Not Perfect, but Yours: Three Steps to Finding the Office Space You Need

DISCLAIMER: This article will NOT lead you to the perfect office space for your business.

The perfect office space—like the perfect home, the ideal spouse, and rainbow-colored unicorns—is nothing but fantasy.

If you approach your office search thinking you really can have it all—that there’s some amazing spot out there that the rest of the world has missed despite its great location, free parking, abundant natural light, and rooftop deck, all for very minimal monthly rent—you’re about to waste a lot of valuable time. Worse still, you’ll end up feeling like you’ve had to settle for a space that can never quite measure up.

While not perfect, your new office space can still be—as the Rolling Stones so wisely told us—what you need. It can be fabulous. And functional. And the way you find it is by figuring out what’s really important to your business.

Step 1: Prioritize

There’s a reason office spaces vary considerably in everything from design to location: not everyone is looking for the same thing. And that’s good—or we’d all be competing for the same limited spaces. The key to successfully finding the office space you need is to know at the onset what your top priorities are, and what things you’re willing to compromise on.

Maybe you’ve been running your business from home and just hired your first employees. Money’s tight, and you’re sure of only one thing: your new office space must be inexpensive. Or maybe you have a more established business that’s ready to expand. You’re looking for a bigger office in an up-and-coming area with lots of restaurants—and free parking. Your priorities are different, but the process for finding the space need not be.

List all the factors that it would take to make your new office space “perfect” for your company, then determine which are the most important to you and your employees. Some of the most common considerations for finding space include:

  • Location. It’s easy to say that you need a good location—the hard part is determining what that means to you. What constitutes a “good location” for your office may be quite different from that of another business. Some companies prefer a location that minimizes commute times for key employees. Others want to be easily accessible to clients. Still others highly value proximity to restaurants, gyms, and childcare. Being close to trails and a park system may be a top consideration for a wellness-focused company. Consider your corporate culture and business priorities and use those factors to help narrow down possible locations.
  • Space. A good rule of thumb is to provide 125-225 usable square feet per employee, but that’s only a starting point and will vary depending on layout. While you certainly don’t want to lease a space so large that you are paying for a lot of unused room, if you anticipate growth during the lease period, you will need to ensure you have space to accommodate it.
  • Layout. How you want the space to be laid out—open floor plan, traditional offices, or cubicles? How does your team tend to work? Do you need an elaborate conference room to meet with clients or host networking events, or would a few smaller huddle rooms work better? Would a modular set-up that can be changed perhaps provide the best fit? How much control will the landlord give you to modify the existing space?
  • Parking and Exterior. Are there enough parking spaces included in the lease to meet the needs of your employees and customers? If parking is not included, is there ample free parking nearby? Public transportation? Bike racks? Have measures been taken to ensure the security of your employees and equipment?

Step 2: Involve Your Employees

Whether you have two employees or one hundred, involve them in this decision as much as possible; office space is important in attracting and retaining top talent. While you may be able to anticipate some of your employees’ concerns and desires (a convenient, centralized office location, for example), they are sure to also have priorities of which you are unaware (a bike rack, perhaps, and an area to shower and change after they bike to work).

Step 3: Get Professional Help

Ask for recommendations for a commercial real estate broker or agent from people you trust. When you’ve found someone with a proven success rate, provide him or her with your list of priorities. This person will be able to help you to add to the list and possibly even reprioritize.

A broker or agent is in a good position to advise on matters such as lease flexibility, something that might be needed if you outgrow the space quickly. He or she can also help you consider less traditional leasing options, like subleasing (a good option for growing companies, often allowing you to go month to month), or co-working (allowing you to save money until you truly need a dedicated office space).

In addition, your broker can help you negotiate the lease, possibly saving you a significant amount of money, and can assist in getting answers to questions such as who is responsible for repairs and other expenses, and in what ways you are allowed to take steps to customize the space to best suit your company’s needs. All of which can help to make your new office space, if not perfect, exactly what you need.

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What is your top priority when looking for new office space?

Written by: Kim Pierson
for Coeo Space

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