Are you planning an office move, but not sure entirely what is involved, and where you should start? If so, you’re not alone. Every week, we speak to companies in the early stages of the office relocation process. They’re slightly overwhelmed, and not sure how to manage their upcoming project.
As a design & build company, we both design and fit out workspaces. We also work with agents and consultants to offer our clients a turnkey office relocation package from strategy to aftercare.
We appreciate that if you haven't done it before, preparing for an office relocation can feel daunting. In this article, we’ll walk you through the office relocation process from start to finish. By the end, you’ll have a good understanding of everything that is normally involved in an office relocation project, and how it applies to your company.
For the full breakdown of everything you need to know about your office relocation project, download the ultimate office relocation guide. As well as explanations and breakdowns, you’ll get a comprehensive checklist, indicative costs, and approximate timeframes for your office move. Download your copy here.
Many companies underestimate the level of planning and preparation required for a successful office relocation. As a result, they don’t allow enough time or budget. However, a comprehensive and agreed-upon project brief is a crucial part of every office relocation.
It starts with your overall workspace strategy. A workspace strategy is a high-level document covering how your workspaces are aligned with your company's processes and goals. The next step is to define your project objectives. These distill your workspace strategy into key goals for your upcoming office move.
You should also map out the key milestones you have to hit for your project to be a success - for example, the end of your existing lease. The criteria for your new space should also be defined at this stage – not only size, location, and cost, but more detailed aspects such as services specification and energy efficiency. These should also be weighted or prioritised, as you are unlikely to get everything you want.
Once your plan is complete, you should step back and conduct a feasibility study to see if your office relocation is a worthwhile investment. While this level of planning may seem unnecessary, it will save a lot of time, money, and effort later on during the project.
At this stage, you should also reach out to several designers or design and build companies to see which is best for your needs. They will be very helpful throughout the space selection process. You will also need to choose whether to use a paid design or a pitch design model. To learn more about each and which is best for you, read Paid Design Vs Pitch Design – Which is Best For Me?.
Your next step will be to find your new office. Working with an experienced real estate agent or broker is essential. They will have a detailed knowledge of the area and the market. They will also be able to research spaces that are not yet on the open market.
First, create a longlist of all the spaces that meet your initial space requirements – ideally 10-20 spaces. You can then rank them by scoring them against your prioritised list of requirements to arrive at a shortlist of 3-5 spaces. You can then visit these sites in person and assess them in detail.
Before you choose your office, you will need to carry out a thorough due diligence process. We recommend getting independent building surveys and layout test fits done. You should also review the lease terms and conditions to ensure these are broadly suitable for you.
Once this is done, you can finally choose your new office! Your estate agent or solicitors can then negotiate improved terms and clarify the details, while you move on to the design stage.
Your workspace strategy is a good starting point for your design, as it will include key information about how your people will use the space, and what your company needs from it. As part of your space selection process, we recommend that a designer creates layout ideas and initial design concepts for your shortlisted offices to help you make your choice.
Once you have chosen your office, the next step will be to create full a layout and design concept. A full layout will be better planned and include more detail than a test fit. A full design concept will include reference images, mood boards, and material palettes. These will be the building blocks of your design. Your designer may also provide computer-generated images to give you a better understanding of what the finished space will look like.
Once you have chosen a design concept, it's time for your design & build company to turn that into a comprehensive design package that can be delivered. The first part of this is creating a detailed drawing pack. This is a set of 10-60 drawings which lay out everything in your new space, from meeting tables to air conditioning units.
The next step will be the schedules. A finishes schedule is a reference document that details the quantity and specification of every single visible element of your workspace, from decoration to lighting. A furniture schedule is a separate furniture-specific document that serves the same purpose.
Once the detailed design is complete, the next step will depend on whether you are using the paid design or pitch design. If you are using pitch design, your design & build companies will create detailed quotes. If you’re using the paid design model, then your designer will prepare a tender pack that contractors can quote on. For both models, this will be the point at which you will choose your contractors and sign the contract. There will likely be further revisions to the design package required before you can begin the work.
