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If you’re the owner of a startup or small business, you probably know firsthand what it’s like to be on a financial roller coaster. There are bound to be ups and downs and in-between; making it a tricky feat to simply keep your operation afloat. Never did practicality ever seem so wise….

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It doesn’t matter whether your team is made up of one lone warrior (yourself), a handful, or a few dozen; nor if you’ve been open for a week or several years, every small business needs to make up its own blueprint. There’s layout, design, structure, and location to consider. While deciding on a foundation, one must also acknowledge the importance of workflow, connectivity, and even ambiance.

Thankfully, we live in a modern world where options are always abundant. “Going to work” is no longer a term that is only reserved for offices tucked inside skyscrapers or boxy buildings in the middle of parking lots. “Going to work” can mean almost anything these days. Your workspace can be your own kitchen table, a shared room in a local venue, a coworking hub, or even the counter at your favorite diner.

Let’s take a look at the details of a few workspace options,  along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

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Telecommuting

With the rise of mobile devices and wifi (especially in business culture), more and more people are discovering their own mobility. The power and prestige of a corner office doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as the freedom of doing work in your pajamas or under a palm tree.

Just to clear things up, telecommuting is not a form of space travel (Starship Enterprise Offices have been fully booked for light years). Though it rarely has anything to do with other galaxies, telecommuting is almost just as cool. We’d even go as far to say that telecommuting could be considered the new work revolution.

According to the American Community Survey, telecommuting increased 79 percent between 2005 and 2012. Today, 2.6 percent of the United States workforce is made up of virtual employees. A study by Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, states that workers who telecommuted were more productive, happier with their jobs, and less likely to quit. In addition, the company saved nearly $2,000 per worker over a period of nine months.

When Not To…

Though there are many advantages to it, telecommuting is not for everyone. If your business involves a lot of face time or you do a lot of group projects, it may not make sense for you. If you already find it difficult to get everyone together, and feel that telecommuting would make this problem worse, look for another option.

When You Should…

On the flip side, if your staff is great at completing tasks on their own, everyone has reliable forms of communication, and meetings don’t need to occur too frequently, you may want to try out telecommuting. Just make sure you check in with everyone often. While there are plenty of employees that use that freedom to open their minds and get a lot done, there will always be employees that take advantage of the flexibility.

Take a survey of your employees and ask what they would prefer. For the ones who want to stay at home, start with one telecommuting day a week, and then if it’s going well, work your way up to five days. Make sure you establish expectations such as the hours you need them to be at their computers and whether or not you will require them to clock in remotely. You may even want to ask employees to come into the office once or twice a week to ensure that morale stays strong.

Before your staff transitions into the world of telecommuting, make sure to set boundaries and establish rules – all in writing. Let them know that you aren’t paying someone to do all their laundry during work hours, mow the neighbor’s lawn, or polish off a bottle of wine. Even if you have a relaxed work environment, putting guidelines in place won’t make you a monster. If anything, you’ll gain a little more respect.

plantronicsgermany03_embedRenting an office

Having one office for your small business or startup can be quite beneficial. When transitioning from a telecommuting work style, productivity almost always improves. The segregation of work and home is a necessary division for some people; as it tends to create less distraction and gives home a new kind of glow.

The Pros

When renting an office, you have the chance to make it look and feel just right. You can class it up with fresh plants, interesting art, and inviting furniture for visitors. Having a space that’s your own shows potential clients and customers that you’re a serious about your business. If you’re in a building or a part of town surrounded by other businesses, you have the chance to network and make valuable connections.

The Cons

The biggest drawback that comes with renting an office is that it is almost always the more expensive route, especially when in a big city. Keep in mind that you may have to provide a few months’ rent up front, along with a security deposit, tax returns, bank statements, and a personal guaranty, according to Entrepreneur’s Jon Ziefert.

When renting, you should always plan ahead. In order to determine if the space is large enough and if it’s worth your time financially, think about where you’ll be 12 months from now. What do you expect your profits to be? How many employees do you hope to hire by then?

Ziefert says that when signing a lease, you should try to secure the option to lease adjacent space in the building should your business grow during the time of your lease. Otherwise, you may have to move when and if your company expands. Aside from being an enormous hassle, moving a business can take time and energy away from the business itself.

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Reserving coworking space

Coworking spaces like IndustriousWeWork, and Assemble offer offices and communal workspaces to small businesses and start ups without all the usual hassle. Many coworking companies let you try out their services on a month-to-month basis, so you don’t have to sign an entire lease. While a deposit may be required, it won’t run you as much as a private office would.

The Good

It’s extremely easy and convenient to network at coworking spaces, since the businesses there share the same lunch, meeting, and break rooms. Some coworking companies will also hold events and seminars for the businesses so that they can learn about and get to know one another. You might find your next client or two simply by coworking alongside them. Not to mention, when you work in a small company, it’s quite refreshing to see some new faces and interact with people with whom you don’t share a phone line.

The Not So Good

The downside to a coworking space is that it may not look as professional or presentable to prospective clients. These spaces also have a tendency to get noisy and could cause distraction, if you consider all the movement and energy happening under one roof. Before you sign up, you may want to ask about parking. Is it provided or will it be hard for you to find somewhere for your employees to park. Consider such things when weighing out the costs.

If you occasionally have clients flown in or visitors taking the train, find out how close in proximity you are from the nearest public transportation stop or parking garage. The last thing a potential client wants is to take a crowded bus to a clamorous train only to find they still have a 45 minute walk before they get to your tiny, bustling coworking space.

stefan.julie_embedThe Takeaway

You want your business to meet its fullest potential – and so do we! In almost all cases, a business IS its employees. And sometimes, where your employees work effects how they work. So consider your options, make yourself some nice pie charts, and do your research. Once you’ve gathered a few solid ideas, present them to your team for a new insight and go from there.

 

Images courtesy of Keoni Cabral, Alper Cugun, PlantronicsGermany, Noel Hildalgo, Julie Stefan

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