Paul Monaghan from architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) offers advice on how to find the best premises for your small business.

For small businesses making the transition from a home office, or starting out with their own premises, finding the right office space is critical. The great thing is, a small business doesn’t need the office to show how successful they are – the days of a glamorous entrance lobby have long gone. In fact modesty is important, but that doesn’t mean character should be sacrificed as well as the need for office space to be flexible, while being a great place for employees to work and for clients to visit.

Here are six things to think about when planning your next office move.

Know your business

First off, you need to know your business. Are you expanding? Will you be likely to expand in the future? It’s hard to know of course, when AHMM started out 25 years ago we were six people and now we’re 300 strong (unlikely as it seems, we’re still in the same office – more on that next). But having a feel for how sensitive your industry is to rapid changes in the market will help you settle on the type of office space which will work for you. Which leads me on to…

Flexible space

Since we moved into our warehouse offices in Clerkenwell, London, we’ve used 10 different spaces in different configurations. The great thing is we’ve been able to expand in the same premises. When looking out for your own space, consider how it could accommodate any future growth or even reduction in size.

Character/height and light

This might not be so important in say financial services as it is in the creative industries, but a building with character can really help sell your business to your clients as well as offering a great place to work for your employees. Former warehouse buildings for example can be inspiring places to work. They offer great height and light, with high ceilings and big windows. Historic elements such as exposed brickwork also add to the character.

Places to meet

As well as room for the desk space you might need to think about break-out areas for meetings. An area for a coffee machine and fridge which doubles up as an impromptu cafe can be invaluable. Any external areas such as roof terraces also provide good spaces where people can meet clients or simply get away from their desks. If there’s a coffee shop nearby this can be another good meeting option.

Location

You want to attract the right people to work for you so consider whether the location of the office is in the right area. If you’re a creative business operating in a bland business park, will it be a place your employees will want to work?

Things to avoid

The quality of air is very important and good ventilation is a must. Think about where the sun is coming from at different times of the day and how the glare is dealt with. Are there blinds for example? Lighting is important although the capacity for localised lighting means you could rectify an absence of natural light.

Any working space that has a suspended ceiling with tiles should be avoided – it feels far too corporate. Likewise, what are the opportunities to personalise your space? Our firm has a fairly minimal approach to decoration and we prefer to put our architecture models on display rather than buy art. Can you do the same?

For more information on Paul and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) visit http://www.ahmm.co.uk/

A change of premises may require different insurance arrangements. Contents insurance will be important and you may need buildings insurance. Click here for more information on Hiscox’s office insurance products.

Members of the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) can get a 10% discount on home and office insurance. Click here for more details.

All images photographed by Timothy Soar: www.timothysoar.co.uk.