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When does a business come of age?

5th February 2015

When does a business come of age?

For many business owners, they would say when they move into their first office, or take a step into an exciting new space that will see the business through the next few years. 

Choosing the space can prove a headache, especially in these times of increased demand and short supply. For people who have never operated from offices before, it can be a challenge to recognise what the priorities are and in which order to make and implement every vital decision. Naturally, location plays a part, but entwined with this are matters to address such as transport links, availability of parking, safety and security of the building and the staff, ease of delivery of goods, broadband and telecoms infrastructure, appearance of the offices to clients, and a conducive place to work for the employees. 

Even the design of an office can leave business owners scratching their head; these are entirely new skills – all which need to be learnt while still running the business itself. For this reason, there are a multitude of agents and companies who can help guide a business through the various stages of procuring or changing offices. 

But once the literal and figurative dust has settled and computers are turned on, the phone starts to ring and the kettle starts to boil, what next? The office is, in fact, never going to run itself, yet the more streamlined it can be made at the outset, the more it will be able to appear that it does. 

Here are some tips, some legally required and some just sensible ideas, on the essentials needed for any successful office. 

Insurance

Depending on the kind of office you have, you may need different kinds of insurance. For example, if you lease a floor of an office block, the buildings insurance will be paid by the landlord and charged back on top of the rent, but you will be obliged under your lease not to invalidate that insurance. You will need to make sure all staff are aware of this. If you lease a whole building, the insurance may well be your responsibility. In a serviced office insurance costs will simply form part of the monthly charges, while in a home office you may need to let your buildings insurer know that you are using part of the property for business. 

Regardless of your location, you will also need contents insurance. The cost of computers, other technology and office furnishings can add up and need to be covered in case of, for example, fire or theft. 

You should also have indemnity insurance. This could be in case someone is physically hurt on the premises; in this case your insurer will take over the case – but always be aware that there may be a significant excess to pay. You may also need indemnity insurance for the services you offer. In some sectors, such as law, this is compulsory. However, for all businesses, this indemnity insurance – for errors made in the services you offer, which have a financial rather than a physical effect – should be part of your office and business planning from the outset.

Disaster management – or data back-up

It is easy to get carried away with day-to-day work and secretly believe that loss of data will never happen to you. However, in this day and age, when even in a non-paperless office a vast amount of information and communications are held digitally, the loss of access to such data could have disastrous effects on business. 

It goes without saying that to help prevent disruption from viruses or similar, the best virus and malware protection should be installed on all appropriate technology. Alongside this should be a rigorous back-up regime. Of course, given the essential nature of this 21st-century aspect of business, there are many companies offering tailor-made solutions. Given the financial consequences of not being backed up, it’s worth paying the experts. 

Health and safety precautions

Certain health and safety rules are required to be followed by law. The Health and Safety Executive has all the information you will need in order to know where you stand (or where you should not stand…) in terms of office safety for you and your staff. The website offers an office risk assessment tool as well as guidance on preventing and reporting accidents. Even the smallest of offices should have a first aid box and at least one person who is first-aid trained – bearing in mind that this person will not be available all the time. The larger the office, the more first aiders are required. Keep a record of training and don’t let the skills lapse. Check and restock the first aid box regularly. 

Productivity monitoring and time management

While the digital revolution has brought many positives, and is championed as being a timesaver, by helping to avoid waiting on hold on the phone or by replacing meeting and travel time with emails and virtual meetings, there is a flip side. The temptation to become distracted by the various technology surrounding us is stronger than ever. Concentrating on one single task has become increasingly difficult with the ability to update ourselves by the minute with new information. In reality, little of this information needs to be read or absorbed immediately. Yet all office workers will recognise the feeling of slipping into distraction. And there is no reason to expect them to know how to deal with it. A good, workable, efficient office will provide its staff with the skills to manage their time well without feeling that the management are breathing down their necks. There are multiple ways to streamline a working day, including: time recording via websites such as toggl.com or time-analysis websites such as RescueTime; switching off or closing down email applications while working on something that requires concentration; and having a ‘non-cc’ policy, meaning that groups of people are not included in emails indiscriminately. To help the staff, ensure that all delegated tasks are allocated in as clear as manner as possible, with expectations and timescales noted. To complement such measures, there is productivity-measuring software available, or you may just decide that in this respect the traditional way is the best: talking. Are people happy? Does the work get done? Is the business profitable? Do clients come back for more? 

This news was brought to you by Morgan Pryce, a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.


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