Getting your thoughts down on paper will help you to clarify what you need from an office. Create a list of your requirements to focus your office search – or to brief an agent if you decide to engage professional help. These requirements should be split into those which are ‘must haves’ and which are optional.
Your brief should cover the three ‘S’s – setting, size and spend.
Setting (or location)
Unless your work requires a specific location, you can generally shop around and find cheaper areas and options. Factors that might influence your location include:
- do you need to be near transport links or in the centre of town so that clients and visitors can reach you easily?
- is there accessible parking for use by disabled staff and visitors?
- are there accessible routes leading to your new office?
- where do your employees live? How will different locations affect their commuting time and costs?
- are any of your employees disabled and have access requirements?
- you need to consider the security of your staff - are there areas where they will not feel secure coming and going late at night?
Do you need to be located near partner organisations, clients or organisations you are seeking to influence? There are often areas in towns and cities where charities cluster together.
Size and facilities
The size of office spaces is usually quoted in square feet. As a rule of thumb you will require 80 to 100 square feet per desk (if space is quoted in square metres multiply by 10.76 to get the area in square feet).
The questions below will help you work out the space and facilities you require:
- how many desk spaces do you need? Will these desks all be used on a full-time basis? Could you consider hot-desking?
- do your clients require a private interview area?
- do you need to allow space for extra furniture (eg. bookshelves or cupboards) or IT equipment such as a server?
- do you need additional storage or archive space (either in the main office or elsewhere in the building)?
- do you need a meeting room in your office – or would use of a shared meeting room be adequate?
- do you need a self-contained kitchen or toilets – or would you be happy to share communal facilities (using shared meeting rooms, toilets and kitchens will reduce costs)?
- do you want an open plan office, or separate rooms for different teams or senior employees? Open plan offices are more space efficient and cheaper.
- do you plan to expand (or contract) significantly in the next few years? You may need to take extra space now to take account for this.
- do you have any disabled employees that require additional space or facilities?
Follow this link to use our Space Calculator for a rough estimate of the size of space you'll need.
You should approach the process of finding an office with a clear idea of your budget so that you only view premises that are within your reach. To find out what is a resonable rent for an area:
- ask organisations renting in the area what they are paying
- ask an agent what they consider a fair market rent for the area
- compare the costs quoted by different agents and landlords
Be aware! The costs quoted for different offices will differ in what they include. Look at exactly what is included to ensure you are comparing like for like. You may end up paying more than the set rent and service charge to get all of the facilities and services you need.
Location is probably the biggest factor affecting cost - more fashionable postcodes attract higher office costs. This said, many cities have relatively central areas where property is cheaper – for instance in regeneration areas. Ask other organisations and agents if they can point you in the right direction. A more prominent location (ie. on a high street) will also cost more than one tucked away on a little side street.
The quality of office you want will also impact on the price you pay. Office is usually referred to as Primary, Secondary or Tertiary.
- primary, or 'Category A', is considered the best quality space, and therefore costs the most. It will have air-conditioning, raised floors, lifts etc.
- secondary office is usually slightly older and will be of a slightly lower quality. It is unlikely to have features like air conditioning
- tertiary is very basic quality space and though the initial rent might be lower, it may lead to much higher service costs and bad working conditions. I fyou only need small fairly basic space this is possibly the most cost-effective solution
If you calculate what you can afford as a basic rent in £ per square foot, you can then discuss this with an agent. They will be able to tell you what kind of property is available at that price in the areas you prefer. Don't forget that business rates go up generally in line with the rent.