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Tue 23 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Setting up at home

As rents continue to soar more and more offices are moving into private real estate such as Villa's but is it just a case of simply hiring the removals man, or is there more to it. The Advisor investigates.

As rents continue to soar more and more offices are moving into private real estate such as Villa's but is it just a case of simply hiring the removals man, or is there more to it. The Advisor investigates.

The number of home offices is growing says a new report from Ameinfo due to the current economic climate, the rising cost of free zones and a lack of suitable office space. Offices are taking up arms and taking up residence in private addresses where rent is cheaper and often more than one company can unite.

Trade Arabia dot com reported in 2007 that "rental prices would skyrocket by 40 %." Rumour has it that a well-known ‘name' on Sheikh Zayed Road is moving to a villa on the outskirts of the city.

And the company is not a little-known outfit on the fringes of the market in which it operates but a huge multi-national finance and investment company, long established and doubtless still raking in profits.

I had a vision; a tangled mess of telecom wires, pc cables and monitors being shunted around a rabbit warren of corridors, desks squeezed into tight corners and wires poking out from the edge of tired stairwells.

You can hardly compare an Al Suquiem villa with a three bedroom semi-detached but the concept of a home office is still difficult to swallow in a place like Dubai with its towering building blocks.

In 2007 the HSBC Global Research report stated that "The office market in Abu Dhabi is tighter than the residential market, with ninety nine percent occupancy rates.

Even the vacancy rates are as low as one percent in comparison to the global average of nine percent and two percent in Dubai." According to reports last week, investigations were being carried out into the rising cost of Free Zones, normally the last sanctuary for fledgeling or struggling foreign companies.

Apart from quality of supply being low, most office buildings are in urgent need of renovation. Hard to believe in Dubai but less so when you think of the more glitzy tourist haunts- more appealing to developers because of the partnership oportunities they offer.

According to Colliers International, approximately 744,580 Sq.mts of office space is likely to enter the Abu Dhabi market by 2012, doubling the existing supply.

What this means is more traffic and congestion in an area already feeling the strain. And when you increase supply the price will rise unless demand increases.

So what of the alternative - villa's? What they lack is the exclusive and once coveted, business address that gleams; where just down the road is Starbucks and perhaps other glossy brands that you want to align yourself with.

In this age however, of the internet, of virtual business meetings and virtual conferences, maybe the need to have a solid front to our business is diminishing. In fact in a region dominated by towering, often impersonal looking buildings, a family villa could capture the market in corperate hospitality.

The value of this growing trend is highlighted by a recent project by Mimar Emirates. Set to complete in 2009, the first of its kind, it will look like a free zone with each building serving both a business and commercial function. And there's many more like it popping up everywhere.

So what of the needs of these small businesses and how if at all do they differ from those of large open-plan business spaces. Firstly we need to take a look at technology and luckily Canon has come up with a battery of solutions.

The two new sensys colour laser printers (the I-SENSYS LBP5050n and LBP5050) both incorporate features that make it ideal for the small office. Quiet and compact, they can perch on the edge of a desk, are highly energy efficient and have a recovery switch, a bonus when time and resources are at a premium.

This compact printer emits little more than a soft low hum when in operation. It also looks simple. It's easy to see where the paper goes in and where it comes out so it is great for anyone ill-at ease with technology.

The LBP5050 is suited to the personal office; the LBP5050n is great for multiple users who need to share functionality as it is network ready - saving you time and money in the set up.

Apart from the aforementioned cute and minimalist design, there are some other features that will make you the envy of your partners. Now for the science:

A 4D in-line horizontal engine for outstanding graphics (to make pictures look better than ever before) -great for direct mail (fliers, leaflets) which incidentally are still the preferable marketing format compared with email shots.

No waiting with Quick First-Print performance and no warm-up needed form sleep-mode up to 8ppm (colour) or 12 ppm (mono).

Up to 9600 x 600 dpi printing with Automatic Image Refinement (AIR); good because 300 dpi is the usual standard for output so 600 must be good.

Efficient and energy saving: only 7 watts in sleep mode Maintenance-free All-in-One colour cartridges.

It is the lack of a fan that makes it so quiet and its energy efficiency rating means it consumes 75% less energy than typical printers.In a feature by Vishal Gohel, Product Manager, he highlights two basic features as the things to look out for when it comes to printers.

With regards to LFP (Large Format Print) used by photographers and graphic artists always opt for a machine that offers RGB inks with 12 bit output as the software will allow for 4000 colours rather than 256. With the increased colour you'll find that pantone matching is much better, increasing your options.

Obviously LFP's are not as compact as the mono laser printers but they do offer the clarity and quality that show graphics at their best.

Then you have to decide whether you want the lines to run on pigment or dye ink. Popular with CAD and GIS users is pigment because it doesn't spread like ink and produces sharper lines for graphics and text.

The ideal is a machine that combines both, a ‘reactive' ink system which is great news for small to medium enterprises. Because aspects of B&W drawings are still judged by the thickness of the lines the quality of the output is of the upmost importance, says Gohel and so too is the match between the inkjet output and your chosen production processes.

Samsung has some interesting solutions, said the October's issue of The Advisor; the recovery option- a two step process to fix a paper jam, saving time and preserving the printer from unnecessary damage.

Now that you've got the technology under wraps where are you going to put it all? First you need a room that is large enough to work in and not so small that you feel caged. It needs to be an environment that you feel comfortable in but not so comfortable that you'll want to put your feet up instead of slogging it out on the pc.

Things like lighting, space and colour all play a vital part in creating the perfect balance between relaxation and stimulation. Canon's Guide to setting up a home office has some useful points:

"Find the perfect work space. Make sure it is a designated space; somewhere you can work without distraction. "

Save space...

To avoid clutter is essential and devices such as Canon's PIXMA X7600 can help, with its combination of features, enabling high speed copying, scanning, fax and photo lab quality prints.


Is also something worthy of mention; able to stimulate or relax, it is something you need to think about. Depending on what kind of person you are we all need stimulation to a greater or lesser degree. Green is good for relaxing and warm colours would stimulate-or drive to distraction.

Minimise distractions...

Closing your door to signal that you are in and working is also a good idea, especially if you've got young children or pets.

Save money...

Many people working from home underestimate the costs of running a business from home in terms of increased electricity used, and consumables required for basic office functions such as printing.

But with careful selection of office technology you could save yourself money and help the environment. For example make sure you get a printer that can print on both sides of the paper and thereby reduce the amount of paper consumed. Also look out for Energy Star compliant printers such as the I-Sensys range of printers which help to reduce electricity costs.

The Canon LBP 3370 has been designed with cost cutting in mind and is ideal for start ups looking for cost effective professional print finishing.

Match your brand...

If your home office is going to serve as a location to meet with clients or potential clients it is important for your office to reflect your brand and corporate identity.

This is an important element of your business marketing and by doing something as simple as incorporating your company's colours into your office, you can achieve a professional look and make a great first impression.

As well as printers there's also phones and faxes as well as small pda's. Do you want a phone that combines a fax or a separate one, as the latter will not take up as much space but this could be at the cost of efficiency. Some combined faxes cannot do two things simultaneously.

PDA's, smartphones or Blackberry's are a great idea if your staff are going to be on the move as they give greater flexibility. However if they need to be attached to your data storage you need to consider access (who has it) and most importantly, security.

Home offices give you a great chance to tailor everything individually to you and your companies needs but there are pitfalls so make sure you avoid them.

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