Office Relocation: What to Expect
If you're considering an office move, what are the key issues you will have to address? In this article, we share what you can expect throughout the process and how best to approach the move.
The most obvious challenge 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 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.
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 1.0.
Consider the ESG* performance of the building and the landlord’s commitment to green matters.
What will be 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.
Every 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/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.
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 of what is ‘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.
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 – your Blended Workplace Strategy. Will everyone be back in the office for a normal 9-5, five days a week working week. Every decision has a profound impact of your size of 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.
Health & Safety (H&S) : expect to have a more rigorous H&S regime in the workplace. Will you have to:
- Design-in physical distancing – not just in terms of where people sit and communal areas, but also think about trafficking 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 are do not compromise healthy office guidelines, by acting as a transfer agent for airborne diseases
Expect the landlord to agree a cracking deal – for him/her. Make sure you secure the advice of a property professionals to ensure you make informed decisions about budget, terms and liabilities – especially 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.
One of the biggest challenges every organisation faces when relocating is co-ordination. Co-ordination of logistics, as well as 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 relocation planning.
Typical potential areas for delay include:
- Legals take longer than the professionals’ original speculations
- Securing broadband or upgrading existing services inevitably takes longer than broadband sales team advised
- Costs escalate - whether it is furniture, fixture and fittings, or IT related costs.
Every 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.
*ESG: Environmental, Social, Governance
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