28 August 2015

Serviced office space vs working at home - Which is best?

Have you ever considered whether to work from home or from a serviced office?

Home office
Photo courtesy of AgnosticPreachersKid
Working at home is a situation many people in business crave. The attraction of being free of an overbearing boss, a noisy office or a stressful commute to work are some of the reasons why working from home is appealing. 

If you are starting up your own business, a digital nomad with no fixed office to work from or a freelancer, working at home is an understandable choice to make. 

However, having a home office is not for everyone who works for themselves. Serviced offices are an tempting option for the growing army of homeworkers, freelancers and entrepreneurs.  

This post covers some of the options to help you decided which might be best for you.

The benefits of working at home

Waking up on a Monday morning knowing that you are working from home that day is a good feeling. There is the advantage of not facing that horrible commute into your work. No traffic jams, no train journey where you stand all the way, despite having a ticket.

Aside from the lack of commuting, the time you gain from working at home is a great benefit. You can use that time for catching up on work, walking the dog or getting some exercise. 

Increased productivity

Working from home
Working from home?

Working from home can do wonders for your productivity. At home, the lack of office noise, banter or dull meetings leaves you free to work. When you can concentrate, it’s amazing how much good work you can do at home compared to being in a noisy office. 

That said, if you have a family, working from home can be a pain. Often family members forget that you are still working despite being at home. You may get asked to put some washing in the machine, or to run an errand, taking you away from your blissful concentration. 

The cost of working from home

One of the biggest advantages of being a home worker is that it is very cheap. Obviously, you are not running up any extra costs for renting an office which, if you are starting out with your own business, is important. 

Yet, working from home does not mean you should go without heating or lighting during the winter. In fact, your energy bills could go up when you add your home working use onto your ‘domestic’ use. 
Working alone

If you like working alone all day, everyday, then working at home is for you. As discussed, it can be good for your productivity. 

Humans, however, are social animals that thrive on social contact, in the main. After several days or weeks working at home alone, you can see why some people decide it is not for them. Having nobody to turn to during the day is an aspect which can make home working a non-starter for many people. 

High productivity at low speed

If live in a town or city which has high speed broadband in your area, then you are likely not to notice how quickly web pages load on your computer. You may not notice the speed at which you can upload or download files from online folders or websites. 

High speed broadband is a luxury in many rural areas. Often, working at home can be a technological challenge if you don’t have good broadband access. Low speeds makes activities like video conferencing or sharing files a slow, laborious challenge. 

It’s important to check that your broadband at home can cope with what you need to do for your work. For instance, uploading a video to YouTube can take far longer if you don’t have high speed broadband. Make sure you know this before you commit to home working.

Working in a serviced office

Serviced office
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/mastermaq/

As your business grows and you start to win customers, it is probable that your clients will want to meet with you at some point. If you are working at home, you could always bring them into your kitchen or sitting room for the meeting. It does not look very professional, however. 

Also, you might employ someone as you expand. If you work at home, having an employee working with you in your spare room can be impractical and awkward. 

Suddenly, renting a desk or office space at a specialist serviced office provider, such as the ‘Send Business Centre’ based outside London between Woking and Guildford, looks very attractive. 

You can work in a professional environment where hiring a room for client meetings is easy. And, you can share an office or rent a desk for you and your employee avoiding the awkwardness that can go with working out of your spare bedroom. 

Comfortable working

To be productive, it is not just about the broadband speeds. You need to be comfortable. Serviced offices often provide you with seats, desks, lamps and storage for your files or computers, if you need them. That can save a lot of hassle, and you get high quality office furniture to work from, not just an old kitchen chair which you might use when you work at home.

Not only that, working from home on a hot or cold day can be uncomfortable, unless you are fortunate enough to have air conditioning fitted. Serviced offices provide this as standard, usually. 

Top technology

Using a serviced office means you benefit from their ability to fit high quality IT systems. This enables you to have technology which matches what big businesses take for granted. Technology for most businesses, freelancers or entrepreneurs is essential. If you can afford it, renting a serviced office can give your business a boost by having high speed, efficient and up to date technology at hand.

Also, if you work at home and you have a technology meltdown, serviced offices often have IT support people on site to help you out. That immediate help could save your business money in the long run.


