What to look for in workspace as a Founder

Tom Watson, Co-founder and CTO
Tom Watson, Co-founder and CTO|

We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. So it needs to be a place we enjoy. Somewhere that inspires creativity, productivity and feels like home. In building Hubble we’ve had to find workspace ourselves and, having helped a lot of other companies go through this process, I understand how scary and unfamiliar it can be.

Over time, we’ve learnt what is good to think about and consider when searching for workspace and in this post I’ve tried to condense that learning into an internet digestible chunk for you to peruse. If you want the CliffsNotes, you can skip to the end where there is a bulletproof checklist that you can use as a starting point for your journey.

Creating Culture

Your workspace should reflect the culture of your company. First impressions matter and each day you’ll have customers, investors, new employees or just guests visiting your office. Deciding on what your culture is and therefore what your workspace should look like all depends on you. It could be that you value green space and creativity or ruthless productivity and a distraction-less environment. Whether you’re more like Facebook and prefer open plan or Stack Overflow with individual private offices, you have to find the right workspace for you.

For example, the Hubble office is a shared workspace in the centre of Shoreditch. We value the creativity this area exudes and the amazing food stalls — it typifies our focus on work-life balance and love of health and culture. The space is shared with different companies from different industries, like green tech, enterprise SaaS, fashion and a PHP agency. This brings me onto something important…

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Hubble Office, Shoreditch

Community

When I read about the “sharing” economy being actually more accurately labelled as the “renting” economy, I wholeheartedly agreed. And usually when I hear the word “community” I’m skeptical. However I believe this is a problem with the implementation rather than the concept. The word community is often bandied around to just describe when people are grouped into the same space. When you’re part of an actual community you’ll know.

the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common

Some of the great past innovations have been discovered when concepts from other industries have been applied to their own. Sharing space with a diverse set of companies and sectors gives you the opportunity to hear other people’s stories. It can inspire creativity within your own company, as well as create an environment of collaboration and camaraderie.

Manage your Burn

This doesn’t mean be a cheapskate. In London, the cost to replace a team member is estimated at just over £100,000 or roughly 150% of salary (taking into account cost in lost output, recruitment time, knowledge, training etc.). You can’t make up for a shit job with a nice office, but there is a valid argument for spending more on office space and your working environment to improve employee retention. That said, office space will most likely be your biggest expense after salaries and we don’t all have an infinite pool of money. When you dig down into the features of a workspace, really analyse what you and your team will value and what is superficial. Do you need a ping pong table? Designer desks and chairs? Or would you rather natural light, ergonomic Aerons and a roof terrace for beers on a Friday? Evaluate your priorities and decide what is and isn’t necessary when spending that VC cash.

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Mayfair Office with Roof terrace for beers

Flexibility

Running a business can be a rollercoaster of emotions and headcount. You’ll go through intense periods of hiring and some low periods of firing or losing team members for other reasons. Because of this, always value flexibility when looking for a workspace. Even if you think you have certainty over your headcount, something can always go wrong. On Hubble we prefer 1 month rolling licenses rather than long leases, which offers companies flexibility to expand and contract or move office at short notice. If this isn’t for you and you prefer to have some more stability, you could take a larger space, allowing some room to grow; then, in order to manage the extra cost, you can rent out your excess space to other startups looking for flexibility. Slowly kicking people out as you expand, or filling it up if you contract.


All in all, we understand that searching for office space isn’t something you really want to be thinking about. Finding a workspace is a side effect to running a company, rather than what you started it for (unless you’re us). To help you reduce the headspace this takes up, and allow you to focus on growing your business, here is a short checklist to run through while you’re searching — inspired by the Checklist Manifesto. If you need anymore advice, feel free to reach out to tom@hubblehq.com and I can help with any burning questions.

Checklist

  • Does the space reflect the culture of your company?
  • Are you spending enough but not too much?
  • Is there flexibility for your headcount to grow or contract?
  • Are all services (wifi, electricity, phones, water, heating etc.) included?

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