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Re-Imaging Office Space for the 21st Century Employee

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For decades office space has pretty much remained the same. The top executives resided in enclosed offices with windows and doors while most of the staff members worked in cubicles. While the layout improved over the years with ergonomic advances, the basic layout and work style of offices remained more or less static.

Now that we are in the 21st Century, office space is being re-imaged completely by many businesses and the re-invention of the office is proving to be more productive. Office work styles are changing radically, driving some of these changes.
 
The last few decades have also experienced workers who remained with a business for a few years, then moving into other positions of higher levels in competing companies. Many businesses accepted this style of employment because few employees remained long enough to earn a pension and the associated costs. However, the cost of locating and training quality employees was very high and the experience factor that was lost began to cost many companies in the long run. This, too, drives the re-imaging of office space.

Silicon Valley was the first area in which non-traditional office spaces began to emerge. Google is a prime example of one of the first businesses to re-image their office space. Instead of a bullpen full of cubicles, workers have desks and equipment in

communities where those who work on similar projects can easily brainstorm at any time. If someone needs a few minutes to think in a quiet area, there are plenty of unique locations to do so, such as a large bathtub full of pillows facing a wall of aquariums. While some meetings are held around a table with chairs, employees have options to meet in comfortable lounges with comfortable furnishings or outdoors.  Areas for recreation are provided; including video game stations, a top of the line cafeteria and the entire area has data access so anyone can use their laptops anywhere they wish. If someone needs to go to the far side of the Googleplex, as it is known, they can jump on one of the readily available bicycles which can be used in the wide hallways or outdoors.

It may seem as if the re-invention of an office into this new style would cut productivity. The reverse has proven true, as the huge profits generated by the employees of Google has proven. Employee satisfaction is extremely high, making team members want to produce. Benefits and freedom to work in whatever style is preferred by the team members generates strong employee loyalty, reducing turnover so that training and experience is maximized.
 
This re-invention of office space looks and feels very radical at first, but when you think of how people really work and where their ideas are generated, it makes perfect sense. Seldom do cutting edge ideas emerge from a single person. Usually they occur when people are interfaces, chatting over a cup of coffee, or brainstorming together. Why should they be forced relegated to cubicles where they face barriers to communication and contact with others?

Google’s solution to what an office space should be and how it should functions has let other corporations, both large and small, to adopt changes which improve human contact and happiness. It has long been known that happy employees are loyal, trustworthy, and extremely productive. While unhappy employees may produce, many ideas that could earn millions in profit never come to light. The confinement inherent to traditional office space layouts is radically changing and your business may find that re-inventing all or part of your office space may increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

Having looked at one office re-invention, our next post on this topic will delve deeper into the drivers of office space re-invention. Then we will look at ways to apply these concepts to your own workspace.

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Flexible Workspace , Office Space Design , Silicon Valley Office Space

Alternative Office Space for Small Business

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Operating a small business can be both exciting and lucrative. More and more people are leaving the traditional workplace to open their own ventures and becoming quite successful. Many startups begin with only the owner working in the business which makes leasing or renting office space the largest overhead expense. There are practical ways to cut this big overhead item by thinking creatively. There’s no reason that every business needs a walk-up storefront in order to succeed.

Share an Office: If you have friends or colleagues who are also starting businesses that don’t require storefronts, consider leasing a spacious one or two room office and split the expenses equally. This reduces the costs for electricity, internet, janitorial, and other equipment leases. Instead of each office partner procuring a copier, fax, and other equipment that both parties use, only one item is needed, significantly cutting the cost. Compatible services work well in shared office spaces. One example that has proven to work great in shared spaces might be a software development company and a computer technology company. There are many other compatible combinations; just be sure there won’t be a conflict of interest or direct competition. Instead, seek an office mate that will be synergistic to your business so you can help each other grow and thrive.

Executive Suite: These are shared office with services run by a management company. They provide not only office space but furniture, phones, Internet, office equipment and administrative service. They are typically a full floor of a prestigious office building and you will have lots of other small businesses around for networking.

Co-Working: Much like office sharing, co-working is a concept originated in 1999 where entrepreneurs and small business owners who share the same values ban together to form a community of business people. Co-working usually begins when networking partners find they enjoy the social aspects of working in the same space and may often help either other’s business in various ways. The partners then lease an office space, sharing all expenses. Each of the co-working partners conducts their own business in their own workspace in the shared office and the co-workers may share support staff such as receptionists or clerical staff in order to keep overhead costs low while providing everyone effective support for their small businesses. This concept is growing into a great solution for hundreds of like-minded small business owners.