Home working has its benefits. But, what if your business holds stock, samples or sensitive documents? How do you keep them secure at home? 

With 24-hour security, CCTV and controlled access, serviced offices can give you piece of mind that items important to your business are kept secure while you are away on business or at home. 


The biggest benefit of working in a serviced office is the connection with other people. Networking with other business is a hidden benefit of renting a serviced office, not often mentioned on their websites and marketing materials. 

For example, if you are a web designer, you will probably meet someone in the same office who needs a website. Or, if you are a financial adviser, there will be plenty of people who will need help with their personal finances. You won’t have this benefit when you work from home. 

Finally, is it better to work from home, or to work from a serviced office? That is difficult to say. Both have their benefits and challenges. It does depend upon your business, your finances and your ability to be able to work alone or not. 

As with all business, the success of your business will rely on the profits you make. You need to locate it in a place which will best support your objectives. That might be at home, or in a serviced office. Do some research and see which suits you.

16 June 2015

Experiencing Korea - LG Korea Trip - Last Day

Over the week, breakfast proved to be the test of endurance. 

CN Tower, Seoul
CN Tower, Seoul
I needed at least an hour between coming down for breakfast and being ready for the bus. Others felt like breakfast was an unnecessary waste of sleeping time and made their first appearance of the new day stepping out of the hotel's main entrance.

Our full final day in South Korea was to be more about tourism and bonding, than site visits and business.

The CN Tower sits on a hill overlooking Seoul. The tower is not that tall, in itself. But, it sits on a hill and imposes itself on the city. To get to it, our coach dropped us off in the car park near the top of the hill, after a long, winding drive up to it from the hotel. To get to the tower, you have to walk up a wide but steep path.

With Allan in a wheelchair, this part of the tour around Seoul was going to be a challenge. Our hero, Terry, began the test and nobly pushed Allan up a fair way of the hill. Jamie then took over and got from walking speed to a semi-sprint. Impressive considering how little sleep he had had, like the rest of us.

Waling up to the CN Tower, Seoul
Walking up to the CN Tower

The rest of us just ambled up to the area at the top which contained shops, restaurants and a ticket booth for anyone that wanted to go up the tower.

Mika and Will Holley at the CN Tower
Will and Mika
Turning left at the top, we walked over to a viewing area overlooking the city, which spread out as far as we could see. Seoul has a similar population to London. But, because it sits amongst hills, it seems to be much bigger.

Love locks at the CN Tower, Seoul
Love locks at the CN Tower

There is a local tradition of attaching 'love locks' onto the railings and bushes surrounding the tower. The locks have lovers' notes written on them. Before coming out to South Korea, I saw that the Parisian authorities have now banned this practice and have started to remove them from the bridges over the Seine. There was no sign of that here. Romance is not dead. It is just at the top of bloody steep hill.

Surprisingly, there were not that many visitors on site that day. I asked Sophie about it and she said it was because of the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) which had hit the city. Normally, the CN Tower is packed with Chinese tourists. But, a doctor, infected with the disease, had recently returned from the Middle East and had passed it onto some of his patients.

A scare had broken out (which was why so many people were wearing medical masks around the country), and tourist numbers had dropped off as tour organisers cancelled trips to the country. Sophie explained that our tour was her last for a while. All her other bookings were cancelled.

We hardly noticed its impact while out there (Perhaps we would have done so if we had spent any time keeping up with the news. But, we had other interests to pursue). MERS had caused slight panic in the local stock market and the government had stepped in with a change in interest rates to bolster the economy.

With our CN Tower tour completed, getting Allan down the hill safely was going to be fun. Terry and Martin decided it was best done by going down backwards. Having a runaway wheelchair would have been fun to watch but cruel and painful for Allan.


About halfway down, Alan, Mika and Jamie were ahead but looking back up the hill towards the wheelchair party. Alan began singing the song from the film Frozen, 'Let it go, let it go!'.

North Village, Seoul
North Village, Seoul
Back on the bus, we headed off the hill towards a part of town which had a number of traditional houses in it. The translation of the area's name was 'North Village'. It is a quarter which has been renovated but which is remarkable in its traditional Korean architecture. According to Sophie, it used to be an area where high ranked officials used to live because of its proximity to the King's palace. The old-style houses are distinct because of the oriental style roofs, tiles and doors.

