Caption: Finding a workspace that leads to productivity is crucial for entrepreneurs and small businesses, but this can sometimes be very difficult. “People often choose an office based on how nice it looks, but then a few weeks into occupation they realise it doesn’t work for their business. Knowing what questions to ask upfront is important,” says Greg Beadle, Founder of The Bureaux, Cape Town’s leading flexible workspace provider (pictured above is one of The Bureaux’s office spaces in Sea Point).

Beadle’s advice is to ask for a ‘test drive day’ before committing to signing a lease. “No one buys a car without driving it out of the showroom first, so take the same approach to the workspace you are considering. Ask to try out the space for a day and get a real feel for what you can expect,” advises Beadle.

Beadle shares the top questions to bear in mind when looking for office space.

1. How fast is the internet?

“Internet is probably the single most important aspect of running a successful operation these days,” says Beadle. “Check whether the upload and download speeds are the same and if the internet is fibre-based. You may have to work after hours, or if your business runs around the clock over different time zones, you need to be sure you can count on reliable and fast internet 24 hours a day not only from 08:00 to 17:00. Confirm what contingency plans are in place should the primary internet service not work and ask existing tenants for their opinion on how reliable the internet is.”

2. Where is the office located?

“Everyone needs to take a break from work to refuel and rehydrate, so location and surrounding amenities like restaurants, gyms and coffee shops are important. However, it’s not only about how close you are to your next caffeine fix, but also if the workspace puts you conveniently close to your key stakeholders making meetings easy to arrange,” says Beadle. “When considering location, keep in mind the commute for all employees when travelling to work and whether parking and public transport options are convenient.

3. How long is the lease and are they flexible with these terms?

“For a new start-up business or a consultant taking on project contracts, flexibility is very important. Having the option to easily upsize or downsize according to your needs helps a lot because you may not want desk space for five team members until March next year,” says Beadle. “Our maxim is that tenants should stay as long as they want to, not as long as they have to so find out what the minimum notice period is to cancel your lease. A three-year fixed contract rental is something that should be avoided, especially if you want to keep a tight hold on your business expenses and can’t forecast budgets too far into the future.”

4. What is not included in my rental?

“If renting a boardroom comes at an additional cost, you’ll never be able to follow an annual budget for expenses for this line item. Don’t be shy to ask if usage of a communal kitchen is billed in addition to the rental fee; even this can become a premium add-on. Sometimes the superior high-speed internet is offered at an additional fee, so do be aware of these extras that you may not expect and look for all-inclusive options that suit your needs,” advises Beadle.

5. Is the workspace available 24/7 and can I leave my personal belongings on my desk?

“Safety is undeniably important,” says Beadle. “It’s important to check whether 24-hour security is provided. Should you have to work late, you want to feel comfortable doing so. Find out from current tenants if there have been any breaches of security and be sure to check that you don’t have to lock your laptop away every time you leave.”

Hot desks are to be avoided because service providers tend to ‘oversell’ this option. Beadle explains, “If you rent a hot desk, you have to pack up and take home your personal belongings every day, not knowing where you’ll sit the next day. On busy days you may not even find an open desk. Ideally, you want your own safe space where you can leave your laptop and files, knowing you’ll find them there when you return the next day.”

6. What comes as a value add when you rent office space here?

“Enquire about reception services; this is very useful if you want to maintain a professional appearance with clients. Having dedicated receptionists to receive couriered post or forward calls helps you to focus on the important work you need to do,” shares Beadle.

7. Can I use workspace at your affiliated locations?

“You may want to meet or work in a different part of town from time to time; it’s important to find out what affiliated locations are available with your rental contract. Know what you can expect at other locations that could make your work life even easier,” concludes Beadle.

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