Social Sector organisations may find themselves tempted by the opportunity of free office space in an attempt to reduce overheads. It may be hard to find, but free office space IS out there, often via the sponsorship of companies looking to contribute to the cause. The absence of business rates, hire fees and other associated expenses may seem appealing, on the surface. However, sponsors are usually working towards an internal charitable objective and the provision of free workspaces often has strings attached, limitations, and compromises; with the cons often outweighing the pros. Charities often feel obligated to opt for no-cost options, rather than feeling justified in paying for well-equipped, versatile, and accessible office space. However, in the long run, this decision may well be counterintuitive.
Let’s investigate the true cost of free office space.
Access to the right facilities is worth its weight in gold, and when no gold is being exchanged, you may find resources are lacking. This may include sub-par digital technology, slow broadband, old office equipment, and you may even be forced to compromise on kitchen and wash facilities. The impact is likely to be felt throughout your operations, affecting staff and volunteer satisfaction, compromising productivity, and potentially reducing performance. This means less money for your charity and those it benefits.
Comfort and morale
Is your free office space coming at the expense of your team’s health and happiness? Or your clients and beneficiaries? This isn’t always easy to determine, but over time a lack of resources, adequate furnishings, poor accessibility, and dated technology can impact mental wellbeing. If staff aren’t having their basic needs met, productivity and positivity falls. Also, if supporters often visit your premises, distance and lack of transportation could present an unwelcome barrier that has a knock-on financial impact long-term.
Compromise and limitation
Your freebie may come with strings attached. If your sponsor chooses to place their affiliations elsewhere after your contract ends, you may find yourself caught short and urgently in need of new premises. This could be costly to secure and may undermine any benefits the fee-free duration had provided. Furthermore, you could also find yourself with expectations or limitations governing who you can and can’t work with, or receive support from, during sponsorship due to conflicts of interest. This could compromise fundraising efforts and cut off valuable resources that could have grown and cultivated your organisation positively.
Other compromises may be having to share an environment with companies that don’t share your values or ethics. This is particularly challenging for Social Sector organisations and charities, as their values and beliefs are often a fundamental aspect of the cause they stand for. As such, this may significantly impact stakeholders who are not comfortable with the new, forced proximity.
When you don’t pay for your workspace, you are less likely to have a say on its location. As such, you may find yourself in an area that is:
- Inconvenient for staff to get to
- Set away from local amenities
- Lacking public transport access
- Based far from your beneficiaries
These inconveniences are not only impractical for day-to-day operations but can result in hidden costs.
Hidden expenses can override the perks of free office space and, in fact, may make it the more expensive option. Whether a drop in income due to imposed limitations or an actual financial expense that could have otherwise been avoided, hidden costs come in many guises, including:
- Cost of upgrading resources and digital AV equipment
- Paying for office equipment and furniture
- Increased cost of transportation for staff and supporters
- A shortfall in fundraising and support
- Fees for hiring external conference/meeting spaces
- Inflated cost of resources if restrictions are imposed
- The expense and risk when sponsorship is terminated
Benefits of hiring shared office spaces
If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is, and “free” often comes at a price! Rather than settling for self-promotion masked as generosity, laced with conditions and compromise, instead opt for competitively priced shared office space and save yourself a fortune! Canopi (previously CAN Mezzanine), for example, is a charity that specifically caters to the needs of charitable organisations through the provision of affordable workspaces. This includes access to state of the art AV equipment, furnishings, meeting rooms, and more. Each London location also has space for bikes, washrooms, and kitchen facilities to keep staff comfortable and content. Plus, we provide flexible hire terms that work around your needs. Everything is specifically designed to streamline operations and boost productivity.
We encourage Social Sector organisations to realise their worth and make use of the facilities that support them first. Even if this comes with a modest fee. Because ultimately, the advantages gleaned from access to the correct tools and resources, and the freedom and control you get to retain is invaluable, and the price of compromise can be staggering.
If you would like to learn more about how Canopi can support your organisation, get in touch today.