Next up was some lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant a short drive away. Nobody wanted a beer. Our last intake of alcohol was too close in time. Steve Yeung had asked us to have a 'quiet night' before our last night. Unfortunately, we had not obliged. But, coke was a good 'tonic' that lunchtime for us all.

They served us 'Bibimbap', a dish I had had on the plane. But, this was fresher and more delicious. Bibimbap is a rice dish where you mix together the rich with meat, vegetables and a spicy sauce. It is very good.

Only a short walk from the restaurant was a shopping street packed with traditional tourist goods, much like you would see in any capital city. However, there were some good, local craft shops where most of us went off to buy presents to take home. In the hour we had to shop, Jamie managed to pack in a quick massage (legit).

Our tour was not over. Mika led us off to the Moon Guest House, a Korean cultural experience. The traditional house sat amongst numerous high rises. The family running it sat us down on the floor while the mother explained, in Korean, about some of the traditional costumes, and her daughter translated.

Moon Guest House, Seoul
The mother at Moon Guest House
We then got to try on the traditional costumes. As you can imagine, there was a lot of banter as we jostled for the most regal costumes and hats.

Once disrobed, we sat around a long, low table for a calligraphy lesson from the father. He seemed to take an age to set the table up with brushes, paint and paper. He must have been a teacher at one stage of his career. He insisted on teaching the group on the Korean words for each item we were to be using. I, for one, forgot each word instantly.

Meanwhile, the banter around Will Holley looking like a member of 'One Direction' continued. The rather beautiful daughter nearly fell for the gag about Will being the lookalike of Niall Horan. I could sense her excitement building, until she twigged that it was just British banter.

Eventually, we got around to learning how to paint a replicate of a famous painting depicting a clump of reeds. We practiced by painting straight lines, holding our brushes vertically and progressing to curves. I was utterly useless. Allan was rather good at it.

Moon Guest House, Seoul
The daughter
Finally, we had to convert our training into painting the scene onto a fan. Painting on a flat piece of paper was difficult enough. Adding a third dimension (height) into the challenge proved a step too far for me. The charming mother took pity and painted mine, as well as writing my name in Korean. In their wonderfully polite way, the Korean family ended the event and thanked us for our good humour.

Back to the hotel to pack, we then went out for our farewell dinner at a famous Korean barbecue restaurant in the Gangnam area of Seoul. At the restaurant (after a kip on the bus), we met Chris Kweon from LG who is a senior fellow in the group, as well as Steve Yeung, Mr Kim and Mr Yeung, all of whom had been with us on parts of the trip.

In our private room, the LG team had put a selection of photos on the wall of us throughout the trip. It was amazing to look back at just how much we had done that week with LG. But, before starting dinner, the LG played us a video of the week which showed us photographs throughout the week. I don't mind admitting it; I felt quite emotional looking back at it. We had met in the bar in Terminal 2 at Heathrow as virtual strangers. After a week, we had come together as a band of brothers with LG.

LG had looked after us like VIPs, indeed. The attention to detail and interest they had shown in us was overwhelming.

Korean Soju
Korean Soju

The barbecue and toasts with soju began. Restaurant staff flurried around us, tending to the meat and keeping us stocked up with beer, soju and food. Korean barbecues are a must-do activity.

We said our goodbyes to the team, thanked Mika, Sophie and Terry for their brilliant work during the week and got back on the coach which took us to a bar called JJs in the Grand Hyatt hotel.

The bar had a live band which consisted of four female singers, who mainly seemed to come from Cuba. The guitarist was, apparently, quite well-known. Nevertheless, the girls were great entertainers, singing a wide variety of tunes and styles with great energy. They had us all dancing. Jody had arranged for a 'shout out' from the girls for us, which created a big cheer.

Terry had come out with us, finally, and joined in the fun. He is lovely chap.

I got to bed at about 2.30am, sharing a taxi back with Jody. Others, by the look of them (you know who you are!) looked as though they had not managed to get to bed the next morning. A fun, final night before our flight home the next day.

