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Consultancy Vs Design & Build Firm: Which Is Best For Office Consultancy?

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Workspace Strategy

Are you beginning to plan an office fit out, but aren’t quite sure where to start? You may be considering using a workspace consultant to help you create a workspace strategy. You’re probably wondering if you need workspace consultancy at all. Whether you should use a specialist consultant or an office fit out company is another decision to make. Specialist consultants and design & build companies will have different processes, pricing, and outcomes.


As a design and build company, we sometimes get asked “Should I use a specialist consultant or a design and build firm for my workspace consultancy project?” In this article, we’ll explain how to decide whether you need workspace consultancy at all, the differences between specialist and in-house consultants, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Do I Need Workspace Consultancy?

Before you start comparing the respective advantages and disadvantages of consultants and design & build firms, you should consider whether you need formal workspace consultancy at all. Workplace consultancy is not appropriate for every company. However, workspace consultancy can help with various real estate and HR challenges you may be having.


If you have an incomplete long-term workspace strategy or even no workspace strategy at all, then a workspace consultant will be essential. They will be able to analyse the way your staff currently work and communicate, as well as study your real estate costs and needs. They can then work with you to create a comprehensive plan covering all aspects of your workspace strategy.


If you’re having staff productivity issues, then you should consider engaging a workspace consultant. They will be able to improve the productivity of your people by helping you create an office that matches the way your people work. They will first assess how your people currently work and what is making them less productive. They can then make data-based recommendations to improve your productivity.


The final common reason companies engage a workspace consultant is to help rationalise their real estate. Your workspace consultant will be able to use occupancy studies and their experience to improve your office space. They may help you move into a smaller office or make better use of the space you do have.


However, workspace consultancy is not right for every company or every situation. It requires time, money, and effort from you and your leadership team to get the best out of workspace consultancy. For small projects such as office reconfigurations, a consultant will be unnecessary.


Workspace consultancy may also not be needed if you are already happy with the design of your workspace and the productivity of your people. If you are moving because of a lease expiry, then workspace consultancy may be irrelevant.


Consultancy Vs Design & Build Firm: What’s The Difference?

Working with a specialist workspace consultant will be quite a different experience to working with an in-house consultant. With a specialist consultant, you research your options, hold initial conversations with 2 or 3 and then appoint your preferred consultant. They will work on a one-off consultancy fee, or maybe an hourly rate.


Exactly what is included in your package will depend on your requirements. Commonly, it will start with workshops with senior leadership and relevant departments. These will uncover your workspace challenges and create a vision for what your office(s) should achieve for your company. They may also carry out online surveys or in-person interviews to get staff feedback. This will cover their current environment and what would help them perform better.


Occupancy studies are also a common part of a specialist consultant’s package. Using cameras, sensors, and trackers placed throughout your space, snapshots are taken of occupancy levels throughout the day and week. This builds up a detailed picture of exactly how your people use the office. The end result of a specialist consultant’s work is a report. This details their findings and makes recommendations as to your future workspace strategy and/ or upcoming project(s).


A design and build firm will offer similar consultancy services but with quite a different process and outcome. It will be more practical and focussed on the office design, rather than overall workplace performance. Few office fit out companies would have the expertise and equipment to carry out occupancy studies in house.


A fit out firm will be focussed on using consultancy to inform the design of a specific upcoming project. Depending on your needs, consultancy would normally be included as part of a paid design project or even a pitch-to-win office fit out.


Consultancy Advantages

The main advantage of using a specialist consultant is that their process is very data-based. Using their specialist equipment, they will be able to collect and analyse more data than a fit out company. As a result, their report will be backed up by data that is specific to your company. Specialist consultants also tend to be highly experienced, which means they can better utilise the data they collect.


Consultancy Disadvantages

However, specialist consultants are not always better for workspace consultancy. Because the end result of their work is a report rather than a design, it can be hard to make sure it is fully integrated into your new office design. As the process is carried out completely desperately to the design, it can also lengthen your project timeframe.


Design & Build Firm Advantages

The main advantage of using a fit out company for your office consultancy is that they are exactly the same company that will be designing (and probably delivering) your office fit out. As a result, they will have a much better understanding of your needs than if a different consultant had handed them a report. This means the design will be closely aligned with the findings of the consultancy process.


Design & Build Firm Disadvantages

Because the result of an office fit out consultancy package is a design rather than a report, it does mean it is less transferrable to other offices or future projects. In many cases, it will also be less data-based than a specialist consultant’s report.


Consultancy Vs Design & Build Firm: Which Is Best For Me?

Workspace consultancy can be very helpful if you don’t have an up-to-date, comprehensive workspace strategy. By adding structure, data, and research to the planning process, you can be a lot more confident in the resulting office fit out plan. However, consultancy is not always necessary. It can sometimes lead to over-engineered strategies, increased costs, and lengthened project timeframes.


If you decide you do need a workspace consultant, your next decision will be whether to use a specialist workspace consultant or a design & build company. Which is best for you will depend on your unique circumstances. Some crucial factors to consider are the state of your existing workspace strategy, the level of data analysis you require, and how the strategy relates to your upcoming project.


To learn more about how workspace consultancy can help your business, read 4 problems workspace consultancy can solve. There, you’ll learn about the 4 most pressing workspace problems that companies are facing, and how workspace consultancy can help you solve them.


Do you want to know more about workspace consultancy, and how it could help solve your company's most pressing real estate, performance, and HR issues? We’d love to talk. Our process helps you understand your office and your people. We collect measurable and cultural insights into your office space and your people. The results enable you to make intelligent data-informed decisions, helping you to streamline costs whilst increasing employee engagement and wellbeing. Our service is scalable to meet your requirements, timescales, and budget. We can help you ensure a smarter, optimised workspace with more productive people. Reach out to our workspace consultancy team today.

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