The move into your first 'proper office' is one of the proudest milestones in your business's growth.
It's a sign that you've made it.
But in today's increasingly digital world of business, is having your own office really so important? After all, most of us can carry out 100% of our work with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection.
There are many proponents of working from home - or even adopting the lifestyle of a digital nomad - yet moving into an office is the eventual goal of almost every fledgeling company.
It's a big decision.
Get the timing wrong, and you doom your cash flow and your company's financial health.
Or you stall growth, and are forced to turn away more trade.
We can't tell you if the time is right - but we can show you a list of signs you should look for so that you're well-placed to decide for yourself!
#1 You Want to Hire More Staff
This is the most important factor here - it’s not ideal for either you, or your new hires, to have to work from your home office. Your options are either to insist they work remotely, or look for an office space.
You’ll reduce the numbers of applicants who are willing to work with you if you go for the first option - so now might be a good time to look move out.
#2 You Meet Clients Frequently
Holding meetings at your local cafe works most of the time, but when you want to host multiple clients or invite clients for subsequent meetings, it’s not so easy to use the same space.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to search for an office. Instead, look at options for hiring individual meeting rooms in your local area. Depending on your requirements, you might find a suitable arrangement that doesn’t require splashing out on an office.
#3 There’s No Space at Home
When housing multiple employees at your home address, you’ll quickly reach the point where you run out of space for their workstations. You might also lack the space for equipment such as photocopiers, laser printers, or specialist tools. Eventually there’ll be a shortage of sockets, too - don’t make your workspace unsafe by linking together powerstrips!
The only real answer here is to rent out an office - restricting your company’s progress by trying to fit employees and equipment in your home office isn’t going to get you anywhere. You might also be breaking workplace health and safety rules.
#4 You Want to Appear More Professional
It’s not just clients who will raise an eyebrow at your home office - potential employees will, too. Some candidates will back out of the application process when they find out they won’t be working in a proper office. Why restrict your candidate pool in this way? Moving to an office, however small, will give you an air of professionalism.
If you don’t hold meetings for clients and you aren’t looking to hire more employees, yet you’re still concerned about having a residential company address, you have another option - a virtual office. Virtual office services range from mail collection and forwarding, to personalised call answering - just search for an address or postcode you’d like your business to boast, and go from there.
#5 Your Finances Are Healthy
Office leases tend to require at least a 12 month commitment, and in many cases, multiple years. You might also have to make a significant deposit. Even if the cost is doable based on the current state of your finances, will you be able to pay the rent if your financial situation worsens?
If you’re unwilling to commit to a lengthy lease, you could turn to local coworking spaces. Here you’ll find individual desk spaces up for grabs with shorter leases than standard office spaces.
#6 You Frequently Work from Your Local Cafe
For whatever reason, if you find working at a cafe more pleasant than working from your home office, and do so on a regular basis, it’s probably time to move out of your home office. Working from cafes isn’t compatible with business growth - unless, of course, you plan to buy out the entire cafe!
#7 You Can’t Switch Off
A home office removes the physical barrier between work and home, and it can also wear down your mental barrier between the two. It’s not quite so easy to switch from work mode to home mode when you haven’t moved rooms, let alone changed buildings!
The result? Stress. Sure, running your own business means you have to work long hours - but you still need to be able to switch off once your work’s done.
Not ready to move to your own office space? Try a coworking space to set clear boundaries between work and home. A step too far? Rearrange your home office so that there’s a distinct area for work - and stick to it.
#8 Your Family are Unhappy
It’s not just your own work-life balance you need to worry about. Your home office could also be affecting your family. Maybe your partner doesn’t like dedicating an entire room of the house to your work. Maybe you keep checking work emails when you’re meant to be looking after the kids. Or maybe your housemates resent you because their lounge has turned into your office.
Sometimes these personal problems are obvious, but in many other instances you need to take a step back to realise the impact that running a business from home has on those around you. Ask your family and housemates for their honest opinions, and brace yourself for the answers.
#9 You Feel Isolated
While we’re on the subject of social problems, you need to take into account your own wellbeing. If you started your home business after working previously at an office-based business, you might find the change particularly isolating.
Even if you work with remote employees or freelancers, it’s not quite the same as having colleagues alongside you. If this sounds all-too familiar, now might be the time to make the jump to a coworking space, if not your own office where your remote employees can join you, if they like.
#10 You Can’t Focus
Many of us struggle to stay productive when working from home, even when we’re working for our own business, not someone else’s. A lack of focus might be fine when business is slow, but when your work picks up, it’s essential that you have a working environment that helps you stay productive.
You can rejig your home office to try and achieve this, but you might be better off opting for a different office environment entirely.
Is now the right time?
If several of these signs are familiar to you, you should definitely start looking at moving into an office for the first time. If you can only tick one point off this list, start researching your options. Maybe a coworking space will be more suited to your situation, or you can start planning your move for 6-12 months time.