Choosing the right office: 6 things to consider

Choosing the right office space for your company can pay dividends in the form of increased productivity, better workplace morale and more customers. (istockphoto)
Choosing the right office space for your company can pay dividends in the form of increased productivity, better workplace morale and more customers. (istockphoto)

It’s not a stretch to say that choosing an office is one of the most important decisions your company will ever make.

It’s easy to see why; even in an age of telecommuting and e-work, day-to-day productivity at most companies is still heavily influenced by how employees interact with their working environment. Does the space make workers feel energized, or fatigued? Does the layout of the office encourage productivity, or stifle it?

When searching for an office to rent or lease, it’s important to ask the right questions. Here are some things to consider before your company sets down roots.

How much space do I need (and how much will I need in the future)? This is a bit of balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want pay for more space than you need. On the other hand, you don’t want to feel trapped in a confined space as your company grows. An industry standard  to provide between 150 and 250 square feet of office space per employee. Expansion options in your lease agreement can help your company address the need for additional space down the road.

Is the location right for my customers and employees? For some businesses, setting up shop in an out-of-the-way location is perfectly fine, while other businesses will want to be easily accessible to their clients. Leasing an office in a bustling downtown neighbourhood may bring in more customers, but is also likely to cost more than an office in the suburbs. You should also make sure your employees can easily get to the office, whether that means being accessible by public transit or ensuring there’s adequate parking.

What are the hidden costs? Moving is an expensive proposition. Costs like utilities, renovations, cleaning services and loss of productivity during the move should all be factored in to your rental budget. Down the road, a landlord might increase your rate when re-negotiating your rental agreement. A real estate broker can provide advice and help you plan for the transition.

Is the space flexible enough to my company’s needs? With the ability to work wirelessly, many companies are eschewing walled-off offices and cubicles in favour of multi-purpose workstations, shared common areas and glass dividers (or no dividers at all). The benefit of an open-concept office is that it encourages collaboration among employees and can be easily re-arranged to suit the changing needs of your company. Of course, an office stills need to have some private spaces to host meetings, or for when a worker just needs some quiet time to focus.

Does the space promote the health and well-being of my employees? Nothing saps the energy out of an office faster than bad lighting, poor air circulation or unhygienic conditions. Make sure your office is well-lit, has good ventilation and is scent-free (potted plants are one cheap way of improving air quality in a building).  If your lease doesn’t come with a cleaning services contract, get one. The decision will pay dividends down the road with clean floors, squeaky clean bathrooms and happy workers.

Does the space allow for both work and play? Every office should make room for fun. Depending on your office environment, you could set up a coffee bar station, a games room, a relaxation space or a lounging area for co-workers to chat. Socialization encourages collaboration and the sharing of ideas, decreases stress and generally makes people feel good about coming to work.