We recently wrote about the value of bootstrapping in business. An essential skill for every startup is knowing how to prioritise their business funds. For many businesses, the cost of the their premises is often one of their greatest expenses. But what are the alternatives when a physical office is not a necessity?
Rise in office costs
When you look at the City of London, the skyline is dominated with high-rise office buildings. The cost of office space is rising at an astonishing rate. Whilst I appreciate London is an extreme example, the position is similar across the major business hubs around the world. And there is little sign that it will change in the future.
There has been a significant rise in technologies and working methods designed to maximise the usage of under-utilised office space. Open plan offices, hot-desking, sub-letting, meeting room booking systems, all working towards businesses getting the best bang for their buck. But, even the most modern businesses still struggle with some of the common issues presented with these efficiency methods. Staff having to arrive early to compete for workstations, unpredictable availability of meeting rooms, too much background noise, and so on.
There is not much larger enterprises can do. Office space is essential, as is the location in which they choose to set them up. Having a business premises is just the way it has worked and will continue to work. But for startups it’s different. With many business models, there is a fair degree of flexibility in how and where they can work.
The office alternatives
Working from home
So probably the most obvious alternative is to set up a home office. This is a particularly attractive option for people with plenty of space to convert a room or create an outdoor office building.
For some people (myself included), working from home can be a distraction. Often, it can be difficult to shut off at the end of the day, or have a clear distinction between your work and personal life.
However much time you decide to invest in your business, you still need an area you call home and where you can divert your attention to the other areas of your life.
Coffee shops and WiFi cafes
With WiFi accessibility and IT resources becoming ubiquitous is many public areas; libraries, coffee shops and internet cafes are a great alternative to help distinguish your business from your personal life. There are some drawbacks. Public WiFi connections can be insecure, and you could put both your computer and data at risk. Also, it can become a pretty expensive habit to try and fill your day with trips to the counter to avoid the feeling of overstaying your welcome.
As your business expands and you start to take on new team members, hanging around at home or spending your days in coffee shops probably isn’t a realistic option if you intend on growing your business. So what are the other alternatives?
Co-working office spaces
An excellent and cost-effective alternative for entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers. Co-working office spaces are becoming very common in many major cities (and now smaller ones) to address the rising costs of renting or buying private office space. Often operated on a subscription model, they offer the flexibility and affordably and can be tailored towards the needs of your business. Spaces can include anything from a single workstation to an entire meeting room or conference centre.
However, it can be disruption trying to work collaboratively amongst your team when surrounded by others working on completely different things. There can often be limitations in the availability of facilities, and this will become more of an issues as there use continues to grow.
Shared office space
Another great and flexible alternative. Companies like Regus have a global footprint, and offer fully-furnished and IT-enabled workspaces for individuals or entire teams at a simple and low cost day rate.
It is always worth weighing up the pros and cons of each option. Consider the facilities you need and how often you need them. It's also important to consider how your customers will perceive your choice as this can impact on how customers perceive your business. Whatever you choose, there is plenty of services, solutions and technology to support you on your journey.
Telephone answering services and virtual personal assistants are a great examples of this. For a small monthly fee, there are plenty of companies out there which will handle your business calls, and answer them according to your specific instructions, meaning you’ll never miss a call or customer enquiry.
Collaboration tools and video chat services are another great way to keep in touch with your colleagues and customers across different areas. You are no longer required to be under the same roof to work effectively together. Set clear objectives and work collectively towards achieving them.
New era of business
We live in a world where there are no barriers to business enablement. We are not shackled by the confines of costly office space. There are numerous alternatives available that allow us to operate an efficient business from anywhere in the world. All you have to do is figure out which is best for your startup and make it happen.
Help us spread the word
We want to help more entrepreneurs like you create successful businesses. Help us spread the word by sharing this article across social media. Click the icons below to share now.