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Death of ‘old school’ office space

Who needs an office when you can have a hot desk or virtual office?

JOHANNESBURG – For office-less small business owners who need to meet clients to clinch a deal or gather a newly formed team, there are times when a restaurant won’t do. But having to pay sky high rental bills on a long-term lease could be a thing of the past.

Virtual office space, business centres and hot desks are alternatives for all the office needs of a business without the regular burdens. Business Centre, a local virtual office provider, offers leases of between three, six or 12 months allowing businesses the opportunity to up and leave when they need to.

Kirsten Morgendaal, Regus area director, says that the demand for flexible office space is growing. “It is hard to tell exactly but I would say that about 20% of businesses in South Africa are using flexible workspace…. What we see is that there is clearly an accelerating trend towards flexible working.” She adds that at first, internationals were using the virtual offices more but with local entrepreneurial activity increasing she expects the ration to level out.

Some of the services provided include meeting rooms, a phone line and a dedicated receptionist to answer calls, depending on the option that is selected.

For example Business Centre offers an entry level office option (furnished/unfurnished) from R850 a month. CubeWorkspace offers executive offices, workspace and, at extra cost, other services such as car hire, gym and salon services and flower deliveries.

Often the pricing for virtual offices is structured according to the needs of an individual or team. Cube Workspace offers customised solutions – with executive offices starting at R5 000 a month. This is not far from the private office space that Regus offers for R4 690 a month. The advantage is that the company would use the space as needs be.

Regus also provides the opportunity to ‘hot desk:’ where an individual has their own desk, but shares office space with others from different companies. The point of hot desking is that an employee can work anywhere closest to them, cutting out traffic time but also ensuring that they have access to basic office needs. This can cost anything between R1 149 a month at Regus to R2 190 at Cube Workspace.

However, location is a consideration. Regus is spread out at 15 locations across South Africa, Business Centre’s offices are concentrated in Gauteng whilst CubeWorkspace has branches in, Cape Town, Kyalami and Bryanston.

Hanneke Oosthuizen, a recruitment and immigration business owner who has been making use of flexible office space for her businesses says that “London and Europe are far ahead in terms of … hotdesk and office [sharing]. We are still spoiled with space in South Africa.”

Regus also offers individuals the opportunity to pay for office space that they use globally through its Businessworld centres. These are similar to business lounges at the airports. Costs are structured on a sliding scale, starting at R499 per month.

Morgendaal anticipates that virtual office space growth in South Africa will continue as more businesses seek out affordable office space and technology improves, allowing people to be more mobile. 

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