Two of the most important decisions a startup will make are where the business will be located and what type of workspace will best suit its needs. It’s a big decision – because if the business is not going to start in your garage or basement, then the location, costs and furnishings for your final location will be the biggest fixed expense you will have outside of variables such as raw materials and employees.

When a startup is making this decision, it is smart (in addition to choosing a good physical location) to also consider creating a great place to work. To a large extent, this will be greatly influenced by the type of office space design you choose. A traditional office space is commonly comprised of a cubicle and office set-up like you see in the movie Office Space, whereas alternative office space is a design that includes both “me space” and “we space”.

Alternative office design is often thought to be the design style of choice for technology start-ups. But the truth is that this type of office design is now mainstream with the onslaught of telecommuting, hoteling and other changes resulting from a shift in employee preferences for workspace and flex time. The Internet enabled many tasks that could only be done in the workplace to now be done at home – or anywhere with a connection to the Internet.

The business location decision is still a big one, even if you are planning to start as a home-based business. This is because (unless you plan never to grow beyond your home) changing phone numbers, business addresses and online assets indexed by search engines can be a major, time-consuming hassle. Also, you do not want past clients using your old contact information, only to discover that you’ve moved and are not accessible.

Most business centers have excellent mail forwarding, message and fax services that provide long-term solutions to these growth problems. Many also include discounted boardrooms and meeting rooms, avoiding those crowded and often embarrassing meetings at Starbucks.

My expertise is in commercial office space and more specifically alternative office spaces such as business centers, co-working or shared office space. So, I will be sharing the benefits of alternative office space over traditional commercial office space. Of these alternatives, my favorite is a business center because it provides the same traditional office space – but with the bonus of being less expensive to rent by the square foot with no costs for:

  1. Utilities, taxes and maintenance
  2. Upgrades like carpeting
  3. Flexibility in the amount of contracted space
  4. Office furniture
  5. Phone systems
  6. Business equipment (photocopier/printer etc.)
  7. Support staff
  8. Breakout rooms
  9. Kitchen areas
  10. High-speed Internet

Number 3 in the above list is a huge benefit that isn’t easily seen from the outset. But, as your business grows, having flexibility in the space you rent without moving or downsizing (if business slows down) can save you both money and stress! A business center provides the most efficient use of capital as there are no expenses for all of the items listed above. And often, the extra space that you might need for occasional meetings with staff, clients or potential customers, is included with your office space rental.

Another benefit is that the business center’s support staffers provide professional reception, phone and messaging, and secretarial services. Many business centres also provide virtual assistants – so in a pinch it’s like having an emergency employee to do the little things that often get in the way of moving forward with more important elements of a project.

Most of the co-working locations I’ve seen and reviewed were basically business centers with a group or community/incubator environment. These may be ideal for one-man operations, small professional businesses like marketers, digital agencies and home-based businesses looking for a good support system and “group feeling.” In fact, you could argue that most co-working office spaces are, for the most part, business centers catering to small companies looking for the familiar experience of working with others (thereby escaping feelings of isolation that often accompany working at home).

A shared office is my least favored type of alternative office space – because for the most part, it is a traditional office space with less control over the workplace at a lower price. Unless you are the person leasing out the space, you also have little or no assurance about how long you can remain in the space. You will also encounter the same problems that come with any traditional office space (that is, little or no control of your workplace environment). The positive side is that your business will save some money.

In conclusion, with millennials increasingly comprising a substantial portion of the workforce, it’s a good idea to remember that they are not big fans of a workplace where their personal space is a cubicle. Nor will they feel comfortable with the isolation that it fosters. Millennials and the workforce in general are shifting their expectations to flex time, telecommuting and hoteling – now the top trends in office space design and workplace philosophy.

Author: Terry Van Horne is online marketing manager for Telsec Business Centres located in Toronto Ontario providing office space and virtual office services to businesses of all sizes. He has been marketing online for over 20 years mainly in the real estate, music and apparel industries.

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