office space evaluation

How to Evaluate a Potential Office Space

Committing to an office space is a decision that will affect your company for years and possibly even decades.

Although the need for a new office may seem urgent, rushing the process could result in big expenses and big regrets. Choosing the wrong office could even continue to hurt your employees’ productivity and your company’s ability to recruit the best hires, which can do even more damage long-term.

That’s why any potential site for a new office should be thoroughly vetted, regardless of whether you’re looking for an entire office building or just a few rooms in a shared space.

Here are a few things to consider as you evaluate potential office sites.

Establish Your Priorities First

It’s difficult to know what kind of office is best if you haven’t taken the time to carefully assess your employees’ expectations, desires, and needs when it comes to their workplace.

As we mentioned in our post on questions to ask before you hire a commercial architect, carefully assessing those needs and translating them into clear objectives is the first thing you should do as you begin to look for office space.

The objectives should encompass both what will help your employees work well and what will make the right impression on the visitors and community members who come into your office.

However, vague values like “creativity” or “focus” don’t help much.

Getting more specific about what type of office will help employees carry out those values can be helpful. For example, “creativity” might require more brainstorming sessions in the office, which would require more breakout spaces and meeting rooms. “Focus,” on the other hand, will require plenty of quiet and private spaces that inspire clear thinking.

Get clear about what behaviors and feelings you want your potential office to encourage before you start to assess specific locations.

Bonus download: The Importance of Natural Light in a Workspace (And How to Get More of It)

Evaluate Each of These Features

Once you’ve identified a few potential sites, get ready to assess them based on the following factors.

Access and Convenience

How easy will it be for your employees to get in and out of the office?

Consider how far the new office is from your current location, whether it’s located on public transit routes, and the path that employees have to take to get from where they parked into the actual building.

You know your employees best. Morale could take a big hit if the office is difficult for them to get to each day. You want them to start their days energized and productive, and that’s less likely if they have to spend their mornings fighting traffic, searching for parking spots, or finding a route that accommodates limited mobility.

Also consider whether it will be convenient for your staff to pop out and run errands on their breaks. Locating in an area with easy access to conveniences like supermarkets, banks, and other services and retailers will be appreciated. A good variety of restaurants near the office can provide great options for working lunches or for impressing clients.

Finally, it’s also helpful to understand whether visitors will have an easy time getting in and out of your offices. Most offices have options for staff parking, but is the office also easy for people who are finding it for the first time? Can the postal service or other delivery services also find your office easily and drop off packages without a problem?

These are all seemingly insignificant factors that can turn into big annoyances over time.

Noise

Noises from the street, the surrounding area, and even from your neighbors might impact your employees’ ability to get work done.

Noise levels could change with the time of day or even the day of the week, so check the location at different times before you make any long-term commitments.

Also consider the acoustics within the building itself. Some workspaces, such as those with higher ceilings, open floor plans, and hardwood floors, can cause a significant echo factor.

Infrastructure

To most businesses, a strong internet connection is critical to business operations.

If you’re renting or leasing units in a building where the internet service is handled by the property manager, ask around about the internet speed and maybe even try it yourself (bring your laptop to the tour and ask for the password).

Also, check cell phone service in various places throughout the office, and take a look at the electrical outlets and make sure they align with your needs.

Maintenance

If you’re renting a unit, you’ll have to do extra due diligence on how the property is maintained. Don’t just assess the interior of your unit. Pay attention to the exterior of the building, too, as well as any shared spaces such as break rooms, bathrooms, the lobby, and even the hallways and stairwells.

Even if you’re buying your own property or building an office, you should get an idea of whether you’ll have any difficulty maintaining the property yourself (or hiring a company to handle the maintenance). For example, are the windows especially difficult to clean? When the building needs a new coat of paint, how much will that cost? Are there any zoning regulations that will apply to the property that will complicate how you advertise and maintain it?

You should also get a clear understanding about how repairs and potential problems or conflicts with other tenants will be handled by your landlord.

Character

As we’ve mentioned before, your office space should absolutely be in line with your company’s brand if you want to make a distinct impression on the people who come through your doors. (Related: 5 Beautiful Ways to Style Your Reception Area)

The neighborhood you choose to locate in as well as the outside of the building that houses your office also have their own “personalities” that could send conflicting signals about your company’s values.

For example, locating a hip, startup marketing agency in a cookie cutter office in suburbia isn’t going to send the right message. Similarly, a corporate law office might not want to locate in an edgy, bohemian neighborhood.

Being intentional about the brand message you’re trying to send will help you narrow down office site options.

Amenities and Extra Costs

Depending on your company’s needs, you might find that sharing certain assets and amenities with other tenants can save you a decent amount of cash each month.

Services like security staff or cameras, front desk staff, phone answering services, parking attendants and validation can all be significant expenses for businesses, but more affordable when shared. Some office building tenants opt for shared bathrooms and meeting spaces, too.

If a potential office space doesn’t have these features, you may have to adjust your budget accordingly.

Once you’ve found an office space that meets all of your general criteria, it’s time to do a little more investigating.

Don’t miss: The Importance of Natural Light in a Workspace (And How to Get More of It)

Ask Around

It’s worth checking in with other tenants or neighbors to see what it’s really like to work in the building or in the neighborhood.

Unlike your potential landlord, office manager, or real estate agent, other tenants and business owners nearby have little to lose if you don’t end up committing to the space. They’re more likely to give you helpful warnings and tips and be completely honest about the situation.

Pay Attention to Red Flags

Listen to your gut throughout the selection process.

Pay attention to how they talk about their other tenants and their property. This is a long-term relationship and investment; small problems can snowball into ones that can have a big effect on your business productivity.

Heed any hesitations about unprofessional behavior from your property management company or landlord.

Similarly, as you’re driving to the property and touring it, don’t let your excitement get in the way of the little disappointments that you may encounter. You might not be able to find the perfect property in your current price range, but an attempt to be clear-headed will help you make better choices.

View Multiple Properties

You may have your heart set on the first property you see. But unless you evaluate multiple sites, you won’t get the right scope of knowledge about what’s available, in which neighborhoods, and at which prices.

Take the time to compare and contrast multiple properties before making any big decisions. This isn’t something you want to rush through.

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