The best time to look for new office space depends on your company’s size, needs and location. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for determining when the search for office space should begin, but it is critical not to wait until the last minute. Commercial real estate becomes available at all different times during the year, so you don't have to be concerned with meeting any seasonal deadlines. Selecting office space for your upcoming relocation can be a very complex and unfamiliar endeavor, one that may take months or even years.
For most businesses, the stakes for choosing an optimal location are high. Settling on an office space in the wrong location could be costly to a business, while not accurately planning for growth could mean moving again in a few years, which strains both budget and productivity. The moving process itself can be expensive and time consuming, which is why it’s important to begin the search early. Office space costs are generally the second biggest cost to a company (preceded by employee costs), so it's important to spend enough time evaluating your needs and options.
Moving into a better office space can improve workflow, productivity, and employee satisfaction, but finding the best space for your business is only half the challenge. Moving requires significant planning, preparation, and organization. If your business is on the cusp of making a move, consider the following factors:
- The Size of Your Company
- The Complexity of Your Business Needs
- Locational Requirements
The Size of Your Company
Determining the spatial requirements of your business’s current and future needs can be one of the most challenging assessments you make. Businesses should rent for the company’s present and future plans. Companies should ask themselves where they expect to be in three to five years. Is growth expected? Will additional work space be needed? Leasing too much space could mean unnecessary expenses and under-utilized space, but not planning for growth could cramp space and limit staffing growth.
Generally, the smaller the office space, the less searching time is required. Usually, if you require less than 2,000 square feet of space, a four month search may suffice. Remember that planning, construction and your company’s relocation will add additional time to the process. If your business needs up to 5,000 square feet with some specific additions to the office space, it may be wise to begin your search at least six months in advance. For businesses searching for space more than 10,000 square feet, the search should begin at least one year earlier or more, depending on your size requirement. The larger the size of your projected lease, the longer the lead time should be. Larger tenants will need to double or triple these suggested time frames. Keep in mind that these rules of thumb will vary according to the supply and demand of office space in your area.
Many businesses hire architects or brokers to help estimate their space requirements, but you can begin by gathering baseline information about your existing facilities. Ascertain your current office’s square footage, cubical or space requirements, as well as current problems and potential solutions. When assessing potential office spaces, the following metrics may be helpful:
- Gross Density Ratio: What is your current ratio of usable square foot per person? Knowing this ratio can give you a general idea of how much space you'll need. However, keep in mind that if you are moving to a larger (or smaller) office space, you will need to account for support area rooms, like copy or server rooms, which are not necessarily proportional to the number of cubicles or office spaces.
- Enclosed to Open Ratio: This ratio considers the number of staff in enclosed office space to those in open cubicles or shared office space. Because enclosed offices require more space, determining this ratio before your search can make the selection process easier. The preferred office layout will depend on a variety of factors, including communication between staff, management hierarchy or security. Considering these factors will help determine your business’s preferred enclosed to open ratio.
- Circulation Factors: It’s fairly easy to list and measure the offices and work spaces needed, but you must also consider circulation pathways throughout your office space. Will your hallway be “single loaded” with offices and workstations on one side of the hallway and a wall on the other, or will you plan for a “double loaded” hallway, with access to offices/workstations on both sides of the corridor? Considering these factors early on will help you select a space for functionality and ease of movement.
- Room Sizes: Properly measuring conference rooms, office space and cubicle size is one of the most obvious factors to take into consideration. However, when moving to a new space, it’s important to reevaluate how much space is needed for the activities carried on in each room. These sizes vary greatly depending on a company’s needs and structure, so considering your business needs and your employees’ preferred work methods can be important.
The Complexity of Your Business Needs
If your business requires high security or specific technological features, finding a space and a landlord to accommodate your needs may require more time. If you expect the space to need alterations to meet special technical or security demands, it’s necessary to take that into consideration. For example, if you require Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF) or Anti Terrorism Force Protection (ATFP) complaint facilities, your choice in landlord may be as important as your choice in location. Consider the construction and facilities management options provided by your potential landlords before making a choice.
The more complex your business needs, the longer your search may be to find the optimal office space and landlord. Make an extensive list of your specific business needs before beginning your office search. Gather input from your employees about the types of work spaces they prefer and the factors that they deem important in an office environment. Creating a comparable analysis in an electronic spreadsheet may prove useful for comparing basics like usable and leased square footage, incremental expenses, unit lease price (price per square foot for the space per year), lease term required, maintenance costs, and pros and cons about the properties.
Waiting until the last minute to begin your search for office space can have detrimental effects, such as causing your business to miss out on prime locations or being forced into a sub-optimal leasing situation. The location of your office can have an impact on recruitment and retention; employees value proximity to amenities and public transportation, while convenient access may be an important aspect for your customer base. It’s crucial to consider how location can affect your business early on; waiting until the last minute may cause your business to miss out on a more optimal office location.