Viewing an office is one of those tug-of-war situations where your brain pulls you in two directions at once.
On the one hand, it’s a mini-adventure. A change from the norm. A chance to see new places and play around with different versions of the future.
And on the other hand, you feel slightly out of your depth. Unsure what to expect, who you’ll meet, who to trust, bracing yourself for a slew of industry jargon. Not to mention that voice screaming “Arghh 4 hours away from my desk with so much work to do!!” in the back of your mind.
So you’ve probably found yourself wondering….
...should you take anyone with you? ...do you need to prepare anything in advance? ...who will be showing you around? ...what questions should you ask? ...what red flags should you watch out for in the office itself?
Excellent questions. We salute you. Read on for some answers.
Should you take anyone with you?
Yes. It helps to have an ally. There’s a lot to take in on the day and you can’t expect yourself to notice every tiny detail. With two sets of eyes and ears, you double your chances of spotting the good and the bad.
On top of that, your ally might add an extra layer of knowledge about what will or won’t work for your company. Sure you’ll have specced out as much as you can in advance, but again, there’s a lot to conquer in the task of finding a new office. (Give yourself a break, basically.)
And there’s one situation where you absolutely definitely should take a colleague along with you. This is when said colleague is the main stakeholder who will sign off on the decision and just so happens to have very strong opinions. Yes, they will insist they don’t have the time. Yes, they will tell you they’re happy to delegate to you. But we’d be negligent if we claimed this always turns out to be the reality.
Is your team stretched to the limit? No choice but to fly solo?
Who will be showing you around?
We’ll be meeting you on the day and then we’ll go on to meet landlords/their agents/building or office managers.
When we talk about an “office provider”, we are referring to landlords and operators. Most of the time it’s overkill to draw a distinction, but it’s useful to know the difference when you’re headed off to a viewing.
The landlord, or the landlord’s agent or representative If you’re viewing a leased office, you’re likely to meet the landlord’s agent or representative. Sometimes it might be the landlord themselves, though this is unusual on the first viewing. The landlord owns the building.
The office operator’s salesperson, or the building manager If you’re viewing a fully managed flexible office, you’re likely to meet someone from the office operator’s team. Normally a salesperson, sometimes the building manager. These people coordinate the daily running of the office(s), but they rarely ever own the building.
Your agent or broker You’ll meet the agent or broker if you’ve decided to get help with your quest, rather than going directly to the office provider. At Kontor, we always attend the viewings with you, because it helps to have someone there who’s on your team if you’re not a real estate expert yourself.
What questions should you ask?
An office viewing is your opportunity to gather all the make-or-break details. Especially the kind of details that tend to get left off the official description you’ve seen online or in a brochure.
You might already have some info prepped from your research, but it’s worth having these questions up your sleeve anyway.
At all viewings
When will the office be available?
What would they say is the ideal number of occupants (that’s “density” in industry jargon) for the space?
What’s the absolute maximum capacity?
What are the longest and shortest terms available?
What can be changed in terms of the design, configuration, and build out? Is the office provider willing to share some or all of those costs?
If you need more space sooner than you expect, what are your options?
Who else is in the building?
Who is the landlord?
Which transport/parking options are in the area?
Are there any nearby points of interest? Landmarks, cultural hotspots, event venues, etc?
When you’re viewing a leased office
Is there any flexibility in the lease length?
Can you have a break clause? (This enables you to hand in your notice at a specific point in the contract before your official end date.)
Will the landlord offer you a rent-free period while you’re getting the office ready to move into? (This means you don’t pay any rent while any design and build out is happening. Not all landlords offer this, but if they do, it’s usually at least 1-2 months for every year of the new lease in a blank canvas scenario or new building.)
What’s the energy efficiency of the building? (This could have a big impact on your utility bills.)
What’s included in the upkeep or AC hours? What costs extra (and how much control do you have over your choices)?
What is the landlord willing to offer with the design and build out?
What’s the deposit you’d need to pay upfront? (Side note: remember that the number you’re told is probably negotiable!)
When you’re viewing a fully-managed flexible office
What’s included in the price per desk? (Always includes all the basics, but may also include nice things like free tea and coffee, printing, meeting rooms, and networking events.)
What’s available at an extra cost?
What % capacity is the building currently occupied at? (Handy to know for any communal areas and shared facilities and how the vibe might change in the future.)
Do you need to pay a service retainer or some other kind of deposit upfront?
Can you grow within the building? Is it possible to move into a bigger office or add another room or floor?
Can you downsize?
Can you build additional meeting rooms into your space?
Can you access other buildings with the same provider? (Often the answer is yes, which opens up new possibilities for meeting locations and so on.)
Will any work be done to the space after the current company moves out?
How quickly can you sign?
How quickly can you move in?
What’s the process for giving notice for terminating the lease, on both sides?
What red flags should you watch out for in the office or building itself?
As you probably know if you’ve ever moved houses before, some problems don’t reveal themselves to you right away. Stains on the ceiling? Leaky plumbing. People wearing scarves and gloves inside? Shoddy heating.
The same rules apply to offices too.
What other specifics should you keep an eye out for when you’re at a viewing?
There are long lines at reception Maybe it’s an uncharacteristically busy day. Or maybe reception is chronically understaffed and your visitors will have a Disneyland experience of waiting in line when they visit you, only without the Disney magic. Or maybe the building doesn’t have enough elevators, and your whole team will waste time on that front every morning.
People are doing work in communal areas of the building It sounds like there are quite a lot of people packed in. This buzz might be exactly what you’re looking for… or you might find yourself frustrated that you can’t sit down and enjoy lunch or a cup of coffee without being penned in by laptops.
The building looks old Not necessarily a problem or a dealbreaker. Who doesn’t like a bit of character? But definitely a reason to ask a few more questions. Old buildings can spell trouble for appliances, electricity, plumbing, or more.
Cleanliness is an issue in the entrance, stairways, or guest restrooms Though you may have some say in the cleaning practices inside your own space, there’s no guarantee you’ll have any influence in the communal spaces. A sticky situation. Clean freak? Ignore it at your peril!
The building next door is being knocked down This might not seem like a big deal on a one-off visit, but development work means ongoing disruption and noise that can eventually grate on even the steeliest of nerves. So you might want to get some answers about the project specifics and timeline before you make any decisions.
TL;DR - a little prep work goes a long way when you view an office. The same goes for having someone with you, whether that’s a colleague or an expert ally.
Awesome teams deserve an office that helps them do awesome things, and you don’t have to do it alone! We’re here to help at kontor.com.