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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Moving Office

Updated: Nov 21

Office Relation Problems

Moving your company from one office to another is a huge project. It can take months or even years from planning to completion. It’s a big investment for your company. There are hundreds of things that could go wrong, from leasing an unsuitable building to poor staff communications. The consequences of those mistakes could also be huge. Signing a long lease could mean your company is stuck in too small a building in 5 years' time, limiting the growth of your entire company.

At Zentura, we’ve been working on office relocations in London and across the UK for 15 years. In this article, we’ll explain the 5 most common mistakes we see companies make when moving office, and how you can avoid them at your company.

Unrealistic Timescales

By far the most common mistake we see companies make with their office relocation is not planning far enough ahead. To compensate, they then set unrealistic timescales for their project. As a result, they have to rush all of the subsequent stages, which increases the chance of more serious mistakes being made.

There is much more to relocating an office than finding a new space, packing your boxes, and moving. You need to define your workspace strategy and requirements before you can even start looking at spaces. You then need to review and shortlist several spaces, before carrying out due diligence and then negotiating the lease. Before you can move in, you will also have to design & fit out the office space.

The size and complexity of your move will dictate the timeframes. For smaller projects, some steps may be unnecessary. There is an overlap between most of the steps, reducing the total time required for your office relocation. For projects between 5,000 and 10,000 sq/ft we recommend planning at least 12 months in advance. Larger projects will require up to 18 months or even 2 years. To learn more about office relocation timescales, read how long does it take to move office?

Not Creating a Detailed Brief

Another very common mistake we see many companies make is creating a confusing or unspecific project brief. Consequently, there is disagreement or confusion amongst your team, which can lead to more serious issues down the line.

A project brief without sufficient detail can also lead to a design that is completely wrong for your needs. At best, this would be a waste of time, while at worst it could mean you go ahead with completely the wrong space and/or design.

Your project brief needs to take your overall workspace strategy and distill it into key objectives and deliverables for this one project. These can be both financial (e.g., reducing real estate costs) and operational (e.g., enabling hybrid working). If you already have a workspace strategy, then it should be possible to create a detailed brief in-house. However, if you don’t have a workspace strategy, then you will need assistance from a workspace consultant to create one. It’s important that these objectives are measurable. You will judge the success of your office relocation by your performance against these metrics.

Not Finding an Appropriate Space

Many companies start their research by looking at the open market for spaces in roughly the right location, roughly the right size, and as cheap as possible. This approach leads to a long list of offices that are in the wrong location, often too small, and with some serious drawbacks in the lease terms.

There is much more to finding an appropriate office space than the size and upfront cost. Size and cost are very important of course, but they aren’t everything. There are 5 other crucial considerations: location, condition, amenities, transport links, and lease terms. It’s important to define your search first by location, size, and transport, as all the other aspects can be improved by negotiation.

To find the space best for your business needs over the next 5-10 years, you need to work with a commercial estate agent experienced in your location. They will be able to get a detailed understanding of your needs, and then use their contacts and experience to create a longlist of spaces. This will include spaces not on the open market. Many will then negotiate with the landlord on your behalf to improve the terms. This will help you get the right cost for your dream office.

Signing Too Long a Lease

In an attempt to get a good annual cost, some companies sign very long leases of 8 to 10 years. while this can reduce the “sticker shock” of monthly or quarterly lease payments, it massively reduces your real estate flexibility. If you sign too long a lease, you could be stuck for 3-5 years in a space that is far too small. Conversely, if your company shrinks, you could be left with a lot more expensive office space than you need.

Many professional firms grow at about 5% annually. Over 10 years, that equates to 63% growth, so you would have to lease a much larger space than you currently need. With the recent turbulence in the real estate market and continued economic uncertainty, shorter leases provide more flexibility.

Again, working with an experienced workspace consultant and real estate agent is absolutely essential to get your lease term decision right. A workspace consultant will help you to set your overall plan on lease terms, while your commercial real estate agent will be able to advise about the other conditions that impact the best term length for the specific lease. If possible, they should work together to balance your short and long-term needs.

Lack of Leadership Consensus

If your company leadership is not aligned about the goals and constraints of your office relocation, then making your project successful will be almost impossible. There will be little agreement on how to make decisions or what constitutes success. As a result, decision-making will be slower, and there will be a lot of conflict. While it doesn’t often get this extreme, there is often confusion due to a lack of workspace strategy and project planning, which takes time to resolve.

The key people who need to be aligned on the project purpose are the decision maker (often the CEO, COO or CFO), high-level management (the rest of the C-suite/ core leadership team), and the internal project manager (often the facilities/ HR/ office manager). Depending on your company, other departments, such as compliance or IT may need to be involved.

To make sure you are aligned, it’s important all relevant leaders fully agree with the brief you give to your design & build company. This should include at the bare minimum key project objectives, rough budgets, and timelines. Aligning your leadership team on these three factors will prevent costly and damaging delays during implementation.

Planning Your Office Move

An office relocation is not a common project for most companies, so it may seem overwhelmingly complex and risky for you. However, while there are some significant risks, there are also some huge opportunities to improve the productivity and wellbeing of your staff, as well as the real estate ROI of your company. It’s important that you balance maximising the opportunity of your office move with minimising the risk that comes with it.

By avoiding these 5 damaging mistakes, you will be well on the way to ensuring your office relocation is the success you need it to be. While there are many other issues that can derail an office move, these are the most common ones. By creating a comprehensive workspace strategy and project plan that all your team are aligned upon, you can avoid many of the other common issues that stem from poor project planning or alignment.

To learn more about planning for your office move, download our office relocation guide. You’ll get one comprehensive guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office fit out, what it costs, and how long it will take. First, we’ll give an overview of what an office relocation is likely to cost your company. We’ll then go through the 8 stages of an office relocation. Each section will be accompanied by checklists, timeframes, and explanations. Download your ultimate office relocation guide here.

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