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You’ve Been Asked To Manage An Office Refurbishment. What Next?

Updated: Apr 24

How to Prepare for an Office Refurbishment

If your company management has asked you to manage an office refurbishment for your company, you’re probably feeling excited and overwhelmed. On the one hand, this is a great opportunity to improve your company’s culture and performance – and prove your own skills. On the other hand, office refurbishments are complex projects. If you don’t manage it well, your refurbishment could run over time and/or over budget, as well as having a design that doesn’t meet your company’s needs.


When we speak to HR, office, or facilities managers in this situation, we often find they feel a bit overwhelmed. They’re not sure what to do next, or what they need to do to make sure their project is a success. In this article, we’ll explain the 5 essential stages you need to go through to set your project up for success – before you reach out to any design & build companies. By the end, you’ll be able to get started planning a great office refurbishment.


To learn about the entire planning process for your office refurbishment, download this eBook. It’s a 7-step guide that takes you through the entire process, from defining your needs to signing the contract!


Planning Your Office Refurbishment

In this situation, most people start by contacting several fit out companies and beginning the process with hardly any planning. However, this is a very risky approach. If you start working with fit out companies before you’re sure what you need and what constraints you have, then you risk wasting a lot of time and effort having to adapt your plan at a later date. There would also be a lot of duplication and wasted time working with several fit out companies at once.


You first need to have a comprehensive project plan and brief. This will save you a lot of time and energy, and will also make your project brief more focussed on your needs as a company. By doing it this way, you’re giving yourself the foundation you need to create the best possible design package, at a cost that’s right for your business. You’ll be able to choose the best fit out company for you, and you’ll be able to stay focussed on your needs throughout the process.


Of course, office refurbishments vary in scope from a light-touch reconfiguration to a full-scale strip out and fit out. In this article, we’ve gone through the process for a medium-scale refurbishment, or a strip out and fit out. For a reconfiguration project, you will be able to scale the process back, but the same principles apply.


Understand the “Why”

The first thing to do is to understand exactly why your company has made the decision to refurbish your 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 project.


This goes beyond superficial reasons like “the design feels outdated”. If that’s the case, you need to ask “How is it outdated?” Have you rebranded, and the finishes don’t match the new brand? Are the finishes worn, because they have not been updated for years? Do you have far too many desks and not enough collaboration space?


All three of these reasons would result in very different outcomes. If you have rebranded, then you will need a new layout and finishes package to match the new brand. If the finishes are merely worn, then you can replace them with identical or similar finishes - perhaps in a more durable specification. If you have far too many desks, you need to change the layout of your entire 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 full office refurbishment 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 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.


There are 5 key players in an office refurbishment 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 right is absolutely crucial. Without it, you won’t get buy-in across your company, you’ll be completely overloaded, 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 your workspace strategy. This will ensure that your office refurbishment is in line with your company’s wider vision for its workspace(s). If you don’t already have a workspace strategy, then you’ll have to create one.


Your workspace strategy is not a full project 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.


Set 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 refurbishment. 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 refurbishment by your performance against these goals. Ideally, they should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound).


Create a Project Brief

Now that you’ve done all this planning and preparation, you need to bring it all together into a package you can give to potential design & build companies. There are 3 key things that need to be in your project brief: workspace strategy, project objectives, and space information. You’ve already created or updated your workspace strategy and project goals, so including these is simple.


The space information contains all the details about your current office – sizes, quantities, and specifications. This is necessary so that your fit out company know where everything in your current office is and how it works, from the HVAC to the window blinds. They will need a lot of detail to be able to quote accurately, so it is worth spending the time collecting this information.


An accurate and comprehensive project brief is essential. It will give your fit out company a lot of what they need to know. This will enable them to spend their time with you working on more advanced topics. As a result, you’ll get a better project design package delivered far quicker. To learn how to curate an office refurbishment brief, read this article.


Managing Your Office Refurbishment

Now that you’ve read about the first 5 stages of planning an office refurbishment, you’re ready to implement them at your own company. You know how to create a great office refurbishment plan and brief, setting your project up for success.


Once you’ve done that, the next step will be to find a few office fit out companies, and then shortlist and select the best option. For help doing that read How to Find an Office Refurbishment Company and How to Choose an Office Refurbishment Company. You may also want to know about The Best Office Design & Build Companies In London and 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing an Office Refurbishment Company.


If you want to take more time to educate yourself about office refurbishment before you get started, then download How to Plan an Office Refurbishment. It’s a 7-step guide that will take you through the entire planning process, from defining your needs to signing the contract! Download your copy here.

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