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Hot desking – is it the right move for your London startup?

The HubbleHQ Team
The HubbleHQ Team|Updated September 27th 2019

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Your own office? Or your own desk? If you’re starting a business in London, which one is right for you?

Five years ago, flexible office space – the sort that would perfectly suit a startup –accounted for just 0.5% of available office space in London. Today, it’s 6.3% and growing fast. With more than 5,000 shared offices to choose from, HubbleHQ has plenty of ways to answer the most pressing startup question: where are you going to work?

You’ve already discounted working from home. You can’t picture your clients sat around the kitchen table. You don’t have enough room for a team. And home presents just too many distractions. Which leaves you with two options: 

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1. Rent a small office

If your team is already growing, you want to build your culture, and if you want to hit the right balance between privacy and professionalism, then renting a small office space could be the right answer. 

What is the definition of ‘small office?’

There isn’t one… not least because it’s relative to every business. But if you’re a London startup you’ll find a wide range of small offices designed for 1-20 people. 

What are the benefits of renting a small office?

  • Protect your privacy: Hot desking is a brilliant option for many London startups. But when your work is built on a thousand non-disclosure agreements, an office of your own reduces the risk. Plus, you don’t need to switch off your screen and shove your work in a drawer every time someone walks by.
  • Build your identity: It’s tough to craft a really distinctive brand identity when your brand has to share floor space with lots of others. The right office gives you a chance to create a space you can mould to your own image.
  • Rent a space to call your own: It’s tough to hold an impromptu team meeting when your team doesn’t have a space to call its own. Sure, you can always book out a meeting room, but when the office is yours, you get complete control.
  • Promote your professionalism: Of course, it very much depends on the world you operate in, but every industry comes with expectations. If your clients would raise an eyebrow at the prospect of working with a hot desker, an office is going to be the only viable route.

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How can I cut the cost of my office rental?

Many offices are designed for multiple occupancies, so if you rent a private office just for yourself, you’re paying a premium.

Suppose your office costs you £1,200 per month. That’s £1,200 a month just for you. Or £1,200 for you and three friends/colleagues/members of staff. It’s easy to see where you can find efficiencies.

And if you don’t have a team yet (or if you never plan to hire), consider sharing the space with friends, partners or collaborators to spread the cost.

Use our office space calculator to find out how much space you need, in the click of a button. 

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Where can I find small office space to rent near me?

Actually, it’s not just about space, is it? It’s about the right space – an office that feels like a natural fit, that feels part of your team. And we know just where to find it. For the biggest selection of ideas and inspiration,  start your search for a small office space here.     

2. Hot Desking

Presence. It’s a big deal. Having a presence near to your clients, so they can visit you (or vice versa) at the drop of a hat is important. But if you’re just starting out and cashflow won’t quite stretch to an office, hot desking can be a great option.  

What is the purpose of hot desking?

Why rent an office when you don’t need an office? Instead, renting by the desk can give you all the workspace you need for a fraction of the price. 

Hot desking vs. fixed desking – what’s the difference?

In a ‘classic’ hot desking arrangement, you rent a desk, but it won’t necessarily be the same desk. If that feels a little too open an arrangement, many of our offices offer fixed desks too. You still rent a desk, but this time when you turn up for work each day you know you’ll be sitting in the same space. 

Find everything you need to know about the differences between hot desks and fixed desks here.

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Is hot desking a good idea?

It certainly can be, and for lots of reasons:

  • Spend less: Whatever the business, hot desking is invariably the cheapest way for London startups to rent office space. Classic hot desks are cheapest of all. For fixed desks, you can expect to add £150-£250 to the monthly price.
  • Work clean: Some people thrive on chaos. Their desk may look as though someone’s just staged a raid, but they can find what they need in a second. For others, a messy desk messes up their day. Hot desking forces you to keep clutter to a minimum, and you start every day with a clear space.  
  • Build connections: At last count, we had 14.7 million square ft of London office space available for rent, much of it is hot desking. That’s a lot of desks. A lot of people who could be sat next to you tomorrow. And a lot of connections to be made. Think of it as networking without the need to go anywhere. 
  • Grow confidence: One of the toughest challenges for any startup is the elevator pitch – that ability to distil what you do in 20 seconds. When virtually every day has a ‘so what do you do?’ moment, you get lots of opportunities to refine your story and become much more confident talking about yourself and your business.

