COVID-19 has changed both what staff want from their offices as well as the way companies manage their workspace. Many employees will continue working from home indefinitely. Others will split their time between working from home and working from an office (hybrid). And some will have found that they are significantly less effective under the working from home model. However your employees are feeling, it's likely that if you are considering an office move soon, you won't be looking for the same kind of space that you had previously.

This guide is designed to help you evaluate what you need from your new space. The first 4 questions are designed to prompt you to evaluate what the impact of covid-19 has been on your staff and your business. The second 4 are more about how the answer to the first 4 question might impact what you need from your new space.

How are your employees feeling about the prospect of returning to the office?

Covid-19 has changed people's perception of the workspace. The viability of working from home has been proven. Companies have realised that there is a choice around leasing large and costly spaces. But at the same time questions have been raised about the long term impacts of working from home on company culture, training new hires, creativity and even mental health.

It's important therefore to get a feel for how your employees are feeling, to understand what they are excited or nervous about and to gauge how and when they might want to start returning, if they want to return at all.

Given the choice how often would your staff want to come into the office?

While still very much up for debate, hybrid is often referred to as the future of workspace - a happy middle ground where people work from the office when they need or want to but the rest of the time they work from home.  Assuming this is at least true for a while it's crucial to get a view on how often, in an ideal world, would your employees come into work and on what days.  

How effective was working from home for your  business?

For most companies, working from home has to some degree been a success. Technology has allowed businesses to continue operating without the need for staff to come together and most operations and services that can be digitised were either already online or quickly became so. It's worth considering though where working from home fell short.

Company culture, churn rates, creativity, sales functions, hiring, employee happiness, collaborative work, training. We've heard from many business owners that these areas have suffered to one degree or another. Identifying which roles, services and business functions suffered most will help in determining how your office can support your business and your staff. We'd recommend engaging with those who struggled the most to understand their needs before going too far with your office search.

Have your staff changed their views on how they want to use the office?

With employees likely to be working from home some days of the week, it's important to understand why people will be coming into the office. Initial data suggests that staff are looking to use their office a lot less for the purpose of heads down desk work and much more for collaboration, client meetings and team building activities. Knowing how your staff want to use your office will help shape its function and is therefore an essential part to defining your requirements.

How might you use the space differently from before and what feature does your new workspace need?

With the previous question in mind, you may decide that what you need from an office isn't banks of desks with chairs and storage space, but instead a place to bring people together for collaboration. Or maybe you need a space that speaks more to your company culture, that is able to host events and socials. Or perhaps you're truly embracing hybrid working and need connected meeting rooms to cater to both those coming in and those staying at home.

Defining how you plan to use your space in the future is a key part of any good workplace strategy and with Providers of office space happy to accommodate almost any request, it's well worth thinking creatively with this one.

What is the smallest/largest number of people you'll have in the office on any given day of the week?

Knowing how much space to take is one of the fundamentals of any office move. But with a lot of companies embracing hybrid working, a least in the short term, it's not as simple as it used to be. Understanding the minimum and maximum number of staff you might have in on any day of the week though is a great place to start.

If you can establish this you can then start to plan accordingly. Could you get a space small enough to accommodate your minimum headcount and then use communal spaces and membership passes to scale on the days you need to? Do you want all your staff back in the office but need to provide them with additional space to adhere to social distancing measure?

There are plenty of options out there, but without knowing how many people you need to cater for it's going to hard to get it right.

Out of the various options out there, what sort of space or combination of space types is the right office for your organisation?

One of the great things about serviced offices is that there's plenty of different solutions to meet any number of needs. People often don't realise that serviced offices can cater to big corporates needing several floors as much as they can to startups needing a couple of desks. So whether you're in the market for a space with it's own dedicated kitchen, meeting rooms and event space or just access to a coworking space, serviced office can help.

Mixing and matching between these solution can also offer some interesting options and potentially allow you to keep costs down. Here are some ideas to inspire:

Small private office + membership access: rather than getting an office to cater for all your employees why not simply save costs by getting a smaller office but giving all your staff membership access to the building/provider so that they can utilise communal areas.

Coworking space + private meeting room: alternatively you could get a space whose main function is as a meeting room and then get your team access to the coworking space in a centre (either hot desks or fixed desk).

Membership to a provider's network + central office: some of the bigger providers of office space offer access not just to a single building but to a network of buildings. This can allow your staff to get out of the home to a location near them, without necessarily making the longer commute to the head office.

What are your future plans and how important is flexibility in your workspace over the next few years?

While the pandemic has certainly left the future of workspace uncertain, it's also emphasised the need for flexibility. Serviced offices offer this in abundance, but it's worth considering the alternative. Longer commitments often mean better deals, so if you know what you're looking for and are happy to lock something in for a few years be sure to use this to your advantage in finding and negotiating for a space.

If on the other hand, flexibility is what you want, we'd recommend making sure you prioritise this in your search. It's also worth considering that most Providers are happy to work with you as you scale up but may not be quite so accommodating in the other direction. So we'd recommend starting small and expanding on a needs basis.

If you feel like serviced office space and are curious to understand what's out there use our handy search to browse the entire market. Alternatively if you're still unsure why not read a little more about the different types of serviced offices and who they suit by reading our guide on office types.