but necessary. Consider any big purchases you’ll have to make within the next few years. You won’t be able to predict everything (like a broken computer, which will happen unexpectedly), but new hires or equipment usually have some lead time.

Distribute these expenses into the months leading up to the purchase. For instance, if your expenses total $5,500/month and you have a $2,000 purchase coming up in six months, your actual expenses are $5,833.33 per month for the next six months.

Step 5: Look at the big picture

Now that you know where your money is coming from and where it’s going, put everything together. How much is left over each month after your expenses are covered? This is how much you can spend on growth, including new office space. Ideally your income will grow over time, so your office space will eventually require a smaller percentage of your income (although it should never be more than 10%).

Keep in mind that was just a light overview. Business budgeting can be a complex process depending on your unique situation. However you do it, just make sure you know how much money you have available before you begin looking at potential office spaces. It may seem obvious, but many business owners fail to make these calculations.

The Hidden Costs of Office Space

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If the lease and utilities were the only costs you had to consider, office space would be quite affordable and available to more people. Unfortunately, your costs don’t end there. There are some significant hidden expenses that many new lessees fail to consider.

1. Office furniture

People need to sit, right? You’ll need desks and chairs, which can add up quickly depending on the models you choose. If your staff sits for long periods of time, you can’t buy poor-quality chairs or they’ll quickly complain of back problems. Sure, you can buy cheap or snag free furniture off Craigslist, but it likely won’t last long.

2. Office supplies

Even if your team has always worked remotely and paid for their own expenses in the past, they’ll expect you to provide office supplies once everyone moves into the office. These are recurring expenses you should plan for every month. Your team will need basic items like pens, calendars, printer paper and ink, mouse pads, highlighters, etc.

3. Technology

Your staff used their home computers before, but they won’t be willing to haul their desktops to work every day. You’ll have to invest in new machines to keep the work moving. If your technology needs are high (like drafting equipment, servers, or 3D printers), you may have to pick up new units.

4. Move-in expenses

Depending on the equipment you need, moving in might be a challenge. You may have a few desks, chairs, or maybe a copier sitting around your garage. You can save money by using what you have, but getting to your office space might require renting a truck.

5. Liability or property insurance

Anticipating lawsuits are a part of doing business. Many landlords require the lessee to take out insurance with the lessor named as the additional insured. Since you won’t be doing anything industrial, this won’t be terribly expensive, but it’s a cost many businesses fail to consider.

6. Property taxes

Many leases require the lessee to pay a prorated portion of the site’s property taxes. (If this isn’t listed as its own line item, it’s already been rolled into your rent.) Make sure you’re aware of this charge (and all other charges) before you sign the lease.

7. Common area fees

If your office space shares common areas with other businesses on the site (like parking lots, bathrooms, or waiting areas), make sure you understand the fee structure and how you benefit. You don’t want to be surprised by a hefty fee for a shared receptionist you don’t intend to use.

8. Overtime utilities

In many leases, the utilities are included in the rent as long as they are used during normal business hours (typically set as 7 AM to 6 PM). If you use power, water, gas, or oil outside of those hours, you’ll pay additional fees. If you have a charge like this, make sure you understand how it lines up with your working hours.

9. Communication services

Telephones, Internet, and cable services are rarely included under utilities, although many lessees make the mistake of assuming they do. You’ll have to cover these costs yourself.

Think About the Future

When you lease office space, you’re investing in the future of your company. Naturally, you expect the business to grow, make more money, hire more people, and generally get bigger.

But in most cases, your office space won’t.

Sure, some locations offer nearby units you can grow into. Maybe there’s room for construction and expansion. But the building owner isn’t going to hold that space for you. There’s no guarantee the extra space will be available when you need it.

Before you sign the lease, think about your future. In what ways will your company grow? Will you need more space for people or equipment (both have different needs in space)? Will you need to switch from an open layout to closable offices? Will you need a reception area?

Most importantly, think of your future cash situation. How will growth affect your cash flow? For instance, maybe penetrating a new market will tie up all your cash, so it’s best to sign a smaller lease than you can afford right now.

Before you formalize a new office space agreement, ask yourself these questions. Subscribe to download this free resource.

Going Forward

There are spaces nearby that you probably aren’t aware of. If your budget feels tight, remember that there are all sorts of office types available. You don’t have to rent a large, elaborate space with a complex, tough-to-negotiate lease. A turnkey unit (with furnishings and a hassle-free rental agreement) might be just the thing your growing business needs.

If your business needs its own space, you can search for office space in your area now. If you have questions about whether you can afford space, speak with us.