Check out one of our most popular workspaces for hot desking now. 

Is hot desking effective?

Hot desking isn’t for everyone. If you’re the sort of person who really values a space to call your own, renting a small office will be the better bet. But we talk to lots of people who love hot desking for the reasons mentioned above. And we work with lots of startup businesses in London who recognise that whilst hot desking may be a stepping-stone to a more permanent base, it’s a great way to get started.   

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Does hot desking improve productivity?

It can do. In a recent study by Verdict which looked at hot desking in all its forms across a wide range of businesses (not just small startups), almost half of workers felt it made them more productive, and almost half said they preferred it.

But there appears to be a big difference between hot desking on a mass scale (which presents greater productivity challenges), and hot desking as a startup. Because when you’re working on your own or perhaps as part of a fledgeling team of 4 or 5, the decision to hot desk is one you own – it isn’t imposed on you, which makes it far less likely to result in friction.

It also helps if you implement hot desking in a worker-friendly way.

Also intrigued about fixed desks? Find everything you need to know about the differences between hot desks and fixed desks here.

How to manage hot desking

Your small team is taking its first steps in hot desking. Here’s how to implement it successfully and manage your team in the new hot desk environment:

  • Reduce the rules: Evidence suggests a light touch in terms of who can sit where and when is more likely to result in success. When choosing a hot-desking office, check the rules for anything too draconian. And if you’re the one setting the rules, go easy.
  • Make it easy: Every evening you know your team will need to pack up their belongings ready for the next day. Make it easier by providing bags and holdalls. Get them branded too.
  • Make it comfortable: It’s so much easier for everyone to feel at home when they know where everything is. Run an ‘acclimatisation’ session, so everyone can see where they’ll be working before they arrive at their desk. On day one, ensure everyone knows the little details – from the Wi-Fi code to where the stationery is, from toilet locations to the nearest coffee shop.
  • Step up face to face communication: Resisting the temptation to retreat entirely onto digital communication platforms is a pretty good mantra for every manager, but it’s especially important for hot desking teams. Face to face human interaction can be a crucial factor in making hot desking a success.
  • Make use of zones: Some hot desking offices enable desks to be rented in blocks or batches. Zoning is a great way of ensuring that whilst the desks may change, your team will always be together. Ask if it’s available in your chosen office space.  

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Which office is right for me?

Whether you’re renting desks or an office, you’ll want to make sure it’s the right space for you. Here’s how:

  • Stick to your ‘must haves’: Spend just a little time browsing the small office space for rent on HubbleHQ and you’ll be blown away by the amenities on offer. But as wonderful as the roof terrace, coffee bar and gym may be, they’re probably not essential. Take some time to consider your red lines. What are the must-have elements that are non-negotiable? If the office you’re currently looking at doesn’t have them, move on.  
  • Go where the business is: If you’re spending time, money and energy travelling to meet clients who all work in Docklands, would it not be more cost effective to rent an office there?
  • Consider transport links: It’s a wonderfully simple thing to be able to say, ‘nearest tube station: Hammersmith’ on the ‘visit us’ section of your website. It’s less useful to be stuck on the edge of the map with no way easy way of reaching you.
  • Compare amenities: Some will probably be essential (speedy internet, easy-access meeting rooms, somewhere to store your bike); some will be nice-to-haves (the juice bar may be extremely tempting but it’s probably not a deal-breaker). Be clear on the amenities you really need and discount the offices that don’t offer them. Then compare the added extras. 
  • Do you have room to grow? You have a desk for one, but you suspect you’ll need another pretty soon. Or perhaps your small office needs to become just a little less small. Check that there’s space (within the building and within the contract) for you to expand.   

You’re just one quick search away from finding exactly the right HQ for you. Start looking for your new office now:

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