19 July 2021/ rent_office_guide

Looking for a satellite office? Find out how to get started

As organisations embrace the benefits of setting up satellite offices, is it time for your business to branch out?

The notion of work – how and where employees perform the tasks they've been hired to do – has had a massive shake-up in recent months. Since the pandemic, businesses – from small start-ups to global corporations – have had to reassess the traditional office model and consider a more flexible, hybrid approach. And, while working from home has been a hit with many, there's still a need for a collaborative physical space. Somewhere remote workers can meet up with colleagues, but which doesn't entail a long, costly commute to head office. This is where satellite offices come in.

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Satellite offices enable businesses to have a physical presence across a country or region and can be home to a handful of employees or thousands, depending on a company's needs. Indeed, Google bought a satellite office in 2020 to complement its new HQ at London King's Cross, while in the US, Amazon, Apple, and Uber have also invested in satellite offices.

For businesses of any size, offering a mix of work-from-home plus satellite 'hubs' presents two key benefits: increased flexibility and lower investment. George Penn, Vice President at global research company Gartner, argues: "Success in a hybrid work environment requires employers to move beyond viewing remote or hybrid environments as a temporary or short-term strategy and to treat it as an opportunity."

And it's something that many employees are keen to see introduced too. A survey published by WeWork in April 2021 found that people want to split their time evenly between a company HQ, working from home, and satellite offices. Kenny Kane, Chief Operating Officer at Firmspace and Forbes Real Estate Council Member, advises: "As the Covid-19 outbreak continues and companies contemplate what 'returning to work' might look like, it's worth considering the value of establishing satellite offices that can foster deep work in a safe, private environment."

So, if you've been thinking about setting up a satellite office for your business, what things do you need to consider?

Buying versus renting

First off is whether to buy or rent the space. Buying allows you to invest for the future but requires entering into a long-term lease while being responsible for fitting out the building and handling all the office management and maintenance. Therefore, it's crucial that you fully understand the terms of a lease before you commit.

Renting offers more flexibility. Your capital isn't tied up; it's easier to move locations if you suddenly need more space, and generally, you don't have to worry about maintenance costs.

You can even rent from a flexible workspace operator that provides access to ready-to-use office space – from co-working spaces and hot desks to private and serviced offices. This makes setting up a satellite hub office easier and quicker and, thanks to a burgeoning serviced office sector, there's plenty of choice. See offices for rent in your area on Realla.

Which option you choose – buying or renting is down to how you decide to manage the current needs of your business and what your plans are. A serviced office means almost no capital investment, but renting on a pay-as-you-go basis can be costly over time. Committing to a conventional office lease is a substantial investment. Still, if you have a large team and need constant access to meeting rooms – which often come extra – or specialist facilities, there can be savings to make when you take on the space yourself.

Costs – what's included?

If you decide that a ready-to-wear, serviced office space is right for your business, make sure you understand what's covered and what's not. Are essential services such as water, electricity, internet services, cleaning and maintenance included in the fee? If not, how much extra will all these things cost?

If you're opting for a turnkey workspace solution, make sure it is just that. How well the office space functions will affect your employees when they're out on their own, separated from the main office. Are things such as tech support, repairs, security, concierge and office management all part of the package? Use this handy checklist of facilities and features to help you decide if an office space is suitable for your business.

How much office space do you need?

When deciding how much space you require, start with how many employees you expect to work in your satellite office – and bear in mind that they won't all be there every day. This will help you figure out how many desks, chairs, computers, printers and other equipment is needed. With flexible, hybrid working becoming the new normal, it may be better to invest in personal laptops and a high-speed internet connection.

Realla's search portal enables you to check crucial details – from the interior design and space available to facilities such as wi-fi and storage – while you're still at the search stage.

How do you choose a suitable location?

The essential thing about satellite offices is that they should be easy for employees to get to – whether by walking, cycling, train, bus, or car (are parking spaces and bike storage included?). Having a selection of bustling food outlets and shops nearby, along with parks, leisure facilities and gyms, will also be appreciated.

For businesses, a key benefit of satellite offices is that they enable employees to work in a location that comes at a more affordable rate, unlocking huge savings. For example, renting an office in central London can be eye-wateringly expensive (the average is £45 per square foot (PSF), peaking at £120 in St James's & Mayfair). However, setting up a satellite office in Watford (less than 30 minutes away, where you can expect to pay £30 PSF) or Swindon (a one-hour train ride with an even lower price of £17.50 PSF) means it's easy for employees to commute to the capital whenever they need to – all at a much lower cost to the business.

Using a combination of Realla's own search portal and market data pages with research from serviced office provider Instant Offices, here's a snapshot of seven major cities outlining what you can expect to pay for conventional and serviced offices:

London

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £2 - £108
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF) £47
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £650 - £1,500

Manchester

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £7 - £34
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF) £20
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £300 - £400

Bristol

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £13 - £30 
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF): £20
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £350 - £500

Leeds

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £8 - £30
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF): £20
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £200 - £450

Edinburgh

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £8 - £30
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF) £20
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £250 - £550

Birmingham

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £8 - £32
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF): £19
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £250 - £450

Liverpool

  • Conventional office rent (PSF) spread: £7 - £35
  • Average conventional office rent (PSF): £15
  • Instant Offices estimate (per person per month): £150 - £300

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