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Advice to help you make important decisions about your office space amidst COVID-19

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Advice to those facing tough decisions about your workspace 

Many companies have been forced to embrace flexible working in a bid to minimise disruption to their businesses because of COVID-19. But where does that leave companies who are paying rent for an empty office? And what about companies in the middle of planning an office move?

We understand that there is a feeling of “We can’t move office. I can’t possibly make this decision now.” However, some companies are taking this opportunity to see how they can reduce overhead costs by reviewing their current office contract and needs.

In this blog, we want to share some advice and offer some insight into how you can continue to make important business decisions about your workspace while still working from home and receive the flexibility you need in these strange times.

How can I search for offices safely during the coronavirus outbreak?

To help support companies safely look for office space, new standards of practice are emerging which are helping people maintain the social distancing recommendations by the government.

Here are a few ways people are being innovative and coming up with workarounds to enable them to crack on.

Four workarounds so you can still view potential offices:

  • *Live* virtual tours with a host, exactly as a viewing would be in person.

The majority of building operators are conducting video tours on all platforms - including Facetime, Skype, and Zoom.

This means you can look around the space, ask questions, return to a certain area for longer if you’d like to and get the answers you need to make a decision based on viewing the space - just as if you were there.

  • Pre-recorded tours: you can browse at your leisure.

As well as live tours, pre-recorded virtual tours are available so you can still browse the buildings at your leisure before you pick up the phone to discuss your needs further.

  • Chauffeuring to viewings: there is no need to use public transport.

To avoid using public transport, some companies are offering to pick you up from wherever you are and chauffeur you to-and-from viewings.

  • Health and hygiene are our upmost priority right now.

Operators can share with your their hygiene protocols, detailing recommended health and hygiene practices. These include hourly cleans of surfaces, handles, and bathrooms.

How is COVID-19 affecting office contracts?

The uncertain times we’re currently in means businesses need more flexibility when making important decisions like moving office. As a result, we’re seeing contracts and terms open to negotiation.

Things are changing day to day as it stands. Everything outlined below, therefore, isn’t guaranteed but it gives you an idea of the questions you can ask and negotiate, to make sure you’re making the right decisions for your business. There will be caveats and time frame limitations that will vary from agreement to agreement.

That said, here are a few examples and measures that have been put in place for business’ who need to move offices and started their office search before the virus outbreak:

1. You can ask for a flexible start-date.
Contracts are being amended to offer flexible start dates that are open. We’ve seen examples so far where the start-date is open for up to three months, but if you want to move in prior to an agreed date that can also be arranged.

2. You might only need a deposit in advance of move-in.
Standard practice usually requires companies to pay two months’ rent in advance of their move as well as a deposit. Given the circumstances and concerns surrounding cash-flow, operators are offering this alternative: Pay a deposit in advance and two months’ rent upon your move-in date.

3. Rent-free periods at the beginning of your contract.
You can still pursue your office move without paying for space you potentially won’t be using for the next month or so.

4. No downsizing penalties.
This offers you the security to sign a contract now and secure your new office without being penalised if, for reasons relating to coronavirus you have to downsize your workspace. There are caveats for this time frame that vary from agreement to agreement.

5. You can breakdown your deposit into monthly payments.
Cash-flow is a precarious issue for business’ as things currently stand. For this reason, some operators have offered to roll the deposit into your monthly payments. This will ease the pressure for businesses who might not have the cash-flow to pay a large deposit upfront as they would usually.

6. Some providers are not asking for any deposit at all.

7. Monthly rolling contracts with more frequent break-clauses.
With precarious realities comes unforseen ups and downs in business and we understand that. That’s it’s possible to secure an agreement that reduces the time you have to commit to a certain workspace. 

There are some positive aspects if you’re looking to move office...

The challenging times we face are being answered with agility and flexibility. Virtual tours and reduced upfront payments, in particular, will help those concerned that viewing is a health-risk and those who are impacted by the low cash-flow reality that plenty of companies are facing in COVID-19s wake.

There are some positive aspects if you're looking to move office: Not only are people securing unprecedented contracts at unfixed rates, it means all of your requirements and preferences are open for further negotiation. This increased flexibility is an opportunity that should be embraced as best you can.

Of course, it’s difficult to know what decisions to make, but know that we are seeing a lot of innovation and flexibility when it comes to finding an office space. If there’s something preventing you from securing an office during COVID-19, know that it's an open conversation.

As always, Flexioffices is open and available to assist you in your office search and can discuss any of the above measures with you in relation to your company’s needs. Feel free to get in touch.

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