Sometime in the early 90s, the concept of paperless office evolved. Since computerisation was rampant, all the information could be stored on computers without the need to take printouts or with the need to take just minimal printouts. Then came along networking & all this information stored on computers could be shared and accessed from other computers located at various remote locations. This paved the way for decentralisation of office structures and gave birth to the concept of work from home. Since all the information you needed to work with could be accessed from a computer at your home, why on earth did you need to go to office?
The question became especially relevant to small businesses since they could save a lot of money on office space by having their employees work from home. The saved money could be invested in business expansion or employee welfare or even given away to charity! Sounds great? Almost perfect? Wait, what? Too good to be true? It is indeed! To have or have not office space is a far more complex question than a matter of cost saving. So let’s look at the factors that you should consider when deciding whether to go for an office.
If you are a single entrepreneur or just a couple of entrepreneurs then you could probably make do with working from home. You could make use of home or garage space to save on office rent & share utilities & infrastructure that you have at home e.g. computers, electricity, phone, internet connection, furniture etc.
On the other hand, if you do have employees, they may not necessarily have the resources and facilities at home to be able to work. They may be living in small houses and not have computers, internet or spare furniture to use for working. Hence, in such a case you need to procure office space which will provide your employees with everything that they need to work with.
What is the nature of your business? Is it process driven work that is mostly mechanical? Examples could be a data entry operation. In such a case you could give your staff a laptop & internet connection & ask them to work from wherever they want to work from.
Or do your people need to get together for some creative brainstorming? Like you could have a design studio where people need to discuss ideas & come up with solutions. In such a case, you need to provide them with office space where they could interact & get the creative juices flowing.
Are you a B2B or a B2C setup? If you are a B2C setup, you will probably have suppliers who come and meet you. Also you might have customers who need to come & see your products & services or talk to someone from your organisation. If that’s the case you will need to procure premises to provide for meeting & discussion space.
On the other hand, if you are a B2B company, you probably go to meet clients at their respective offices. As written above, your client has probably already provided meeting space for you. So take advantage of it & save on your overheads!
If you happen to be in the service industry where you don’t have anything tangible to show the outside world, you need to have some space, preferably well decorated. Because your customers & other stakeholders will judge you by means of visual cues, such as how your office looks.
If you are into physical products, you can probably make do with a warehouse & manage the whole logistics electronically. Still, you might need an office to impress your stakeholders & make them do business with your company.
Need for office space depends on your company’s organisation structure. If your operations are centralised at one or two locations, you definitely need to have an office.
However, some enterprises are decentralised with one or few employees at each location. In such a scenario, it wouldn’t be possible for you to get offices at all these locations & you may decide to have a small setup at a central location, supported by work from home at other places. Or you may forego offices completely & have a completely virtual organisation.
Regulatory compliances may require you to have an office space. This may be true especially if you are an incorporated company. Do get some legal advice while you’re setting up your company.
What are your views on physical work spaces? Do companies really need offices? Do let us know through your questions and comments.
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