You’re raising both new capital and new staff, so it’s time to create your mark on the world with your own permanent address. Where do you start? What do you look for in an office, and how can you make it the best home for your brand?

So the time has finally come to cut the strings – you’ve spent months, if not years establishing yourself in the cutthroat world of new business ventures. The one comfort you’ve probably had is working in a serviced office or co-working space. Chances are they’ve had everything that you’ve been after; a great design, modern interiors and even an abundance of breakout areas and endless tea, coffee and beer!

Flexible working spaces at Thoughtworks

1. What do you like about your current space?

If you’re coming from a serviced office or co-working space, there’s a good chance that you’re well provided for. But what do you actually need?  The trick is to clearly identify what you and your employees like about that space, and what elements you want to re-create in your first office. Co-working spaces have become renowned for their great breakout areas, communal kitchens and cool designs. If your team love a game of pool on a Friday afternoon, or have a penchant for artisanal coffee, make sure you incorporate these elements into your own space.

2.What does your business need?

In the same way that you need to identify what you like, you also need to assess what you need. In a bigger business with bigger budgets, you might bring in a workplace consultant to help assess things like the number of desks, meeting areas and breakout spaces that are needed. But on a smaller scale you can do this yourself. Consider how many desks are being used at any one time – rather than simply counting one desk per person, as you might find you don’t need as much furniture or floor space as you think. Take a close look at how much time is spent in meetings and whether private meeting rooms are needed, or if you simply need furniture for the team to collaborate.  Consider future expansion too – how and where will additional desks and employees fit into your new office space?

3. Keep it flexible

Our biggest piece of advice is to be flexible with your furniture and space! You don’t want to have rows upon rows of workstations in a rigid structure. Using flexible furnishings can mean that your teams can work in different areas, depending on their team structure or current task at hand. ThoughtWorks, an established business that’s maintained their start-up flair, has used a ping-pong table as an alternative workspace for employees who want to work away from their desk. This allows them to scale teams for different projects and it also doubles as a social area after hours! 

Splunk's grungy Paddington office

4. Think of your work area 

Often start-ups embrace less traditional working hours, so if this is important for your business make sure the property you lease doesn’t have restrictive opening hours that enforce a more rigid structure. Likewise, think about what provisions you can make for staff who are in the office but need a bit of downtime – whether that’s a TV space, a games area, or simply some comfy seating – it all goes a long way to achieving the more relaxed vibe that your team have grown to love about being in a start-up.

5. Create your brand identity

Creating an office design that reflects your brand identity is an incredible opportunity to ensure your team lives by your brand values. After all, if you want your brand to mean something to customers, the office is a great place to start to get your staff on board with your brand.

Think about what feeling you want to evoke in visitors to your office, and how a smart choice of colours, furnishings and fabrics can reflect the personality of your brand. For example, you may not want plush neutral upholstery that looks like a smart hotel, if you’re an edgy IT company. At software provider Splunk, we created a space that reflected their core values of innovation, disruption, passion and fun, by using graffiti wall art, with urban material finishes and creating quirky meeting rooms.  The space holds onto their cool, start-up feel and has been named coolest office in the UK on more than one occasion. You’d never guess it’s actually in a new office development at Paddington!

Colourful furnishings at MRI

6. Plan for growth 

 Even if you’ve been involved in a new office design project before, doing this for your start-up is going to be very different to a project for a more established company. Flexibility and potential for growth are going to be high on the agenda, so avoid too many fixed partitions and restricted areas that have limited usage. Instead, choose flexible furnishings and moveable partitions like the small but perfectly formed space at MRI Software. Here, the comfortable seating in the reception has multiple uses; including a client waiting area, breakout or collaboration space. The space has been partitioned using a flexible, movable planter box which also acts as a living wall to screen the area from the rest of the open plan office.

7. Embrace the open plan

Open plan office design is one of the most effective ways to encourage interaction across your team. An open plan layout ensures that teams have easy access to one another, allowing for spontaneous thought creation and leading to more ‘light bulb’ moments. So break down the barriers and let the ideas flow! If sensitive conversations need to take place in private, try having a quiet room or booth where people can go to make phone calls, have private meetings or even sit and focus away from the open plan.

8. Budgets!

Finally, budgets are important in every office design project but as a new business, ensuring all purchases represent a good investment is going to be key. Avoid gimmicky solutions that might look cool but cost a lot! Multi-purpose solutions will be worthwhile investments; for example a ping pong table that doubles as a hot-desking area in the morning, dining table at lunchtime and transforms into Centre Court after hours. 

For more tips and help on designing your first office, check out our series of checklists including how to choose the right office space, and selecting your fit out provider