Small business workplace transformations
Expert advice on best uses for workplace spaces
One of the carry-over effects from the pandemic is that it forced New Hampshire companies on a grand scale to embrace remote working to protect their employees and stay in business.
The days of professionals commuting to brick-and-mortar buildings every day are quickly going the way of pay phones and fax machines. New companies and existing firms that cater to small business needs are filling the void in creative ways to provide professional co-op office space, meeting rooms and conference rooms for workers who do not or cannot work from home, and for businesses that want to reconnect with their colleagues and clients in person.
Two of these firms — CEO Bedford, Inc., in Bedford, and Spark Offices in Manchester — discussed what their companies offer and their perspective on what is fueling the demand.
Our panel: Cindi Colburn, President, CEO Bedford, ceobedford.com; and Jenna Baggs, Office Manager, Spark Offices, sparkoffices.com.
Cindi Colburn, President, CEO Bedford
• Q: How much of a finger does CEO Bedford have on the pulse of changing office needs?
A: Being in business since 1989 and over the years, CEO Bedford has seen a lot of trends come and go when it comes to professional office space. We have come up with solutions to traditional office space needs catering to startup companies, sole practitioners such as doctors, lawyers, therapists, CPAs and financial planners, etc.
Businesses have placed their salesforce representatives at CEO Bedford and the small business owner has used their professional mailing addresses so not to have their home addresses listed on their websites, business cards, etc. CEO Bedford is a small business that represents and supports small businesses. We have a stake in the game, and we are always rooting for the small business owner.
• Q: What is the most significant way that CEO Bedford has adapted to the new small business normal?
A: Post-pandemic we have seen many different potential clients come through the door and sign up for our various types of services, because there are so many variations of “the new normal.” We offer full-time private offices, virtual programs, professional mailing addresses, and conference and meeting room space you can rent by the hour, half day or full day.
• Q: What is driving the demand for office co-op spaces post pandemic?
A: When meeting with potential new clients, our experience is that the honeymoon phase of working from home seems to be over. A lot of our new tenants are folks that are employed by a larger company that are just absolutely burnt out from their work-from-home environment. Not everyone is equipped at home with a “home office” and many are still working at the kitchen table. It worked for a while, but it’s not practical for the long term.
They come to us saying, “Just get me out of my house!” They either are in such need of a change of atmosphere that they are willing to pay for the office themselves, or their employers have given a stipend to help with the cost of the office. From this scenario, the idea of “The Getaway Suite” was created.
• Q: How does CEO Bedford accommodate the needs of larger companies?
A: “The Getaway Suite” is an option for larger companies that have given up their space. CEO Bedford is now offering a private office specifically rented by them that they can offer to their employees who would like the opportunity to work both from home and in an office environment. It is worked out amongst their employees who will be in the office when. The employer doesn’t have to be concerned about details such as high rent for unused space and other expenses such as internet, electricity, cleaning, parking, etc. At CEO Bedford, you pay one flat rate for your office — no hidden costs or fees. We think it’s a win-win for both employers and employees — a great solution for the hybrid employee.
• Q: What are some of the holistic benefits for companies when they reserve one of your firm’s conference and meeting rooms?
A: We are human. We need socialization. For businesses that have completely exited their office space and all employees are working from home, what we are seeing is an increase in need for our conference and meeting rooms. Monthly in-person meetings are booked in our large conference rooms and lunch is ordered in and people are able to catch up, strategize and socialize with co-workers for the day.
Our large conference room seats up to 16 people and is a perfect place to hold a monthly staff meeting or training. A great advantage of our facility as opposed to other venues is all our rooms are private. The space is yours and yours alone for the duration of your meeting.
Working at home is not for everyone.
Personally, when I am at home, I want to be 100% focused on my family and friends without work distractions. At work, I am 100% at work. Either way, balance is so important, and there are so many ways to get creative with office space so that it works for both employers and employees.
Jenna Baggs, Office Manager, Spark Offices
• Q: What are some of the things working professionals should look at when searching for a good co-working space?
A: Be sure of the problems you have with your current work situation. Then find a space that solves your problem areas. For example, are you missing the productive vibe of working in person with colleagues? At Spark Offices, we find that working around others, even if they are not your co-workers, produces a productive environment that breeds collaboration and energy for your work day.
• Q: Why do remote/hybrid professionals like having the option of a co-working space?
A: Oftentimes we hear that the four walls are closing in on them in their home office, or simply that there are natural distractions during the work day. What they find as an added bonus when they come to us for a focused desk space is our network that offers community and resources.
We have seen this drive small startups to great growth, given remote workers an outlet, and even connected members with each other in collaborative relationships.
• Q: As the work environment stays shifted post pandemic, what effect are you seeing on the business owners that have office space?
A: What we are seeing is that the office isn’t dying, it’s evolving. With more and more companies offering hybrid work models as benefits to their employees, they are faced with the question of what to do with their under or un-used offices. So how do you reimagine your existing office so that it becomes an asset rather than a liability?
• Q: What options are there for business owners to use their offices in a way that allows them to not feel like the space is a drain on the company’s budget?
A: Flexhub is the answer we realized, as we did this very thing with our existing company. We partner with companies to maximize the underutilized space they are already paying for.
By building a collaborative community inside their office, they can reduce expenses, expand their networks with the built-in community, and preserve the company culture that is a key component of the hybrid work model. We built Flexhub with the business owner in mind … a simple, stress-free and painless empty office solution.