Are managed office spaces the smarter choice for your UAE startup?

August 11, 2017

‘Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.’

When Guy Kawasaki uttered these words, he had it right. One thing we all learn as aspiring entrepreneurs is that there’s a whole lot more to being a business owner than just coming up with the initial concept.

Choosing the right office space or working environment for a startup is on the list of essentials. And a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply doesn’t work here. Each new enterprise is unique, so we need to consider the needs of the business and which working style will meet them at the best possible price.

Not long ago, the business office was an asset in itself; something that a business owner would pay for and maintain themselves. However recent years have seen a real shift in the way we work and how office spaces are perceived. The rise of the managed office has been a slow and steady one but these days many businesses are reaping the benefits of this style of working environment.

Six benefits of choosing a managed office space

It’s hardly surprising that managed offices have become a popular alternative to old-school leasing options, with furnished and fully equipped offices, amenities, WiFi and communication services, as well as meeting rooms and conference facilities all typically included in today’s agreements.

But what are the real benefits of opting for this type of office when starting a new business?

1. Save money on startup costs: We all understand that the costs of starting up a new business are significant, and we have to evaluate fully each one as part of our initial research. Office costs may be low on many people’s priority list, but they can soon add up to a monumental figure.

Office costs may be low on many people’s priority list, but they can soon add up to a monumental figure.

When going down the traditional office hire route, there are many things to consider. The business owner will have to furnish the space themselves, cover the cost of WiFi and phone lines, utility bills, cleaning services, and even hire reception staff.

In a managed office, all the above comes under one fee, helping to reduce the operational costs of the startup to the lowest possible point.

2. Office space can grow with the business: Flexibility is key when a business is in its initial phase. Some companies take off overnight while others achieve more of a ‘slow burn’ effect. A challenge that many entrepreneurs face is not knowing which way their business will go and being unsure whether or not to commit to a fixed office contract.

Managed offices are a viable option in just this scenario, since many of them allow customers the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade their plan according to the growth of their business. If the startup grows more quickly than expected, the owner can simply upgrade their managed office plan to obtain more space, rather than having to move rapidly to entirely new premises. What’s more, research published in the Journal of Facilities Management has found that different office types have their own strengths. For example, smaller individual offices help workers boost their productivity levels, whereas larger, ‘combi’-type setups are generally better for communication.

Overall, having the choice to tailor your space to the needs of your enterprise at any given time is a huge bonus for the startup owner.

3. No need for large, long-term contracts: The benefits of this kind of flexibility lie at the very heart of the managed office service. A big drawback for entrepreneurs who are just starting out is often the fact that they have to commit to a long, drawn-out office contract, locking them into a deal, regardless of what the future may hold for their business. It’s a leap of faith that few are willing to take right away.

Conversely, most managed office space providers don’t require customers to sign up to a lengthy contract. Contrary to what we find with standard office leasing, these setups mean that businesses can rent space for just a few weeks or even a single day at a time. This high level of control over the service really helps give the customer peace of mind.

4. Opportunity to join a co-working community: For smaller enterprises, having a closed-off office space may not be the most logical solution to their needs. Luckily, many managed office spaces have a co-working option available and it’s one that many businesses are finding valuable. Researchers from the University of Ljubljana predict that co-working spaces will boom over the next two years and there’s plenty of evidence that this mode of work can be advantageous, especially for smaller startups.

Many managed office spaces have a co-working option available and it’s one that many businesses are finding valuable.

Perhaps the first industry to truly embrace this modern style of working is the creative sector. The Ljubljana researchers noted that each co-work space ‘brings independent creatives together but lets them work alone’. In that sense, this kind of setup means that people who work in the same field can be in the same office space without necessarily being employed by the same enterprise. So it facilitates communities of people working in similar fields, along with a wealth of networking opportunities, which brings us neatly to the next point.

5. Collaborate with like-minded professionals: No business is an island. For a fledgling enterprise to flourish, it’s crucial that the business owners make meaningful external connections. And the office environment which the company inhabits plays a leading role in this process.

A recent study by the University of Michigan found that researchers were 33% more likely to collaborate with each other when they worked in the same building. What’s more, those on the same floor were 57% more likely to collaborate. The idea is that the opportunity to regularly ‘bump into’ like-minded professionals could enhance your business network in a big way.

Managed office spaces may well be the best option to encourage these chance (or even planned) meetings. Many of the contracts include added extras such as monthly professional meet-ups, networking sessions, and even dedicated social media platforms which are exclusive to the spaces.

6. The low-cost option of virtual offices: Shoestring setups will, of course, benefit from low-cost alternatives to the traditional office space. As it happens, many managed office space providers have just the solution for this.

The ‘virtual office’ allows an entrepreneur to use some of the core facilities of a managed space, without physically working in the building. It’s a growing trend, given that 50% of all business people worldwide now report that they spend up to 2.5 days per week working outside the office.

Business owners who opt for this style of working can use the space’s address as their official business address, have access to call-answering facilities, and can also have their mail handled by on-site staff. This modern type of setup is proving extremely popular, among both startup businesses and established enterprises, as a flexible and affordable option for their space needs.

While some people have the impression that remote working or using a virtual space hinders productivity, in fact the opposite is true. According to research from Brigham Young University, telecommuters are able to work much longer hours than regular office workers before they burn out. With that in mind, virtual offices are actually helping emerging companies to boost their productivity levels.

According to research from Brigham Young University, telecommuters are able to work much longer hours than regular office workers before they burn out.

Case study: UAE office space options from Regus

To gain a deeper understanding of what managed offices really offer to entrepreneurs, let’s look at a case study: the global office services provider Regus, which has 3,000 premises across the world, including 24 here in the UAE.

Regus’s office solutions can be used as an example of the kind of services we could generally expect.

Fast WiFi connection and phone lines: Usually it takes a lot of time for a new business to establish individual contracts with communications companies for WiFi and phone lines. In Regus office spaces these facilities are offered as standard, at no additional cost.

Fully-furnished office space: Whether a business owner opts for a co-working contract or an individual self-contained office, each space is fully furnished and ready to use.

Staffed reception: Reception staff members are available during work hours to take calls and even collect mail as it’s delivered. This means that companies no longer have to pay dedicated staff for these roles.

The option to scale up: Contracts can be flexible so that owners can scale up the size of their office as their business grows. This is particularly useful for startup enterprises.

Regular events and meet-ups: The ability to network with other businesses in the building is invaluable. Regus community events and activities give professionals a chance to do just that, making an excellent addition to their regular networking operations.

Ultimately, the type of office setup you choose should directly align to your particular business requirements. It’s worth taking the time to look into all the options available before committing to a contract. Managed offices offer a flexible, affordable, and easy-to-understand service, and are certainly worth considering before making the big decision for your business.

About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup
About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup

With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.