Virtual Office: Today, you really don’t need a specific location for an office with walls. With mobile wireless internet services, hot spots available in most metro locations and even urban areas, multiple personal data devices, and smart phones that do almost everything a computer does, it is possible to work anywhere at anytime. You can operate your business from your living room sofa, poolside, in your vehicle (please stop your vehicle in a safe location before texting or computing for safety), in a coffee shop, at McDonald’s, and right at your client’s desk. By using online services such as GoogleDocs, your information can be safely stored online for presenting to your client easily. With outsourcing of many tasks, you can take your laptop and smart phone and conduct business in any location you desire. If you do have a need for an office, Executive Suites also offer a virtual office service that allows you to use an office or conference room on an as needed basis.

Lease a Desk in a Business that Buys Your Services: Often, a small business begins because on business requires the services that will be offered. For example, an insurance company may regularly require the services of a licenses investigator. If your small business is complimentary to a local business, check into leasing a desk in an unused area of the office. In tough economic times, many offices are willing to lease a desk space to a small business that is not in conflict with their own business.

Home Office: The vast majority of small business startups begin in a home office. This allows the entrepreneur to begin conducting business without making a huge commitment to overhead expenses. Also, many owners of small startups begin their venture while working a traditional career, making certain their business will succeed before giving up the regular paycheck. Some of these small businesses never move out of the home office, even after hiring an employee or two. Of course, if the operation grows large enough or requires a great deal of inventory, the time will come to move from the home, but many virtual service businesses never leave the home office. Home Office Blog Posts

Warehouse Rental: Storage warehouses of various sizes are zoned commercial and in most areas can be used as a business location. These warehouse locations are great for the small startup business that manufactures a product, purchases and adds quality to an existing product before sale, and service companies that provide auto repair, computer repair, and similar services. If your business is the type that does not really benefit from a “flashy” storefront, this can be a great solution for keeping your startup costs very low. Traditionally, people seeking auto repair, auto body work, auto paint, motorcycle accessories or repairs, and similar services tend to believe that if the storefront is too fancy, they will be overcharged. These types of business can actually benefit from the casual office space offered by leasing a storage warehouse. Just make sure the type of business you are starting meets the zoning regulations and the landlord’s lease restrictions.

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Commercial Condos - Beware the Condo Association

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If you happen to live in a condo, then you'll easily understand why a small business considering purchasing a commercial office condo needs to know about how and when to interface with the Board of Directors of the condo association. However, if you own a small business but have never dealt with a condo board, then you should be aware of the rights and obligations involved before purchasing an office condo.

Just as with any type of building there the common spaces that are mutually and equally shared, a commercial office condo is operated based on the Bylaws developed and adopted by that condo board. One of the requirements outlined in those Bylaws is how often the Board of Directors must meet, what repairs or changes require board approval and what repairs or maintenance can be done by the management team of the commercial condo.

Of course, you want to understand the other portions of the Bylaws as well because these binding agreements control how you can or cannot use the building. For example, you would expect to see in a set of Bylaws that any damages done to common areas by visitors to your office condo are your responsibility. You might also expect to find clauses which prevent owners from drastically changing the exit doors to their condos and other similar restrictions on use or changes.

The Board of Directors of a commercial condo association is made up of elected officers that are owners or designated representatives of owners of units in the building. When a commercial condo is first completed and the building opened for purchase of units, the board may be made up of the developer and other designates that have direct interest in the development. However, after a period of a year or once there are sufficient owners to build a sound, responsible board from, officers are elected from the owners.

You may think, at first glance, that control of everything is given to the selected owners that are elected to the board of directors. This really isn't true at all. The board can, without bringing a motion before the condo owners association members, take care of some expenditures and other business as outlined in the Bylaws. But all major changes are brought up as business during a Condo Association Board of Directors’ meeting, which must be announced formally in plenty of time for owners to notice and attend. In other words, you get a vote in any actions which might impact your business significantly.

In mixed use properties there may be more than one Association involved. Master associations and sub-associations should be used when the users of the units in a single condominium are restricted to significantly different uses. An example would be a condo that has a combination of residential, retail and office uses. In those situations there could be more opportunities for deadlock votes. For that reason dispute resolution to include mediation should be include in the Bylaws.

The best way to interface with the board of a commercial condo association is to attend, or have a designated representative attend, each meeting of the Board of Directors. This way, if any unexpected business is brought up, or if you need to bring up an issue, you'll have your ownership represented.

If you know you need to bring up a topic before the board, it should be sent in writing well before the meeting to the President of the Board of Directors so that it can be placed on the agenda. Taking an issue up on the fly can backfire and fail to get your issue noticed.

An even better way to keep up with what's going on with the board and to interface your business with them is to agree to hold a position on the board of directors. Most condo association board meetings are not lengthy and are critical to the maintenance of the lovely commercial condo office you purchased into.

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