Setting up an office can be an exciting and intimidating task, especially if it’s your first. In this guide, we’ll share the advice of many experts as well as our first-hand experience to help you set up your office as painlessly and efficiently as possible.
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Step 1: Make a List of Everything You Need for Your Office
Make a list of everything you will need in your new office, from desks and chairs to computer hardware as well as any tasks like setting up your internet connection.
To start, here are some of the most common items most offices will need:
Common Small Business Office Needs
|Desks||Corner desks, portable options, and others to suit any office layout and working style|
|Chairs||Task, mid-back, or executive -- we recommend buying the best your budget can afford|
|Computers||Desktop or laptop? Chromebook, OS X, or Windows?|
|Phone Service||We recommend VoIP phone service for flexibility and cost|
|Desk Phones||Options for every budget|
|Conference Phones||Bring your team together in a conference or board room|
|Internet Service||We recommend a minimum of 15 Mbps, but the faster the better|
In addition, you might need some of these optional items:
Optional Small Business Office Needs
|Alarm System||Compare the pros and cons of personal and professional systems|
|Insurance||A CGL policy can cover accidents, like a slip and fall in your office. To cover office property damage, however, you’ll need commercial property insurance|
|Phone Answering Service||If you want a live agent answering your phone, but can’t afford a full-time receptionist, check out our full guide to answering services|
|General Office Supplies||For everything else (and then some), there’s Amazon|
Step 2: Design Your Office Floor Plan
Once you have a list of everything you’ll need, the next step is to lay it out. This will also help you to confirm how much furniture you will need to buy.
First, start by choosing a layout type:
- An open plan maximizes the usable area of the space, but at the expense of privacy and storage
- A closed plan gives your staff more personal space, but it’s less collaborative and won’t fit as many seats
- A modular plan combines elements of both, giving your staff more privacy, storage, and larger working surfaces but with open areas between seats for collaboration
Step 3: Find the Best Furniture & Computers
Next, choose the best office furniture and computers for your business’ needs and budget.
Which office desks you choose will largely depend on your office layout.
With an open plan, simple rectangular tables that you can group together will usually work the best. When we first started out at Fit Small Business, we used simple folding tables like this one. This gave us a quick, inexpensive, and flexible solution that we could easily rearrange into any layout. The downside to folding tables is they don’t allow any room for storage, nor are they the particularly stylish.
For a little more money, you can buy glass, metal, or faux wood tables that usually include some storage options in their design. L-shaped tables, in particular, are great for setting up a modular plan.
While there are many low-priced office chairs on the market, we recommend buying the best your budget can afford. Good chairs help to promote a happy and healthy work environment — your staff are spending most of their day on them, so investing in their comfort shows them that you value them. You might also be saving money on lost productivity — several of us at Fit Small Business have experienced great improvements in back pain after upgrading our office chairs.
There are three main types of office chairs you can choose from:
- Task chairs, which are usually armless, compact and space-saving, and intended for shorter use
- Mid-back chairs, which have arms and are more supportive
- Executive chairs, which are usually more ergonomic and plush
For most offices, mid-back and executive chairs will serve the bulk of your needs with some task chairs used to supplement them at temporary work stations.
If you’re going to be providing the same, or similar, computers to your whole staff rather than letting them choose their own, the first decision you will need to make is what type of computer to buy. Desktop computers generally provide better value with more storage and better performance, but laptop computers are more portable.
Then, you will need to choose which operating system to work on:
- Apple OS X is ideal for graphics, video, and audio editing and desktop publishing
- Chromebooks are an inexpensive option if your business will primarily be using the Google suite and other web-based software
- Windows, which is a widely-used and flexible platform
Step 4: Set Up Internet
Although we’ve listed it as the fourth step, you should be researching which internet service provider (ISP) to connect your office with well before you move in. Before committing to any office lease, make sure the location is serviceable by a high-speed internet provider. You can confirm this by searching the FCC’s National Broadband Map.
Then, once you’ve found a few providers, compare their plans, prices, and contracts. Also, remember that commercial accounts often differ from residential ones, so be careful when looking at their terms.
For most small businesses, an internet connection with a minimum of 15 Mbps download and 5 Mbps will be sufficient. However, as file sizes become larger and more content is being streamed on the internet, the faster the connection the better. We recommend 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload connections if they’re available.
Small Business Internet Contracts
Most ISPs will require you to sign a contract with a commitment of 1-3 years. If you cancel your service before the term of the contract expires, you may be responsible for paying an early cancellation fee. Be sure to confirm these terms with your ISP before you sign.
We’ve compared the most common contract terms from the top ISPs in every market for you. Here is a summary of how some of them compare:
Contract Lengths and Cancellation Fees by Internet Provider
|Contract Length||Early Cancellation Fee|
|Time Warner Business|
|Verizon FiOS Business|
To learn more about other ISPs, such as Charter, Frontier, CenturyLink, and Cox, you can read our full guide. In it, we compare ISPs by price, available speed, and customer service.
Step 5: Set Up Your Phone System
You have several options when choosing which phone system is best for your business. Some of these include:
- Traditional phone service, which runs on old copper phone lines
- VoIP phone service, which transmits voice as data over your internet connection
- Virtual phone service, which forwards calls made to your business phone number to your personal phone line
For most businesses, we recommend VoIP phone service as the best balance between flexibility, functionality, scalability, and price. Most VoIP phone service providers include a wide range of calling features that will help your business. These can include:
- Call waiting
- Call hold
- Call transfer
- Conference calling
- Caller ID
- Web-based system administration
Another useful feature that most providers include is an auto-attendant, which automatically answers your incoming calls and presents your callers with a list of options to choose from. Depending on which option the caller chooses, their call will be routed according to the call tree you set up.
Here is an example of a call tree:
Auto-attendants can be set up with the VoIP phone service in your office or with a virtual phone service. The only difference is where it routes your calls. With a VoIP phone service, the call will be routed to the appropriate phone on the office’s network; with a virtual phone service, the call will be forwarded to the appropriate personal phone line you’ve defined.
Bottom Line: How to Set Up An Office
Setting up your office is an involved process; but like any project, the better prepared you are and the more research and planning you do up front, the more painless it can be.
If you do need to act quickly, there are good temporary options. For example, folding tables can fill in as desks and a simple auto-attendant or phone tree in place of a full business phone system will present a professional face for your business. And as your business grows, our Starting a Business section is loaded with reviews, buyer’s guides, and helpful tips for setting up your office and beyond.