As commercial properties get costlier and altogether harder to come by, the search for reasonably priced and convenient work locations in Hong Kong has paved the way for a new industry. With shared, serviced and virtual offices becoming increasingly popular, we check out this growing trend and hear from two of the industry’s leaders.
Startup companies seeking a nest in Hong Kong's concrete jungle are thankfully no longer required to fork out a fortune for sky-high rents. Those with an abundance of drive but fewer donors have begun looking towards serviced, shared and even virtual offices to meet their needs, meaning almost anyone can now afford to go it alone.
The Emergence of the Market
Besides sweating on swelling rents, small companies with traditional offices are also burdened by long lease periods and various other formalities and legalities. As a result, Gina Li from Hong Kong’s Compass Offices
observes that “More companies are being forced to look at alternatives.” She expects an increasing amount of startups to veer towards office providers, who are continually expanding their services beyond workspaces to fend off increasing competition.
In this vein, Compass Offices - which offers no fewer than 15 serviced work spaces in Hong Kong alone - also assist clients through company formation, visa, payroll and IT support. Similarly, Bridges Executive Centre
’s services include overseeing company formation and maintenance, accounting and auditing, immigration services, tax filing and planning. Some providers also hold workshops and seminars to guide entrepreneurs on doing business in Hong Kong, which is particularly helpful for expats and the inexperienced.
Tempted by these extra perks and supported by advances in technology, a number of Fortune 500 companies are also shifting to serviced offices, explains Gina. The reduction in affordable office space has seen more employees teleworking from remote areas; in fact, 37% of the world’s workforce is estimated to be mobile by next year.
Of the three options, serviced offices are currently the most popular, especially among moderately successful Hong Kong SMEs. The furnished desk space and meeting rooms are usually complemented with telephone lines, wireless internet, kitchenettes, security and secretarial services, making it a no-brainer for those with a sizable staff.
With a universal layout to suit businesses from most industries and well trained staff to offer technical and administrative support, the serviced office providers strive to maintain a comfortable and conducive environment for both creativity and commerce to thrive.
Freelancers and small businesses with fewer requirements and resources often opt for shared offices, which provide similar facilities to serviced offices but on a smaller scale. The co-occupants can still enjoy the perks of having an office in an attractive commercial area, while keeping their costs at an absolute minimum.
The most stringent entrepreneurs go one step further and choose not to occupy a physical space at all. Virtual offices are ideal for those working from remote locations or for overseas companies looking to ease their way into new shores.
The reputable commercial address, personally-answered phone and fax lines, and video conferencing facilities help brands build their credibility with prospective local stakeholders before moving their resources. This is the most economical and flexible option, and is expected to pick up further in Hong Kong with the predicted rise in inflation.
What to Consider
Before signing up for a new office structure, Fion Sen from Bridges Executive Centre advises companies to research and consider several factors, but places the most importance on the office location. Besides the convenience of commuting and the ideal office size, businesses ought to hypothetically deliberate if they would prefer a small workspace in one of central’s prestigious skyscrapers, or a slightly bigger office on the outskirts of town.
The location of other similar companies should also have a bearing on such a choice; financial companies are mostly seen in Central and Admiralty, while creative agencies have taken to Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay. Finally, Fion urges companies to compare alternatives and make decisions based on both the nature of their business, and its values.