13 June 2015

Gangnam Style - LG Korea Trip - Day Four

Sleep, you wonderful thing. 

A few hours of sleep can transform you from zombie to human. And, yesterday was like a new day after actually spending some time asleep, for most of us.

Our first stop was through Seoul to visit an LG installation in the studios of a radio and TV broadcaster. (Read more technical details about this on the ACR Journal website). The LG team guided us through various parts of the building until we came to the TV studio.

TV studios in Korea
Sam, Alan and Will in the TV studio
On the set were three chairs which were immediately occupied by Sam, Alan and Will. If only the cameras and microphones were live. I bet we would have had some interesting answers to the questions. One of them might have been "How you are feeling?". The answer might have been "I'm feeling pretty good, considering...".

The tour included a quick visit to the 'Twin Towers' that are LG's headquarters. LG has two parts to its business, namely chemicals and electronics. Each business occupies a tower. The 'Ying' and 'Yang' of the business.

LG Twin Towers Seoul

Next stop on the site tour was down to the river running through Seoul. The city's previous mayor, Sophie explained, had invested in developing three floating islands. On each island is a cultural building, such as a theatre, and a venue for events. The project had had its problems and cost more money than budgeted. The mayor at the time had lost the next election which delayed the project's completion. Public sector project facing delays and going over budget? Sounds familiar.

Floating Island, Seoul, Korea

Will jumped onto the piano in the main hall and gave us a good rendition of a Coldplay track. Will looks like a member of band 'One Direction' and it has been a constant banter point. Mind you, as the 'journo' in the team, my nickname is Piers Morgan! See the video below

The weather had changed and it was much warmer and more humid than the first few days in South Korea. It was around 30 degrees C. Standing on top of the events building overlooking the river, the nearby bridge had an array of water jets along. The jets creating waves of spray along the bridge.

Bridge in Seoul

When walking back to the coach, three military helicopters flew overhead. Nearby, is the US military base at the Yongsan Garrison. The garrison had originally been occupied by the Japanese until 1945.  Nearly 30,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea. We passed a few of them in our uniforms on our way to Chinese restaurant, Chai 797, for lunch.

Chai 797 in Seoul
Chai 797 in Seoul
We arrived and, as normal, we breezed in and sat down at a pre-prepared table for our group. Several dishes of Chinese food arrived and we were given a choice of main courses. Amusingly, Alan and Will happened to choose the hottest thing on the menu.

Next stop was to see the installation at the Lotte Shopping Mall in the now famous Gangnam area of the city. Synonymous with the Psy pop song, Gangnam is a smart area of the city. It's packed with shops, restaurants and swish apartments. The gargantuan mall is the biggest in Asia, I believe.

Lotte Shopping Mall, Seoul
Lotte Shopping Mall, Seoul

After looking around this, LG whisked off deep into Gangnam for an early dinner at a Thai restaurant. Walking back to where the coach was to pick us up on the main street, we stopped at a street stage and performed our own Psy dance along to the music. There's nothing like Brits on tour.


We left to go back to the hotel for a quick wash, before heading into the Itaewon district for some refreshments, which ended up in a Beer Pong match in a bar until around 3am.

It's all work, you know.

11 June 2015

Towering Technology - LG Korea Trip - Day Three

LG Korea VIP Trip 2015
Today, we are on the move back to Seoul after an eventful time in Busan. 

And, the phrase, "Let's just have one more" is still ringing in my ears.

Aptly, LG arranged some time in a nearby Buddhist temple to pack in time to contemplate what we learnt and discovered about each other in Korea's second city.

The stories that will come from this stage of the trip will probably become legends, of the type that 'what goes on tour, stays on tour'. Although, the modern reality is that more like 'what goes on tour, goes on Facebook'. Security has been pretty tight so far with some of the material.

Nonetheless, the first challenge was getting onto the bus on time. When you have had little sleep the danger of 'just taking a quick nap' before the bus leaves can mean that you fall into a deep sleep which shuts your system down. Alan fell victim to the 'deep sleep' and apologised profusely to everyone else on the bus for delaying them. Most of us were asleep on the bus already, anyway.

