Alternatives to the traditional office set up - from home working to shared workspace

  • 14 Feb 2020

Not every business needs to have expensive office premises. Christopher Allen outlines some of the options which may suit your individual needs and those of your firm.

If you are starting a business, one of the biggest issues you may encounter is finding suitable premises. It can often be a taxing exercise as there are a number of factors to consider, such as accessibility, price, duration and the finer details within the contract. Ideally this should have been documented within the business plan before starting. A common misconception is that you have to rent or lease premises to start trading – but this is simply not the case.



There are a variety of alternative premises options to consider, such as hot-desking, pop-up shops, office-sharing or working from home. It is worth researching which option would be best suited to your business, considering the advantages and the disadvantages. Below are a few alternative premises to consider.


Working from home has become a popular option for many start-ups due to the advantages it presents. Benefits include being able to claim a proportion of costs associated with your business, such as mortgage, rent and utilities, as well as having flexibility, which will allow you to save time and money on commuting. Another major benefit is that you will have more time to spend with your family. However, there are also a number of disadvantages to consider, such as working in isolation and the potential distractions from family or friends interrupting or visiting you. 

A number of businesses can be run from home, such as being an online seller, event planner, cake-maker or virtual assistant. It is also worth considering if your business will have an impact on neighbours. You do not want complaints that your activities are disruptive or cause a nuisance, which may lead to you having to relocate.

You usually don’t have to pay business rates if your business is home-based and you sell goods by post, or if you only use a small part of your home for business purposes. It’s advisable to check your specific circumstances with your local council before you start trading from home. You should also check with your landlord or mortgage provider if you need their permission to run a business from home.

You may need to get permission from your council and pay business rates if you:
 Employ people to work at your property;
 Use your business as part business and domestic, e.g. if you live above a shop 
 Make amendments to your property, e.g. converting your garage to a work premises
 Sell goods or services to people who visit your home.

Shared office space

A shared office space is an alternative to renting or leasing premises and allows multiple businesses to operate in the same office. You may share items such 
as facilities and office equipment – and sometimes staff, such as receptionists and IT technicians. 



Shared offices are usually cheaper than rented premises, but prices will vary depending on location, size and length of agreement. It would be ideal if you shared an office with a business that complemented your own. For example, it would be extremely beneficial if you were a removal company and shared an office with a packing and distribution business, as you could share contacts and work together.

Operating from a vehicle

A number of businesses can be run from a vehicle, such as ice cream, burger or hot drinks vans. However, every business is different and will need you to comply with legal requirements, such as insurance, health and safety, and food licences. 

A good example of this model is the burger chain MEATLiquor, which started from a mobile food van and used a Twitter account to promote the business; it now has a turnover of more than £12 million. 


I am an advocate of pop-up shops and events, as they can help to promote your business prior to launch by attracting new customers in different locations. They also allow you to get a feel for customers, a new area and any issues you may encounter prior to opening in a particular area.

Where you base your business will depend on the type of operation you run, how quickly you are likely to expand and what fits in with your own individual circumstances. There is no ‘right’ answer, but some of the options outlined here should help provide some food for thought. 

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