Do Startups Need an Office?

If one thing is clear coming out of lockdown, it’s that working patterns aren’t going to be the same as they were before. Now, flexibility is going to be key for employees, business owners, and the way they use workspace. Some of the world’s largest tech firms like Spotify and Salesforce have already announced they are giving up their large, city-centre HQs in favour of a ‘work from anywhere’ policy. This includes buying coworking space passes for their staff to use when they need work or meeting space.

This has sparked interest among businesses, who wonder just how flexible they can now be. Do they even need an office lease or will going completely virtual be bad for business?

To meet these new needs, a ‘middle ground’ (or a ‘best of both worlds’) is emerging. When it comes to how companies use workspace, ‘hybrid working’ and ‘office downsizing’ are about to become part of our vocabulary.

The last year has shown businesses that there are benefits to remote working; for starters, taking a more flexible approach can save money on rent. Plus, coming out of such a turbulent time no company wants to be tied into an inflexible, 5+ year office lease. Remote or flexible working can also have its benefits for employee engagement: there’s been plenty of claims that WFH has created a better work-life balance for teams. As a result, we’re going to see more demand from employees for flexible working after lockdown is over.

But for startups and SMEs, there are other factors involved.

The Case for the Office

Before this, many smaller businesses already worked flexibly, especially those in coworking spaces. They benefitted from agile office layouts, meeting space, networking opportunities, and stimulating space designs. Many startups used hot desking, which allowed their team to work in an agile way, not sitting at the same desk, 9-5, every day of the week – but using space to its full potential and for different types of work.

Especially now, having somewhere to network, be introduced to other businesses, and inspired by their co-workers is going to be valuable for startup businesses.

There’s also the argument for communication. For most companies, virtual communication tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack have been the reason for the successful shift to WFH. All our communication with our colleagues; meetings, brainstorming sessions, and even our Christmas parties have been virtual. But for many people, Zoom fatigue has now fully set in. We’re craving face-to-face communication, without Internet-lags, screen-sharing problems, and with more than one person able to speak at one time. The danger of miscommunication with fully-remote working is higher, and companies have realised how important it is to have meetings, brainstorming sessions, and social events actually in-person.

Team meetups can also do wonders for morale. While there are some benefits to remote working, it can also be lonely and unproductive for many employees, especially those living on their own, or who have a less-than-ideal home set-up. Speaking to colleagues face-to-face, whether in a work or a social setting, can have serious benefits for staff wellbeing.

Going permanently remote isn’t for every business, but the other option doesn’t have to be a full-time office space with a desk for every employee. This is where alternatives like hybrid or flexible working come in.

Hybrid Working

Hybrid working is where some team members work remotely, while others work from an office and some a combination of both. It’s not using an office full-time, taking a desk for every employee, but still using workspace flexibly in some form. Examples include:

  • Office timesharing: Using an office 2 or 3 days a week, ‘sharing’ it with another company
  • Downsizing to a smaller office and rotating your team so they are not always there at the same time
  • Purchasing pay-as-you-go hot desking passes for team members to use whenever they need to
  • Booking a meeting or conference room on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, to all come together in-person

Work.Life Co-Founder Elliot Gold explains “The hybrid working model has emerged as a result of the pandemic and the shift to remote working. Coming out of lockdown, very few businesses I speak to believe that a fully remote model is desirable or sustainable. The office has a key role to play in fostering relationships, allowing better training of staff, and most of all, having fun with your colleagues. Work is supposed to be fun!”

And this is where hybrid working is so valuable. Elliot explains that “for businesses returning to work, hybrid working offers a flexible, cost-effective middle ground. Businesses just need to look carefully at what type of work is best done from home vs. the office. There’s no point travelling into the office to do mundane tasks that can be done alone, but save team meetings, training sessions, and collaborative projects for when you’re face-to-face.

And it can be seriously valuable for businesses. “Companies that do hybrid working well will use it to their advantage to attract talent, increase employee wellbeing, and reduce their costs.”

Work.Life create workspaces your team will want to come back to with workspace options to suit every business, ranging from pay-as-you-go hot desking passes, to private offices for teams.

Our purposely smaller coworking spaces are designed for freelancers, startups and SME businesses to network, grow and thrive. Find out more about our flexible workspace options or book a tour of a space today.