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Coworking desks in our central Norwich Office Space

There’s no denying that escaping the office and working from home is perceived as a major benefit of being self-employed or having a flexible manager. There’s a whole list of ‘benefits’:

  1. No commute
  2. You can work in your pyjamas
  3. You’ve all your creature comforts at hand
  4. You can work as and when you feel like it
  5. Popping out to run an errand or pick up the kids is perfectly possible.

Brilliant, right?!

Thing is, it turns out that just about every one of these ‘advantages’ is also a massive ‘spanner in the works’ of productivity. Let’s address them one at a time:

  1. It is now well understood by sleep-therapists and psychologists that not having a division between one’s work and their home is a major contributor to insomnia and the inability to relax.
  2. You must have had the experience of putting on a suit or your nicest clothes and felt 2 inches taller and a lot more confident. What do you think pyjamas does for your mindset?!
  3. Let’s replace ‘creature comforts’ with ‘favourite distractions’ and I think we can agree the point is made.
  4. Let’s face it, we all procrastinate. If we can ‘just do it a bit later today’ with no perceived time-deadline reminding us that’s not strictly true, putting off that unpalatable task is just that much easier.
  5. Yes, it’s perfectly possible to choose to distract yourself (or fetch some distractions) whenever you feel like it… Hm!

It’s no wonder, then, that those of us who have tried this for a few years have ended up seeking an office eventually and there is a growing trend globally that reflects this.
So, what’s the solution? Well, broadly speaking there are three options unless you buy your own property which comes with its own unique set of pros and cons!

  1. Take a lease on an office (perhaps with some friends)
  2. Take a licence on an office (again, perhaps with some friends)
  3. Take a licence on a desk in a coworking space

Again, let’s look at these in turn:

  1. A lease is the traditional way of ‘renting’ space or property from someone else. The good news is that it’s your space. Legally the landlord may not enter without your permission (or an emergency arises) and you can do what you like with it as long as you return it ready for the next tenant to use it. Unfortunately, in the commercial sector (as opposed to domestic/housing) when renting, everything else is firmly in the landlord’s favour. As a lease-hold tenant you are responsible for far more than you might at first realise from the headline lease price. You’ll almost certainly have an ‘Full Repair and Insure’ (FRI) lease which pretty much boils down to being like renting a second hand car for 5 years and when you give it back need to have the whole vehicle updated to modern regulations and be in perfect condition! On top of these responsibilities, you also have to enter into a very onerous contract which you would definitely not want to sign without consulting a solicitor at £1.2k to £3k as doing so could, quite literally, leave you penniless should an unscrupulous landlord ‘pull a fast one’. Finally, any lease will typically be for a minimum of 5 years meaning should your circumstances change after 2 or 3 years you’re left with the responsibility of a building you no longer want or need and conceivably will even be forced into paying business rates on an empty building! Nightmare!
  2. A licence is a commercial agreement for you to occupy a space, usually referred to as a ‘serviced office’. It is not a lease and strictly speaking isn’t a rental either. Typically, such agreements are on a monthly basis with notice periods of 2 to 3 months on either side. Legally speaking, the landlord can access your space without consent, but most quality serviced offices have electronic door locks with logging and alarm systems in the offices that the landlord doesn’t need to know the code to… Similarly, you have no rights to adjust the space, but most reasonable landlords will allow you to make sensible adjustments as long as you return it to its original condition when you leave. (On that note, reasonable wear and tear of your space will be included in your licence fee, so you won’t be stung for ‘dilap’s’ (dilapidations) when you leave. Additionally, serviced offices typically include furniture, heat, power, water and often even tea & coffee in the price as well as access to shared meeting rooms.
  3. Coworking space is typically also taken on a licence (commercial agreement) so you have all the benefits of that plus some other benefits:
  • The primary advantage to using coworking space is the flexibility. If you know you only want to be in the office three days a week, you don’t need to be paying for a desk you’re not using. Similarly, the cancellation terms on the contracts are typically just weeks of notice rather than months.
  • You’ll be working among other business professionals who will likely inspire you with their successes and likely provide excellent sounding boards when you need help. (Of course, this cuts both ways and we all know the best way to learn is to teach!)
  • You’ll build relationships with the people around you both in terms of friendships and commercially.

It would be silly to suggest that coworking space is the answer for everyone but there’s absolutely no doubt it’s a very realistic stepping stone to having ones own office, especially while they are a one- or two-person team. There’s a number of suppliers of coworking space but be warned; some have very convoluted pricing structures that start off very attractive but have nasty price traps if you’re not looking out.