Jedidiah Walker values a square deal. In nearly five years as a startup founder, he’s rented plenty of office space in Philadelphia—including three flexible offices. He likes the short lease terms, ability to grow rapidly, ample snacks and never having his team distracted by little annoyances like futzing with the Wi-Fi.
Yet one flexible office experience still rubs him the wrong way—the time hidden costs and unmet promises left him fleeing for another provider. It happened a few years back when Walker moved 10 employees into a flexible office inside a larger coworking space. While the full bar, foosball table, and exposed brick facades were nice, he was forced to cram four people into one room, three people into another and had three roaming in the common areas. Not ideal but the office provider promised the first large office space available. Then a funny thing happened—the landlord continually offered newly available large offices to new clients, leaving Walker complaining to deaf ears.
“As soon as they get us signed, they didn’t honor their agreement to upgrade us,” said Walker, CEO of OpenForge, a mobile application design company. “What was I going to do, move my whole team to yet another new office?”
So he stuck it out a while longer. Then he noticed the hidden costs associated with reserving conference rooms. “One month I got a bill for an extra couple thousand dollars just for conference room space. It was crazy how quickly it added up,” said Walker. “The pricing was not transparent.”
Finally he’d had enough and moved his team across town—into a more sophisticated flexible office space that still boasted a short lease agreement but also transparent pricing, an office that actually fit his entire team, and no surprise fees.
Flexible offices are a relatively new phenomenon, and not all providers are created equal.
Walker’s bad experience could have been avoided if he knew which questions to ask before signing his lease, said Michael Burke, vice president of real estate and development at Convene.
“The beauty of a well-built ecosystem is that occupants can share resources that are expensive and really hard to do as a growing business, small business or even an outsourced team at a big company,” said Burke. “But you’ve got to know that the provider has your back. If they don’t provide a great service or layer in hidden costs, it can be a big distraction.”
If you find yourself exploring a flexible office space, make sure to ask these 25 questions to ensure you’re with the right provider and finding the right space for your team:
1. What’s included in my lease?
2. What additional charges could I incur (like conference room or printer usage) and how do those charges come about?
3. How much is the deposit?
4. Do I have flexibility to add and subtract people if my company grows or contracts?
6. What is the quality level of the furniture? Are there sit-stand desks? Ergonomically designed workstations?
7. How big is each desk—will your team feel cramped in a three-and-a-half foot desk or spacious with desks that are 5 feet or longer?
8. How easy is it for a tenant to control the climate?
9. Has the space been designed with HVAC infrastructure for the flexible layout—with air thoughtfully distributed from one room to another? Or are some rooms really warm and others really cold?
10. How loud is the space during peak times? Can you do heads down work without being interrupted?
11. What happens if a neighbor is being too loud? Is that handled by the office provider or the tenant?
12. Do you have a backup server if the Wi-Fi goes down?
13. Do you offer tech tools like webcams, fiber optic cable lines, smart boards or even good old fashioned hard phone lines?
14. Who else works in this space? What kind of work do they do? Does their company culture jive with mine?
15. How much space are you getting per person? Is it a tight 50 square feet per person or a more generous 100 square feet?
16. Are the common areas densely packed or can my people easily utilize the common space?
17. Is there a community manager? Can they book meeting rooms, greet guests and answer phone calls?
18. Is there a tech expert on location in case there’s a problem with the internet, printers or my devices?
19. What community events are being held in the space? What people can I engage with at those events?
20. If I run my own event here, do you need to pay someone to help with setup and breakdown?
21. Do you offer health-and-wellness options like yoga, step challenges, or healthy snacks?
Privacy and security
22. How are you ensuring that my data is secure on your networks?
23. How are you ensuring that private spaces remain private?
24. Do you have locks or HID readers outside all suites so people can’t roam into private areas?
25. What measures are you taking to ensure my personal security? Security guards? Security systems? Surveillance cameras?