How to Prepare for an Office Relocation
You’re an office, facilities, or HR manager. Your company leadership have decided that you need to move office, and have given you the job of managing it. You should be excited by the opportunity, but you’re mainly overwhelmed by the task ahead of you. This is a huge opportunity for both you and the company - for you to prove yourself in your role, and for your company’s performance to improve. However, there are also major risks involved.
So where do you start? In your situation, many people start by researching vacant office spaces and speaking to interior designers. However, this is an excellent way to make your project a failure before it’s even begun. Before you can do those, there is a lot of planning and coordinating you must do to set your project up for success.
In this article, we’ll explain the 5 crucial steps you need to go through before you can start researching spaces and designers. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to plan your office project in a strategic way. This will ensure you get buy-in throughout the team, as well as help your company get the office it needs.
To learn about the rest of your office move, download the Ultimate Guide to Office Relocation. It’s a comprehensive guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office relocation, what it costs, and how long it will take. Download your copy here.
Understand The “Why”
The first thing to do is to understand exactly why your company has made the decision to move office. You may have been involved in the decision, or it may have been made without your input, but regardless, you need to understand the motivation(s) for the move.
This goes beyond superficial reasons like “the lease is ending”. If that’s the case, you need to ask “Why didn’t we renew it?”. Do you need a new space to help get staff back to the office? Is your current office no longer big enough, due to staff growth? Is your lease ending and the landlord refuses to renew?
All three of these reasons would result in very different outcomes. If you are struggling to get staff back to the office, you need a culture-focussed space to attract your staff back. If your office is too small, your new office will need to be much larger, with room for future growth. If your landlord refuses to renew, then you “only” need to replicate the design in a new office.
Having a detailed understanding of “the why” will affect every decision you make from here on, so it’s crucial to get it right first time. You will also need to get confirmation and full alignment from your company leaders on this, to prevent any misunderstanding and wasted time and/ or investment.
Build a Project Team
Planning and delivering an office relocation is a big project. It’s a huge amount of work, so you’ll need support from colleagues. There are major decisions to be made – both in terms of cost and implications - so you’ll likely need board-level involvement. Such a project also required detailed knowledge in many different areas. You may need to include colleagues from specific departments to assist in their area of expertise.
Building a project team is something that many companies leave too late. Often they don’t fully involve other staff until the detailed design phase. However, this risks a lot of wasted time and conflict, as they may want to reverse or change previous decisions. Building your team as early as possible avoids this.
Typically, we find there are 5 key players in an office relocation team. These are the internal project manager (you), decision maker, finance expert, HR expert and IT expert. There are often other stakeholders involved depending on the nature of the project.
Getting your project team is absolutely crucial. Without it, you won’t get buy-in across your company, you’ll be completely overloaded personally, and your project will become very difficult. Assembling the right team, managing them and keeping them aligned is a lot of work, but it’s well worth it. Your project won't be a success without it. To learn more about each role, what these people do and what skills they need, read Who Do I Need To Involve in my Office Fit Out?
Review/ Create Workspace Strategy
Now that you’ve got your team together, the planning can begin in earnest. The first step toward finding your perfect new office is reviewing (or creating) your workspace strategy. There are 5 key parts of a workspace strategy: Working Model, Space Design, Space Location, Technology, and Cost.
The first, working model, is about where and how your people work: in-office, remote, or hybrid. Space design involves creating a space that maximises personal and company-wide performance. Space location is your long-term strategy for selecting future offices. Technology is important because harnessing the power of technology can make a big difference to the way your people work. Finally, cost is crucial. Workspace strategy deals with two of your company's biggest expenses: staff and real estate. Keeping the costs of both as low as possible while maximising their performance is crucial.
Your workspace strategy is not a full relocation plan. It’s not even about any one project. It’s a high-level document that details how your company's office will help the business achieve its goals. This includes considerations such as productivity, communication, culture, and wellbeing. At its core, it’s a vision of how your workspace can help your company achieve its goals.
This may seem like unnecessary extra work in what is already a challenging project. However, it’s an essential step. By defining why your company even has an office, you can then ensure every subsequent stage is aligned with this. As a result, your office truly helps your company achieve its overall goals.
The next step is to turn your workspace strategy into clear, deliverable goals. Project objectives distill your workspace strategy into 1-3 key objectives for the project. These could be strategic (eg, improve innovation), operational (eg, increase office attendance), and/or financial (eg, reduce real estate operating costs).
These goals need to be pragmatic – not so ambitious that they become demotivating, yet not so easy to achieve they become meaningless. When setting them, you also need to make sure they are aligned with your project motivations and workspace strategy. If your goals aren’t built off these, then your project won’t be a success, regardless of whether you reach your goals or not.
It’s absolutely crucial that these objectives are measurable. You will measure the success of your project by your performance against these goals. Ideally, they should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound).
Define New Space Criteria
A lot of companies start their office relocation by looking for vacant spaces on the open market near their current offices, about the right size, and as cheap as possible. This might sound reasonable, but it often ends in an office that’s too small, of poor quality, and not necessarily in the right location.
Before you start looking at potential new spaces, you need to define exactly what your ideal space should look like. You should consider location, transport links, size, building quality/ specification, lease costs, running costs, quality of building services, and building features.
Some criteria will often be in conflict with other factors. This means you need to prioritise all the factors so there isn't any confusion or conflict about what matters most. It is also helpful to define minimum and preferred requirements for each criteria, as you are unlikely to get everything you want in one office.
You will also need to consider how your workspace needs will change over time, and how this will affect your criteria. For example, growth plans will need to be considered when deciding what size space you need.
Going through this process allows you to define your ideal workspace before you start worrying about what’s currently available. As a result, you can remain focussed on what is right for your needs as a company, rather than being distracted by short-term considerations like availability or initial cost. As a result, you’re much more likely to find and choose the right space.
Now you know the first 5 steps to plan your office move, you’ve got a solid foundation in how to manage an office relocation. Once these steps are complete, you’ll be ready to create a project brief and start speaking to estate agents and office design & build companies. Armed with a good brief and a clear plan, they will be able to produce much higher quality work much faster than if you had reached out to them without this foundation. As a result, your project will be much smoother, faster, more cost-effective, and higher quality.
A solid foundation is necessary for a successful office relocation, but it’s not all that you need. There is still (a lot) further to go. To learn about the rest of your office move, download The Ultimate Guide to Office Relocation. It’s a comprehensive guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office relocation, what it costs, and how long it will take. Download your copy here.
If you want to find out more about setting your project up for success, read How to Create an Office Fit Out Brief. To learn more about working with your office fit out company read How to Manage Your Office Fit Out Company.