The story of the UK’s small businesses can be told with big numbers. According to the Federation of Small Business, SMEs accounted for over 99 percent of all private sector businesses in 2018, they employed 16.3 million people (60 percent of all employment) and turned over around £ trillion, slightly more than half of all private sector revenue.

For many of these increasingly successful and confident businesses, one of the most important decisions they will make is where they work and how they equip their premises. It is fair to say that it is small businesses alongside the self-employed and freelance that have driven the boom in coworking spaces in the UK’s major cities. 

A coworking space is an office shared with other firms and individuals on a flexible basis. Its advantages include the ability to work in areas that may be too expensive and inflexible using traditional leases, which makes coworking especially attractive to firms that need to be in tech and creative hotspots.

They are not the right solution for everybody however, so it’s important to weigh up all of the options and the pros and cons of each. For example, a traditional form of office occupancy may offer more scope for branding and tailoring of the office environment to the culture of the organisation.  A workplace is likely to be their second most expensive asset behind staff which means office design can have a profound effect on the way a small firm works and attracts both clients and employees.

A good office design will not only project the right image for the business and make the best use of property, it will also help to motivate staff, make them more productive, prevent workplace related illness and injury and minimise absenteeism.

So, with all these incentives, what is the best way of approaching an office fit-out? Where do you buy all that stuff and how do you go about getting the best out of the firms with which you work? Whether you are looking to redesign your existing office, expand or relocate, here are six top tips to help you make the most of your property.

Plan properly

Make sure you are aware of all the options available to you. Ask yourself how you want to work; for example, in open plan or enclosed offices or, as is more often the case these days, a mixture of both. Just because you’ve done things one way in the past, doesn’t mean they are right for you now. Consider what your business needs are and look at all the options carefully. Make sure your business and marketing plans have sections on where and how you want to work.

Work with the right people

Never assume anything before you’ve got some good advice. A rough-sketched plan may seem like a good idea, but you may be missing something. For example, you may think you need to relocate to accommodate growth in your business, whereas a space audit may reveal you can stay in your existing premises. Similarly, an excellent office design will deliver a host of business benefits including cost savings, a boost to corporate identity, improved staff retention, increased productivity, better collaborations and knowledge sharing.

First impressions count

Visitors and clients will judge you on the way you look and will pick up on any discrepancies between what you say in your marketing material and how you come across through your property. So always create the right impression with your workplace. Make sure the reception area makes an immediate impact and conveys important messages about who you are. Ensure that the same message is apparent throughout your office and that your staff understand what your workplace says about your business.

Don’t stint on seating

The most important single element in your office is the one people spend most time in contact with, so always buy the best seating you can. Not only will it help you to meet your obligations under health and safety legislation and minimise absenteeism, good chairs actively promote wellbeing and send an important message to your employees about how you value them.

Be aware of legislation

Legislation is an important factor for office buyers and designers to consider when planning space and non-compliance can quickly lead to problems. Some of it is relatively well known, especially the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Display Screen Equipment Regulations. Some of it is less well understood, such as the Disability Discrimination Act and regulations dealing with the management of electricity and cabling in the office. So, get advice and make sure you keep up to date with new and emerging legislation. A good design and fit-out firm will keep you up to date with your obligations.

Buy the best you can afford

As with all things, you get what you pay for. Cheap furniture may be attractive if you’re starting up or growing your business, but it can be a false economy if it’s falling apart after a few months and you’re looking at the longer term, with the office as a key element in your identity and growth strategy. You’re also likely to get better service and advice with the purchase of better office elements including guarantees, space planning and after-sales support.

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