Office flexibility and direct control are often a trade-off when you are are looking for new premises in London. Establish your priorities early on in the process, discover whether flexibility or control is more important for you and make an informed choice.

We often find that new clients are ill-equipped to begin their search for a new London office, because they haven’t asked themselves some basic, preparatory questions. Critical decisions that should be made at the outset are delayed until their search is well under way, wasting time and misdirecting effort.

With that in mind, I’m writing a series of blog posts, each part identifying and addressing one of these important questions.

So far we’ve dealt with location, budget, size and style. In this latest instalment, we will be addressing the twin issues of flexibility and control of your space, and how they will affect your options in the London office space market. Why are we talking about these two together? Very often there is a trade off between the two. If you need the flexibility to move at short notice or expand rapidly, it’s likely you will have to sacrifice some control over your space. On the other hand, if you need complete physical control over your space, you will normally have to make a longer term commitment, whilst losing the flexibility to change or adapt your plans at short notice! Let’s look at this in more detail…

If you need flexibility to move at short notice you’ll have to sacrifice some control over the space

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Planning ahead

Clients often ask us about allowing for possible expansion when looking for new London office space, but not surprisingly the increased costs often put them off! Nevertheless we recommend planning ahead if your business is likely to evolve in the near future. Otherwise you will find yourself going through this entire process again in a very short space of time, which is far from ideal!

If you need office flexibility, what are your options?

If you anticipate a substantial growth phase and plan to increase your workforce – or your staff numbers are generally unpredictable for some reason – you will definitely need the flexibility to vary the amount of space you rent. So what are your options?

  1. You could opt for a shorter lease, but most landlords don’t like agreeing to these.  Some leases are available with break clauses, but again landlords are not keen and annual break clauses are as rare as hens teeth!
  2. If you plan to expand in say 12 months time, you could perhaps sub-let part of your office to a third party for the first year of your lease, and occupy the entire space later, but this can carry some risks.
  3. If office flexibility is key, by far the most practical option is to go for a serviced office. Serviced offices use licences rather than leases, which means you can move in and out at short notice. If you need more space, you may be able to move within your existing business centre, without the complications of moving to and from conventional space. Of course, you can rent additional facilities such as meeting rooms, or conference suites on an hourly or daily basis as and when you require them, rather than wasting money renting space you only use occasionally. Serviced office space can be more expensive per square foot than conventional space, but if flexibility and convenience is non-negotiable, it may turn out to be a more cost effective option in the short to medium term. Download our free report on the comparative costs between serviced offices and conventional leases. If you’re unable to decide which type to opt for, have a look at our blog post on the key differences between serviced and conventional offices and how to make an informed choice.

If none of the above options fit your requirements, a conventional lease for 3–5 years will probably be the answer.

How much direct control do you need over your office space?

For some businesses, direct control over layout, interior design and branding is fundamental. For others it’s simply not a priority. If you are in the former group, then you will be looking for a conventional lease because serviced office space is unlikely to offer you that level of control. Ultimately control levels will come down to the terms you agree with the landlord. If you are in the latter group and do not need that level of control, you’re more likely to fall into the serviced office category. Remember there is often a trade-off between office flexibility and control.

For some, control over layout, interior design & branding is critical. For others it’s irrelevant!

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Very often it’s not a cut and dried choice – office flexibility or direct control – with many businesses falling between two stools, requiring varying levels of both. To help you make sense of your priorities and come to an informed decision, have a look at our definitive checklist on choosing between a serviced office or a conventional lease?

Buy a freehold for total physical and financial control

If you have the capital or access to finance, you should consider buying a freehold. This would give you total financial and physical control over your office and of course, it then becomes an asset, rather than a liability. Any money spent on office improvements and alterations would be an investment, rather than an expense.

Summing up…

We’ve looked at the all the options for flexibility and control of your office space, including shorter or flexible leases, sub-letting, serviced office space, conventional leases and owning a freehold.

Whatever you decide, it’s always best to bear in mind that your requirements now may have changed this time next year, and so plan ahead accordingly.

If you need guidance making any of these decisions, we are here to help. A team of London office agents is ready to assist you. Please just tell us what you looking for.