LG arranged a site visit to the nearby 'Zenith Tower', a massive 'high-rise' which uses LG's air conditioning kit in all of its nearly 1,800 apartments on 80 floors. You can read more about this part of the day on the ACR Journal website in a short post here.

The next stop was the Buddhist Temple.
Alan Moreton
Alan visits the Buddhist Temple
Arriving at the temple's car park, Alan, Jody and Allan decided to stay on board and catch up on some much needed kip. Allan is suffering still from his injured ankle, but remains upbeat.

buddhist temple Busan

The path to the temple was lined with stalls selling anything from Korean massage tools, dried seaweed and buddha statues. Sophie explained the religious background in Korea as we made our way to the temple by the sea. In the temple a priest chanted as a handful of worshippers prayed.

Back at the coach, after an arduous walk back up from the temple, Alan and Jody were awake and still looked delicate.

Korean Chicken Soup
Korean Chicken Soup

Lunch was to be traditional Korean, namely a poussin (a young chicken) cooked in a pot. When it arrived some of just stared at it, either because they were feeling like hell. Or, because they did not know how to start eating it. Mika came to the rescue again and, in her motherly way, proceeded to chop some of our chickens up. The poussin was stuffed with rice and herbs and sat in its own soup. It was quite tasty. After the chicken came platefuls of sticky chicken, followed by watermelon for dessert.

Back on the coach, we then sped through Busan to get to the high speed train, the KTX (Korean Train Express). The vast station seemed more like a football stadium than a rail station. Once again, Mika had timed it all to perfection. After a short pause, we boarded the KTX in First Class seats. The attendant was beautifully mannered and bowed as we boarded. When aboard, she would leave the carriage by moving out backwards and bowing to us before the door opened and leaving. Wouldn't that be nice to see in the UK on our trains?

Jody Lees - KTX

Korean Manners
Korean Manners
All of us settled in for 2 hours and 40 minutes of sleep on the way back to Seoul. The train travels at 200 KMH through the mountainous country that is Korea. Jody had provided mobile WiFi, so most of us caught up with some emails as we hurtled through the countryside.

In Seoul, a bus picked us up and took us back to the same hotel from earlier in the week. A quick swim and sauna, before dinner at an Italian and back to the hotel for a beer.

That's where some of the more disciplined of the group (who had had big night the night before) went to bed early. Martin, Will, Sam, Alan and I stayed up and had just one more beer, which turned into four more in fact.

Mr Kim - Seoul
Mr Kim
The hotel's bar had two Filipino singers on stage with a male keyboard player, whose name was Alex. As the beer flowed, so did our enthusiasm for the singing. Mr Kim, the hotel's entertainment manager was getting fired up by the singing too.

In their breaks, the girls sat at the bar. Will went to chat to them and found that they were under the cosh of Alex. They were sweet but it highlighted what a tough regime they were under working in Korea.

It came to 1.30 am and it was time to leave.

Oak room Seoul

09 June 2015

Factory Tour and Shooting - LG Trip - Day Three

Where do I start?

Sleep deprivation is a weapon of torture. 

And, "I'm going to have quiet night, tonight" is a promise we make to ourselves each night out here in Korea with LG. For three nights we have broken that promise. But, it has been great fun. 

Monday was the first day of visiting LG's factory and reference sites. We took a short bus ride from Busan to Changwon (an industrial town) where LG has its factory making air conditioning units, compressors, heat pumps and more.

LG Show room Changwon
LG Show room Changwon

LG's factory is massive. Measuring its scale by comparing it to the number of football pitches you can fit into it would not help you understand how big it is. It is a town in itself with its own buses. 

LG Factory changwon

When we arrived dozens of LG's workers were standing in a large, leafy shelter which turned out to be the smoking area. One of the LG team told me that we had arrived just at the end of the official 'fag break' and the smokers were making their back to work.

Our official tour began, which you can read about in detail here on the ACR Journal website.

Buffet Brilliance

Korean buffet

For lunch, LG treated to us more Korean culture. They have perfected buffet lunches. After an initial welcome from Steve Yeung (and a beer), we drifted around to take in the spectacle of food on display. There were Korean delicacies, sushi, pizzas, soups, sea urchins, BBQ delights and Asian desserts. If I had had boots on I could have filled them. The choice was overwhelming and it tasted great.

