The most obvious challenge that comes with office relocation is disruption – as every office move inevitably causes upheaval and distraction from a company’s core business. In pre-COVID days, it was worse. You would probably have expected some machinations amongst colleagues as to who-sits-where-and-next-to-whom. Luckily, in an age of working from home (WFH), blended workplace strategies and hot desking, dedicated desks for each employee tend to be a thing of the past for most companies.
The greatest expectation of you (when planning an office move) will be to think more profoundly and more creatively about how you do business, the type of company you want to be and how you can marry those ambitions with your financially imposed reality.
Below are some of the key drivers you will have to address when planning an office relocation.
When planning an office relocation, start with your employees
Start by profiling your employees and ascertain their preferences and requirements. It will be important to identify who will be your frequent users of the office, who will require the flexibility to use the space and who needs to collaborate with who to establish not only desk space but meeting space.
You should aim to create an environment which employees will want to travel to and escape their WFH workplace, as well as one which is a million miles away from ‘yesterday’s office’. Also consider the corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance of the building and the landlord’s commitment to green matters.
What will your team’s expectations be for health and wellbeing and will they want/expect access to amenities such as bike storage, showers and changing facilities?
Strategic planning – that’s essential
Every office relocation is an opportunity for an organisation to think strategically about its business. Whilst the senior management team’s starting point is inevitably financial and occupational issues, planning an office relocation presents a company with a unique opportunity to think about its brand and cultural ambitions and aspirations.
The glass ceiling for your relocation ambitions is inevitably money – what can you afford today? And, bearing in mind your three/five-year business plan, what will you be able to afford tomorrow? Will the next three/five years be a period of growth or retrenchment, i.e. do you need more space, less space, or less space initially with the option to expand it as your business grows, or vice versa?
Consider the notion that the office is a strategic tool for growth/productivity/profitability and not just an amortised cost on the balance sheet.
Consider location when relocating
Should you consider relocating to be closer to clients, partners, suppliers and like-minded brands? Will the new location encourage collaboration with like-minded businesses in your sector? Will it reflect what it ‘says on your tin’ – too flash or too modest? Perhaps moving to a more prestigious part of town will be more aligned to your brand and your talent (recruitment/retention) strategies. Either way, budget will be a great determinant.
You need an office relocation strategy post-pandemic
Another relocation defining issue is working practices – how will we run our business in a post-pandemic world? Will some team members be WFH? Will there be a mandatory policy of two/three days in the office and the other days people will WFH, i.e. your blended workplace strategy? Will everyone be back in the office for a normal 9-5, five days a week? Every decision has a profound impact on the size of your office and location requirements.
Consider how you deploy your workspace in a post-COVID world. Will there be a greater need for formal meeting rooms, informal collaborative zones, quiet corners and hot desks and if so, what is the proportion of each in your ‘occupational mix’? This will obviously be dictated by the size of the premises you select, the configuration of the floor plate (the core parameters of your expectations) and your budget.
All three factors will determine how creative you can be with your new workplace – and by creative, I don’t just mean chocolate fountains in reception and meditation zones in a private corner of the office. Consider how the space could be curated to accommodate different working practices such as informal meeting zones or areas for video calls etc.
Expect to have a more rigorous health and safety regime in the workplace. For instance, will you have to:
● Design-in physical distancing – not just in terms of where people sit and communal areas, but also think about traffic around the office.
● Introduce touch-free appliances (think WiFi and/or mobile-enabled coffee machines, for example) and hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere – this will be the new norm.
Heating and air conditioning systems will also come under scrutiny to minimise the adverse impact of recycling of air, as well as ensuring that droplets of moisture do not compromise healthy office guidelines, by acting as a transfer agent for airborne diseases.
Ensure you negotiate the best terms
Expect the landlord to agree to a cracking deal that benefits them. Make sure you secure the advice of a property professional to ensure you make informed decisions about budget, terms and liabilities.
Carefully consider liabilities such as dilapidations, which will rear their expensive heads at the end of the lease term, unless you were aware of them at the outset, negotiated the best possible terms and made provision for them over the course of your lease.
Logistics of office relocation
One of the biggest challenges every organisation faces when relocating is coordination (and expectations) – keeping everyone on the same page and excited by the move. Involve and engage with key employees and stakeholders. Make them feel they have ownership in the decisions being made.
Logistics is usually a notionally easy fix: appoint an organised, experienced (if possible) and very capable project manager and allow them the time to explore all options, decide on the optimum ones for your organisation and make recommendations with the confidence of knowing that what they are recommending will be considered and evaluated on their merit and not dismissed by authoritarian bosses.
Empower them with the authority to make things happen – for they will inevitably be challenged by more junior and senior colleagues claiming to be working on something more important than preparing for the move.
Finally, what else should you expect from an office move? Be prepared for delays when plans fail to meet schedules scoped out during the heady initial days of office relocation planning.
Typical potential areas for delay include:
● Legals taking longer than the professionals’ original speculations
● Securing broadband or upgrading existing services inevitably takes longer than broadband sales team advised
● Costs escalating – whether it is furniture, fixture and fittings, or IT-related costs.
Every office relocation is a wonderful opportunity for an organisation (irrespective of their size, business or geography) to start with a clean sheet of paper and on it, draw a picture of what they want their company to be, how it will behave and how they can harness the creativity and the productivity of their team to meet financial, business and commercial goals.
If executed well, a relocation could be a sinecure for future success, no matter how you define it. A successful relocation is an inevitable catalyst for increased productivity, improved talent retention, successfully attracting high calibre talent and making a brand statement.
This article was brought to you by David Laws, Partner at Matthews & Goodman. David has over 20 years’ experience providing owners and occupiers of office spaces with advice. He takes a strategic approach to business space, ensuring it meets the needs of his clients’ financial, operational and cultural goals.
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Myles is a first class ‘word nerd’ currently working at the heart of the property industry. He’s particularly passionate about all-things property, interiors and D.I.Y.
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