What is the Optimal Startup Office Setup?


Designing a work environment that will mobilize an organization towards success is one of the most important (and exciting) phases in a startup. While a simplistic startup office setup that focuses on the bare essentials can cut costs and promote employee focus, the increasing popularity of glitzy startup offices that offer a homier feel indicates that even professional environments require a creative touch.

So far, we’ve already seen free food, drinks, living quarters, and ping-pong tables as popular perks offered by plenty of startups. There are also those who went the extra mile by adding more ambitious amenities.

For example, Squarespace’s office offers employees an arsenal of entertainment systems including game consoles but also murals, and a library for designers. Spotify’s graffiti-clad New York office got a little more thematic by including vending machines that contain headphones. There are also plenty of other successful startups like OMGPOP, Dropbox, Soundcloud and Eventbrite that offered anything from free scooters to help you get around to hammocks and yoga areas where you can unwind and de-stress.

On the other hand, some startups failed or were hesitant to keep up with the trend and remained true to the old ways of prioritizing a distraction-free environment — such as Dashlane’s humble office in New York. CEO Emmanuel Schalit takes pride in the company’s “efficient” office, which pretty much guarantees resources are spent sparingly.

Your Organization’s Needs

It’s easy to see that each approach on a startup office setup has its own advantages over the other. However, further evidence suggests that the benefits of a fun startup office setup may easily outweigh the costs you can save with a boring workplace.

Dr. David J. Abramis, a psychologist who specializes in the effects of humor in a professional environment, has established with his numerous research projects that employees who have fun at work are better decision-makers, less stressed, more creative, and are more productive altogether (yes, this links to an article from 1987). But each business is different, which warrants a much deeper look at your office setup dilemma.

Going back to the question: what is the optimal startup office setup?

Should you skimp on costs and abide by the barebones approach, or should you go for the extravagant workspace that your employees will love?  The answer still lies in the specific needs of your organization. And to identify these needs, one must take a look at the following factors.



Your Office’s Infrastructure and Cost

Of course, money is definitely an issue when deciding your startup office setup. While focusing only on the basics of an office doesn’t really help when it comes to fostering creativity and attracting talented employees (or retaining them), this approach does succeed in minimizing the initial costs of a startup. Just be realistic and try not to put your business in financial turmoil before you even begin.

While a lot of aspects of a business are already scalable, physical space is not necessarily one of them, especially since building and land space are dwindling resources. If you do not have enough space for crucial things like hardware, inventory, archives, and so on, then you might need to rethink your strategy. If you barely have enough space to ensure your office’s infrastructure, then maybe you should put that pool table or vending machine on hold.

If you want to save more on startup costs, consider money-saving strategies such as remote working arrangements, co-working spaces or renting low-cost facilities such as a self-storage unit for your office space.

Co-working is the practice of sharing a workspace with other professionals or individuals that can be from a different organization. It might sound inconvenient at first, but many startups and freelancers tfeel as if they’ve struck gold with this recent trend. Not only can they save costs in office space, they also get acquainted in an environment that encourages open collaboration and camaraderie. Many business partnerships and capital infusions have arisen from co-working.

Your Organization’s Culture

There are a number of things that your startup office setup represents, one of which is your company culture. Remember that a successful company is like a living organism that breathe’s with the people running it. It is not just a place where the work happens. Rather, it signifies everything that the company stands for. And if you think that white walls, ceilings, a cubicle, and dull lighting are good enough to represent the people behind a particular company, then you better hope that they don’t reflect the products that come out.

Your Image to Customers

If your office will be accommodating clients in the future, then it is a good idea to have a space that will let them experience the company’s culture, which should give them an idea of what to expect. The thing about clients is that they are the best channels of word-of-mouth advertising. And with an influx of high expectations, it should be easier to establish a positive image in the eyes of your prospective clients.

At the very least, a customer should expect something more than what a company can give its own employees. Call it being showy, but it is an impression that’s sure to last.

Bottom Line

Even if you decide to go for a glamorous office, you should still carefully assess the extent of extravagance. Is the increased output of this particular department worth the price of a fully equipped game room? Or are you trading major startup cash for a negligible increase in productivity? These are the details that make designing an office more complex than you may have thought.

In the end, it is the company’s performance that truly matters. Remember that business is still business. If it doesn’t make money, then why bother?

Table Tennis Photo via Shutterstock

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Brian Hughes


Brian Hughes Brian is a seasoned digital marketing expert who loves to write about subjects that help small businesses grow their brands and increase their rankings online. He accomplishes this through his agency Integrity Marketing & Consulting, which he founded in 2011.

One Reaction

  1. Aira Bongco

    I think it is all about finding the bridge between your business image and what your employees need.

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