This is a contributor’s blogpost …
It’s exciting when you finally decide to move on from the home office and into a bigger, more professional space, but finding the perfect office building for your business isn’t always as easy as it might sound. You can browse through hundreds of real estate properties, but there is more to consider than the cost of renting a space. You need to consider whether the office is going to give the right vibe to your customers and prospective employees. From the moment they walk in, customers will judge your business based on the kind of office you’re working from. Location, appearance, and presentation are all important factors.
When considering spaces to host your office, you need to consider what you’ll be needing exactly. If you’re just looking for a place for you and your employees to work undisturbed, then you can probably get by with renting a room in a big building and brainstorming together. However, if you’re hoping to meet with customers in your new office, then you should consider having a separate reception area, and private meeting rooms, which will obviously cost your significantly more. Whatever kind of space you’re looking for, here are a few tips to help you find and set up the best office for your business and your customers.
As a business owner, you want to have a good location to attract customers. A space in the middle of a well-visited town will inevitably draw more attention from potential customers who just happen to be passing by, than a little building tucked away in a side alley. Not to mention it’s easier for existing customers to find you if they decide they want to conduct some business in person instead of over the phone or by email.
However, you should also consider the needs of your future employees. Most of your staff will be commuting to work, so the obvious question for big city center offices is how close the nearest subway or rail line is, but consider bus, bicycle and automobile routes, too. Find out if there are any parking spaces included in the rent for the building, or if there is some relatively cheap parking nearby. If none of these options seem feasible, the you should consider telecommuting; this will allow your employees to work from wherever they want, leaving the option open for you to rent a slightly smaller office space. Your employees can pop into the office when it’s convenient, when they have meetings with you or customers, or you can arrange a schedule for when certain people will join you in the main building.
Additionally, you should check if the neighborhood is a safe. Your staff and visitors will feel safer visiting your office if the area has a good reputation. Furthermore, employees spend around eight hours a day in the office, so having a secure neighborhood where your employees feel safe should be a priority. With that in mind, you should also check if the building itself is secure.
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Much like when you buy a house, you need to look at the features of the office before you sign any documents. There’s no point encouraging employees to commute by bike if there isn’t a place on the premises where they can safely lock their bicycle. A kitchen is a useful feature, as employees benefit from a regular supply of drinks and snacks, and the option to bring in their own lunch from home. You also need to consider whether the building itself is well maintained in terms of security, waste disposal, and cleaning services. It might benefit you to ask other tenants about the quality of service.
It’s also worth finding out what your responsibilities would be as a tenant. If you’re responsible for keeping the building exterior in good condition as well as the interior, you need to take precautions to keep it this way. If your building is mostly windows on a ground floor, you should look into putting anti graffiti film on the glass to protect it from damage, and save you money on costly repairs. Nothing makes customers more sceptical of the quality of a business than the look of the office, so it’s worth your effort to keep your building presentable. Alternatively, if you’re just renting out one room in a whole building, then you might only be responsible for keeping your space tidy and presentable.
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The space itself is the most important aspect because this is where your employees will spend the majority of their time. The best kind of office space is one that will promote productivity in your staff. Your employees will spend roughly 40 hours in the office, so you want to make sure it’s inspirational and open; no one feels inspired to work in a cramped, dark, enclosed space. Even if the space looks big enough when you first see it, it will get smaller once you install all the necessary furniture, equipment, and all your products. Find out how much freedom you’ll have to decorate, and if you have free reign over the space, you can add decor that will create a positive work environment.
First, to inspire your employees, you’ll want an office that is spacious, well lit, and with plenty of windows to let in natural light. You could also brighten up the room with some freshness from the outside world. Living plants, fresh orchids, a unique stone or seashell, or even an aquarium filled with colorful fish can bring a touch of comfort and life to an otherwise standard office.
Next, you need to make sure the office is comfortable. Spending eight hours a day sitting at desk is not good for your employee’s health. Sitting for long periods of time can lead to back pain, fatigue, and eye strain. You can take precautions against this by getting an ergonomic office chair for yourself and your employees. These provide the necessary lumbar and pelvic support to promote healthy posture, and good spinal alignment leads to reduced headaches, back pain, and it can significantly improve breathing, concentration, and endurance through long hours of seated task work. You should also reduce eye strain by encouraging employees to take a break every twenty minutes. This will go a long way to reducing headaches and fatigue.
Finally, you need to make sure the office is always clear of clutter. Not only will a messy office not impress any customers that walk in, but it will harm work morale. A small office feels even more cramped if you’re crowded by boxes, old documents, unopened packages, piles of paper, receipts, files and miscellaneous junk. If you only do one thing to make the office a welcoming environment, it should be clearing out the clutter and putting everything in its place. This means filing anything that doesn’t need to be out and keeping everything you don’t need constantly, in drawers or cabinets. Your employees shouldn’t fear being crushed and suffocated by a mountain of paperwork before they’ve even started on their own work.
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If the primary purpose of your office is to host customers, then there are several other things you should include to make a good impression. Even if you hire receptionists to greet your customers, you should still make sure all your staff are trained in customer interaction; this includes making eye contact, smiling, saying hello and asking if they can help. This alone can make a huge difference between having a terrible experience and a potential customer feeling welcome enough to consider making a transaction with the people behind the business.
You should also make sure the reception area is clean at all times. Make it part of someone’s job to assure that the visual aesthetics of your workplace shine through and reflect the professionalism you want to convey. The designated waiting area in particular should be tidy, comfortable, and stocked with reading material in case they’re likely to be waiting longer than five minutes.
The receptionists should also know to offer the customers a beverage while they wait. However, you might score some popularity points if you install a drinks machine in the waiting area; either a water system or a upscale coffee machine. Fresh fruit or healthy wrapped snacks might also go down a treat. You want the customer to feel comfortable and valued.
Emergencies can happen, and advanced preparation is vital. Holding regular fire drills might be annoying, but they will save lives if every member of staff knows where the nearest exit is, and is able to evacuate in a timely manner. You don’t need to have a fire drill every week, but you should definitely have them more than once a year, perhaps even when there are customers around so you’re confident that you can calmly guide them to the nearest fire exits. If you live in an area where other natural disasters, such as earthquakes, are likely, you should also hold drills for these events.