The Suite Life: $14 an Hour Buys You a Desk, Secretary and an Espresso Machine

Renting office space by the hour, day or week has caught on in Israel as more professionals put a premium on mobility over ownership.

Uzi Porat

Smadar Segel-Adar, an organizational psychologist advising on personal training for jobseekers, rents her office in Petah Tikva by the hour. She meets clients for about five hours  a day and pays just for the time she actually occupies the office.

"Meeting clients at a café just wouldn't seem comfortable, quiet or professional enough," she explains. She needed a business address and renting by the hour is cheaper than renting a whole office and paying for a secretary too. "This place also provides secretarial services," says Segel-Adar, and she enjoys the people in the other offices.

Short-term office rental, whether by hour or day, can be a great solution for professionals like lawyers, accountants, consultants and the like, especially at an early stage in their careers. It looks better than receiving customers in your living room. And if you're meeting with multiple people, most of these office-by-hour places also have a well accessorized conference room you can rent.

Most also have secretarial services – people who will answer the phone, take messages and schedule meetings for you. That's factored into the fee you pay per hour.

Now, how much is all this delight going to cost?

That depends where this establishment is located, and how much you'll pay to create an impression. Prices in Israel start at 50 per hour ($14) for basics, and can run as high as ILS 175 per hour ($40) in a fancy central Tel Aviv skyscrapers.

"Offices for rent by the hour have been around for over a decade, but lately they've been gaining traction," says Jacky Mukmel, CEO of Man Properties, a broker for commercial properties. Before this, businesspeople without a "home" had little choice but to rent a hotel room, he adds – which cost a pretty shekel too and didn't come with secretarial services.

Rats, forgot about advance notice

It also reduces risk, in eliminating the need to commit to leasing an office space. If one's business goes belly up, at least one isn't stuck with a two- or three-month advance notice for the office, points out Nurit Franco, CEO of the Israeli branch of Regus, an international company supplying office space and services for various periods of time, from hours to weeks.

Regus in fact is the kind of short-term "serviced" office leases in Israel. The company has 13,000 square meters of space under management. Its offices start at minnows of 10 square meters to whales of 200 square meters. They are located at six sites, two in Tel Aviv: in the Electra tower and in the Tel Aviv Museum tower. A third is in the Ayalon tower in Ramat Gan, then there are two in Herzliya Pituach and one in Haifa. Plans are afoot for more, including in Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva.

Demand comes from all areas, says Franco, from big companies to garage businesses to lawyers and the like, to Knesset members, who find it a convenience when say holding meetings in Tel Aviv. It's also a blessing for startups that tend to begin with core R&D workers: they tend to go for the small, cheap options with minimal secretarial services, she says. "Get Taxi, for instance, began with us," she brags.

Regus office suite: “Meeting clients at a café just wouldn’t be comfortable.” Photo by Uzi Porat

Google inside

Franco feels the opportunity arose because of a paradigm change in perception: once people were proud to point to an office with a big sign and say, "That's mine." Today people are proud to be mobile.

Regus' clientele includes multinational companies just starting to do business here. Google for instance used its temporary shelter for a year before it finished recruiting in Israel and set up its own facilities, Franco said. It's also a great option for a company expanding in stages.

The range of secretarial services can be from the most basic (answering phones) to much more advanced, such as scheduling and even opening mail. The temporary tenant can even have a plaque put on the outside door, or downstairs in the building, with his name on it.

Regus for one has a number of options, for a single room by oneself to a desk in a shared room. Its prices for a solo office in Herzliya start at ILS 88 an hour; sharing a room costs less.

It's the biggest of the lot, but companies smaller than Regus may also charge less for short-term rentals such as in Petah Tikva, Ramat Gan and Jerusalem. One smaller company is Jerusalem Business Center, which rents office space and conference rooms on Hillel Street, in the city center. Its fees start at ILS 100 per hour, but discounts may apply depending on usage per month. Shmuel Phillips, among the company's owners, says its clients include foreign companies that send people to hold meetings in Israel for say a week.

Another vendor, EMY, rents space to lawyers and the like near the Petah Tikva courts and train station, which can lead to fruitful business collaborations, says Revital Yurist-Eyal, among the owners of EMY and a lawyer herself. The price starts at ILS 80 per hour, with monthly rates of ILS 2,000 to ILS 3,500. Or, for the less fussy, there are basic offices available, sans virtual services, on very, very busy traffic artery Jabotinsky Street in Ramat Gan for ILS 50 an hour.

Accessorized conference rooms and culinary options

Some but not all these companies offer accessorized conference rooms too, with projectors and big screens. Sometimes big companies use these external conference rooms for management or board meetings, possibly to maintain a low profile – or to spur their creativity by change of environment.

"Not every temporary office company has a conference room with space for 20 or 30 people," says Mor Gelbart of the 28th Story, which rents out two conference rooms in the iconic Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv. "Companies that want to hold brainstorming sessions may prefer to do it outside the company." Another case is when board members don't live anywhere near the company itself and find it more convenient to meet in central Tel Aviv, she says. Smaller conference rooms with space for up to eight people are also available, she says, and the view from the windows is wonderful.

Kitchen in a Regus Tel Aviv office. Photo by Uzi Porat

Then there's the culinary option – holding meetings at restaurants. Some have joined the trend by creating private conference rooms within the restaurant.

Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv is not only one of the most expensive streets in the city. It's also been a bastion of capital market and banking people for decades. On the boulevard is Chef Omer Miller's establishment, HaShulchan ("The Table"), which has a conference room that can host up to 30 people for a meeting over a meal. The room is accessorized with technology for presentations, and there's even a small salon sort of area for guests. The cost starts at ILS 150 per person, but that includes the meal.

Another restaurant that hosts meetings of the sort is Messa, on HaArbaa Street, Tel Aviv, which can handle up to 16 people per conference. The room has a projector. Prices start at ILS 200 per person, including the meal.