You’ve started a new business and are adding employees. Now you need an office! Or do you?

The post-pandemic world has brought about a lot of changes to how most employees feel about where they work. Many employees quickly learned they could be just as productive working from home as they were in an office setting. And looking into the future, a February 2022 report by Pew Research Center found that 60% of employees with jobs that can be done from home say when the pandemic is over, if they have the choice, they’d like to work from home all or most of the time.

Work from home, return to office, or hybrid work?

So what does that mean for your plans of a shiny new office building in that high-rise you’ve been eyeing? Well, that depends. It’s probably not a great idea to force an ‘everyone in the office’ policy. According to an April 2022 ADP report, two-thirds of workers might seek new jobs if forced unnecessarily to return back to the office full time. According to the Pew survey, employees with jobs that can be done from home but are choosing to go into the office cite preference and productivity as major reasons why they choose to be in the office.

You might consider starting with a co-working space. What is a co-working space? It’s an office that’s designed to accommodate small businesses and many different companies. These spaces have shared facilities, services, and tools. Many co-working companies provide activities to bring workers together for social or learning purposes. It’s a great option if you have just started your company, are growing quickly and not quite sure how much space you’ll need in the long term. There is a lot of flexibility within most co-working spaces to allow for your space to expand as your business grows.

How to choose an office space

When you are ready for your own space, think about how you will use it. Consider working with a commercial real estate broker or other professional office space consultant. They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience about your local area and what other businesses are doing. At Viably we opted for a very small space, about 1600 square feet (148 square meters) for our US employees. All of our employees want the flexibility to continue to work from home but also, occasionally, be in the office. Our space will be in a thriving downtown suburb of the state capital, with restaurants, shops, and bars all within easy walking distance.

In the coming years, I expect the days of office buildings in the middle of nowhere with few to no amenities will be a thing of the past. A space with shops and restaurants within walking distance and things to do after work will draw employees into the office because they have easy shopping and eating options close by. Also consider where your employees live. At Viably we found our employees in our US Headquarters all lived very close to each other (a happy surprise), which made our focus area when shopping for office space much easier.

A place where employees want to work

Finally, you’ll want to consider the office layout and furniture. In our new Viably space, we will have one large room with a few workspaces and several collaboration rooms. There will be several small ‘phone booths’ where our employees can go to take a call or a private meeting. It will be open and collaborative. We will also have one office and one small conference room for larger, more traditional meetings.

When thinking about office space, Cisne Schaffer, of Business Office Systems (BOS) said it best when asked to describe the top trends in the modern workspace: Improvements in the ergonomics of workstation furniture, collaborative areas for team meetings, quiet spaces for deep concentration, casual break-out spaces for small talk, creative spaces that inspire imagination and innovation.

The key takeaways are to start small with a co-working space or landlord that can help you expand your office space as your business grows. Work with an experienced commercial real estate company to ensure you have the right lease terms to allow for future growth. Find space in an area of town where your employees will be drawn into the office instead of forcing them. And finally, ask your employees what they want. Flexibility in working from home and in the office is key. And if you want them in the office more often, a weekly or monthly planned social activity will help employees to again appreciate the value an office environment holds.

For more small business tips, check out the rest of our Viably blog.