We continued with our factory tour afterwards which took in the lines where LG makes its air conditioning units (again, read about it on the ACR Journal blog). At the end, Steve and Jody took us to a meeting room where a delightful member of the team, Irene, explained about the business on a PowerPoint presentation.  "Any questions?" she asked. Deafening silence.

LG Factory visit Korea
L to R: Steve, Jody, Jamie and Allen

Sitting opposite me, I could see a smile on Jody's face, aimed at me. I knew why. I had 'hit a wall' and my lack of sleep in the last 48 hours was written all over my face. It was the '3 o'clock wall' when your body decides that it wants you to shut down despite what you want it to do. 

Mika interrupted and took charge again. It was time to get back to the bus and head into Busan. A seat on a bus had never been so welcome. The tour had been great, interesting and useful. But, to get in an hour of sleep on the bus was a bonus.

I decided that I would have a quiet night on that bus. Yes, we were going out  again to dinner. But, I was definitely going to get a proper night asleep.

Back in the hotel room, I caught up on some emails, updated colleagues about how tough the day had been and contacted my wife to wish her a happy wedding anniversary (What perfect timing). 

At 7.30pm, as instructed by Sophie, the group met again in the lobby. We walked (or went by cab in Allan's case) to a trendy Korean BBQ restaurant where Steve and the other LG team members met us. 
Jody Lees - Korean BBQ
Jody Lees waiting for the BBQ
This time the cooking was done over charcoal and the meat was pork belly. Above each fire pit was a telescopic extractor to remove the smoke. Attentive waiters turned the meat and chopped it up with scissors when it was ready. Steve then showed us how to take a piece of meat, put it into a cabbage leaf with some other vegetables and eat it. Delicious. 

Steve then began proceedings with the Korean drinking tradition. It starts with putting a shot of 'soju' into a glass full of beer, making a speech and then repeating the process. We had to then down our drinks one by one around the table with anyone who didn't down it in one being penalised with another shot of soju. 

Steve Yeung - LG
Steve hands out the soju and beer

The next game involved trying to flick of the part of a soju bottle top which is left over when you open it. Each bottle has a small strip of metal hanging off the cap connected to it by a flimsy piece of metal. By flicking it, the connecting metal becomes weaker. 

Soju bottle tops
Soju bottle tops
The aim is to flick it off so that your neighbour who next receives this bottle top has to down a shot. Will and Alan were particularly unfortunate and had a few more shots than the rest of us. It is amazing how much fun you can have with bottle top.

Soon, the group walked down to the road to an indoor shooting range. Yes, an indoor shooting range. I thought it was going to be a laser shooting venue. But, no. Jody had arranged for us to have a go at shooting live rounds from pistols such as Smith and Wesson's, Glocks, a Desert Eagle or Beretta. 

Indoor shooting

After the briefest of safety briefings, we went one by one onto the range, donned ear defenders and, with an instructor picked our weapon of choice. I picked a Glock. The instructor then clipped the weapon into two straps which prevented any users from pointing it in the wrong direction. 

I took three practice shots at a paper target hanging from a wire a few metres away. My group was low and right. The instructor then said I should use up the other seven rounds. Bang, bang, bang. I was always useless with a pistol. 76 points. What a thrill, however. I handed back the gun and went back out to join the others. 

Sam and Allan had much better scores and ended up having a 'shout out'. Given that Allan is on crutches, his shooting was spot on. I think Allan won? 

We drifted out after our shooting bonanza and went to a bar near to the hotel. It was about 11pm by then. At around 2am, we left. Somehow, someone bet Alan that he would not dive on a hedge. He was not a man to be vanquished and duly leaped onto the hedge and was quickly followed by two others from the team. I am pretty sure someone captured the antics on a video.

Hedge in Busan

A few minutes later, I was in bed and asleep. Jody, Jamie, Alan and Sam went off to a nearby shop. But, their night did not end there. To cut a long story short, they got back to the hotel at 5.30am and did not bother to go to bed. Today, they are looking delicate. 

Who said anything about an early night?

Tomorrow, we have another reference site visit, a visit to a Buddhist temple, a traditional Korean lunch and train ride to Seoul on the KTX 'bullet train'.