Licenses & Approvals
As your office is a commercial space, there are a number of formal approvals you have to get before you can begin the works. You should begin preparation for these during the design phase, as this will avoid delays and enable your design to be easily amended if needed.
If you are leasing your office, you will need a licence to alter (LTA). An LTA is a licence from your landlord giving consent to carry out works or alterations at the property. If your building is listed, you will need listed building consent (LBC) from the local council.
Your design will also need to be compliant with building regulations as set out as per the CDM 2015 act. While formal approval can only be granted once works are complete, we recommend a qualified inspector checks your plans first to ensure it is compliant.
Once the design is finalised, all necessary approvals have seen granted, and the contract is signed, your design & build company can begin the works to being your dream office to life. This stage is obviously very dependent on your design and the state you leased the space in. However, most projects will comprise the below 7 phases:
Site setup involves health & safety preparation, installing worker welfare facilities, protecting the parts of the building/ office not being altered, and preparing the space for the works to begin.
Once preliminary works are complete, anything that won’t be remaining in your new office needs to be removed. This commonly includes partitions, flooring, ceilings, and lighting.
Build-out is the core construction of the space, including partitions, ceilings, and initial decoration. It may also include the installation of teapoints and fixed joinery features such as bleacher seating.
Mechanical & Electrical
Overlapping with the build-out phase is the mechanical and electrical works. This involves adaptations to air conditioning, power & data, and lighting. It also includes changes to life systems such as fire alarms & sprinklers.
This phase involves the installation of all the visible finishes and design elements throughout your space. Flooring, decoration, signage, and design features are the main parts of this phase.
Furniture installation is the stage at which your new office really comes to life. It includes all furniture, from task chairs and desks to pods and breakout seating.
Snagging & Handover
Snagging involves carefully checking all the works completed, and correcting any defects. Once that is done, there is a handover process to formally complete the project.
Only now after 5 phases of preparation and months of hard work, can you move into your new office. This is a short but intense phase of the works. Making sure it goes smoothly is crucial to the overall success of your project.
Towards the end of the works, you will be able to set a relocation date, and book a removal company. Alternatively, your design & build company might manage this. You may also want to consider temporary storage for non-everyday equipment.
Finally, everyone’s personal effects and IT equipment will need to be packed and moved to the new location. IT decommissioning and recommissioning should definitely be done by qualified professionals, as this will ensure you are backup and running as soon as possible.
This phase will probably be the most hectic and stressful part of the entire project. Being well prepared will minimise unwelcome surprises, and give you the time to deal with issues as they arise.
Your project doesn’t end as soon as your staff are seated in their new office. There are a few final steps you need to take to maximise the ongoing success of our office relocation. You should ensure all warranties and equipment contracts are fully arranged and ensure any project snags are completed.
Your new office will likely look and feel very different to your previous office, so your people will need to be properly onboarded and made to feel welcome. Also, don’t forget to celebrate! This has been a big project for you and your company, so it’s important to recognise the significance of this moment.
Your Office Relocation Process
Office relocation is so much more than choosing a new office and moving your equipment from your current office to your new space. A successful office relocation requires months of careful planning, searching, designing, and building before you can finally move into your new office. However, the results can be well worth the effort. A successful office relocation can reduce real estate costs, increase staff performance, and set your company up for success for years to come.
Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of everything that will be involved in moving your company from one office to another. As a result, you are much better prepared to make your office move the success you need it to be.
To take the next step in preparing for your office move, download our ultimate office relocation guide. As well as explanations and breakdowns, you’ll get a comprehensive checklist, indicative costs, and approximate timeframes for your office move. Download it here.
If you're looking to learn more about the office refurbishment process, read this article. To learn more about office relocation, read Office Relocation FAQs: Your Questions Answered. There we’ll go through the most common questions we get asked by companies that are researching an office relocation.