Office Relocation Timeline
Is your lease expiring in a couple of years, and you’re planning to move office? Are you growing rapidly, and need to relocate soon? If either of these situations sounds like you, you’re likely wondering “How long does it take to move office?” As an office design & build company, we often get asked this question. In fact, it’s often the second question we get asked, just after “How much will my office relocation cost?”
Moving your staff from one office to another is a big project. There are a lot of factors beyond your control, and it takes a lot longer than many people think. In this article, we’ll go through each of the 8 stages of an office relocation. You’ll learn what is involved, how long it will take, and what affects the total timeframe. By the end, you’ll be able to estimate how long your office relocation will take, and you’ll know when to start planning.
To learn more about the office relocation process, download the Ultimate Guide To Office Relocation. It’s one comprehensive guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office relocation, what it costs, and how long it will take.
Planning: 4-12 Weeks
A detailed plan is an essential part of an office relocation. This plan will be your go-to guide over the next 10-18 months, keeping your project on track and making sure it is a success. This plan needs to include 5 key items: overall workspace strategy, project objectives, key deadlines, new space requirements, and budget.
A workspace strategy details what your office needs to achieve for your company. This includes how your office will support the productivity, wellbeing, and collaboration of your staff. Project objectives take the overall strategy and distill it into key deliverables for this project. This can be both financial, strategic, and/or operations.
Key deadlines are the milestones that you have to hit for your project to be a success. The most important is your current lease expiry. Depending on your project, you may have others. New space requirements are the headline features that your new office will have to have. This includes location, size, and amenities. The budget is obviously, what you plan to spend on your new space, including base rent costs, design & build costs & operational costs.
If you already have a well-defined workplace strategy in place, then this stage can take as little as four weeks. However, for more complex projects, or starting the planning phase from scratch, then this can take 3 months or more.
Space Selection: 8-16 Weeks
The next step is to choose your new office. A commercial estate agent will be able to find a range of potential spaces that meet your space requirements. An experience agent will be able to find potential offices that are not on the open market. These are typically cheaper and have more flexible terms than offices on the open market.
Once you have a long list of 5-10 locations, you can review them and select a shortlist of 3-5 offices. Key selection criteria include location, size, transport links, existing state, rent costs, operating costs, and amenities. From this shortlist you can then visit these spaces to see if they are a viable option for you.
Due diligence is crucial at this stage. We recommend appointing a qualified surveyor to produce an independent report on the condition of the building. You can also work with an office designer to create several test-fit designs to get a better idea of which option is best for your company.
If you have relatively simple or flexible requirements, then you could find and select a space in as little as 2 months. However, if you have more specific requirements or your preferred option falls through, then it could take more than twice as long.
Lease Negotiation: 4-8 Weeks
Once you have shortlisted 2 or 3 spaces and are considering them in detail, you need to review the terms of the lease. The key considerations are rent costs, operational costs, lease breaks, and term length.
Your commercial estate agent or lawyer will be able to negotiate improved terms on your behalf. Commercial property law is very complex. A specialist solicitor will be necessary to review and finalise the contract on your behalf.
Depending on the complexity of the terms and how much negotiation is necessary, this phase will take 1-2 months. It will often overlap with choosing a space. This phase should also overlap with concept design as part of your due diligence.
Concept Design: 3-8 Weeks
Once lease negotiations are underway and the risk of the lease falling through is low, concept design will begin. This involves creating several options for layouts and design concepts. These concept designs combine your workspace strategy, project objectives, and company culture to create concepts that will guide the detailed design.
This stage is not about exact details but the inspiration behind your office design and how it achieves your project objectives. Creating layout options gives you different ideas for how you could achieve your design objectives. These would normally be accompanied by rough costings to give you an idea of what the different options could cost. Visuals can also be used to give you an understanding of what the finished space could look like.
Detailed Design: 4-12 Weeks
Once you have chosen a design concept, it's time to turn that into a comprehensive design package that your design & build firm can deliver. This stage will include a full drawing pack with layouts, finishes, and utilities. It will also include finishes and furniture schedules, as well as specification packs and detailed costings.
Alongside the specification packs, the full drawing pack will give all the contractors the information they need. This includes the layout of key elements, the finishes, and the utilities layouts.
After the detailed design, a comprehensive quote can be finalised. This includes detailed specifications, quantities, and costs. At this stage, a detailed project programme is also created.
Licenses & Approvals: 4-16 Weeks
Whilst the design is being finalised, you will need to make sure all necessary licenses and approvals are sorted. The key approvals are the license to alter (LTA) from the landlord, and signoff from a building control consultant. If your building is listed, then you will need listed building consent (LBC) from your local council. If your project requires planning permission, then this will also need to be sorted at this stage. Building control signoff is not legally required until the project is complete. However, we recommend that a qualified building inspector reviews your drawings before the works start.
You will also need to appoint your design & build firm as the principal contractor. A principal contractor is a contractor with control over the construction phase of a project involving more than one contractor. They are appointed in writing by the client to plan, manage, monitor, and coordinate health and safety during construction.
This phase will overlap almost completely with detailed design. However, if your project requires approval from a local authority, this can take a long time to get approval.
Works: 4-20 Weeks
The next stage is to deliver your dream office! The works include 8 main phases: site preparation, strip out, build out, utilities, electrics, finishes, furniture, and snagging. Most of these overlap with the consecutive phases, which speeds up the project delivery.
Site preparation involves preparing all the necessary documentation, welfare, and health & safety for workers. Strip out involves removing everything that won’t be in the new office, including partitions, ceilings, and lighting. Build out is the core construction of the space, including partitions, ceilings, and teapoints. The utilities stage involves making the necessary adaptions to the HVAC, fire safety, and plumbing systems. Electrics include reconfiguring the power and data points to suit the new layout, as well as lighting. Finishes involve decoration, as well as installation of flooring, signage, and any design features. Furniture is then assembled and installed.
Not every office relocation will require each of the phases. The length of each phase will vary a lot depending on the size of the office and the design style. Typically, however, the build phase will take around 12 weeks for a 10,000 sq/ft project. This will reduce to around 8 weeks for a 5,000 sq/ft project, and can be 24 weeks or more for spaces of 25,000 sq/ft and above.
Relocation: 1-2 Weeks
Once your new space is ready, you can then begin to move in! If you are reusing certain things from your existing office, such as furniture, then this will also need to be moved. In some cases, your design & build company will help you organise your office relocation, but you may have to do this yourself.
In the first phase, your IT and office equipment will be decommissioned, moved straight to your new office, office and recommissioned. This is generally done by IT experts over a weekend to minimise disruption. Staff equipment, such as laptops and personal belongings will then be packed into crates and moved to the new office.
Depending on the size of your office, with careful planning, it may be possible to carry out the move in one weekend. It should certainly be done out of hours and as fast as possible to minimise disruption.
How Long Will It Take to Move Your Office?
Now that you know how long office relocations take and what affects that timeframe, you can estimate how long your own office move will take. As a result, you’ll know when you need to start planning. When that time comes, you’ll need a comprehensive office fit out brief. Learn how to create one here.
To learn more about planning for your office move, download the Ultimate Guide To Office Relocation. It’s one 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 Office Relocation Guide Here.