top of page

How to Avoid the Top 5 Problems of Occupied Office Refurbishment

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Occupied Office Refurbishment

Are you unable to move out of your office during your office refurbishment? This doesn’t mean that you can’t refurbish your office. It does mean, though, that you will be doing an occupied office refurbishment. This is a very different experience to moving out during your project.

We’ve been designing & building offices in London and across the UK for over 15 years. In that time, we’ve carried out hundreds of office refurbishments, including projects for companies like MP and Red Consultancy. For many of these, our client never had to move out. As a result, they incurred less cost and disruption.

In this article, we’ll go through the top 5 problems that companies doing an occupied office refurbishment face. We’ll also explain how you can avoid them during your own project. By the end, you’ll be able to decide if occupied office refurbishment might be right for your company, and if so, how to maximise the success of your office refurbishment.

1) Disruption

Minimising disruption may well be the main reason you are considering remaining in your office during your refurbishment project. This saves having to relocate your entire staff and office while the work is done.

Adapting your office while your staff are working in the office is sometimes risky. If a problem with the power were to occur while it was being reconfigured for the new layout, it could mean your people are completely unable to work. Construction can also be very noisy, and office refurbishment is no different.

To minimise these problems, ensure there is adequate separation between the areas where the works are carried out and your people. Temporary partitioning is necessary to create a separation between the areas and reduce noise levels. The most disruptive work should be done outside of your working hours so that your people can be as productive as possible.

2) Health & Safety

The greatest drawback of an occupied office refurbishment is the health and safety risks. Your people will be working close to a construction site. If the site protection is not adequate, your people could come to serious harm.

Keeping everyone safe in this situation is an absolute priority. It is key to ensure the site is cordoned off, and every area outside of this is safe for your people. A detailed Health and Safety plan is even more important than usual. This will detail how to deliver the project safely and quickly while protecting both your people and the construction team.

In addition to this, briefing your people on what is happening is crucial to ensure everyone stays safe and your project is a success. The most important way to keep everyone safe is to make sure the construction site is cordoned off, and that your people can’t access it.

3) Increased Costs

Carrying out works in occupied spaces comes with increased risks, which is reflected in the costs. Using noise and dust suppression systems will make the work slower as well as more costly. Some of the work may also need to be done out-of-hours, which comes with increased labour costs.

Phasing is a necessary part of occupied office renovation. Works are carried out in one half of the space while the other half is used as an office, and then vice versa. This increases costs because it takes longer to complete. Specialist contractors will also have to come on site in 2 phases, which increases costs.

While all these elements will increase costs, it's important to compare this to the cost of relocating temporarily while the works are carried out. This is not only the cost of the temporary office rent and the relocation itself, but the lost productivity as your staff cope with all the change.

4) Delays

Unforeseen circumstances arise in every workspace project. In office refurbishments, this risk is particularly high. With staff on site, these delays can be problematic, because there is little room for error in the programme.

Contingency planning will help you to deal promptly with any issues as they arise, preventing costly delays and disruption. It is wise to ensure you have a contingency fund available if any problems arise that are not covered by the scope. Rather than facing the often slow and complex budget approval process, you can get such issues fixed quickly.

5) Density Issues

While not directly related to the project itself, staff density could cause problems during your project. Staff will likely be working in less space than usual, which could create compliance and health & safety concerns. These conditions may also lead to a loss of productivity.

It is highly unlikely you would be able to have all your staff in the office for the duration of your project, even if you wanted to. It may be worth seeing if some teams can work remotely, either full or part-time. This will reduce congestion concerns. You could even turn your remaining office into a meeting and collaboration suite, and have all of your people work from home or co-working spaces during the project. Managing these staff density issues will help your people stay productive and focused during your project.

Planning Your Occupied Office Refurbishment

Making sure your office meets the needs of your people is essential to maximising their performance. As working and communication styles change, the workspace needs of your people will evolve. Refurbishing your office to enable and drive these changes is essential. However, it’s not always practical or possible to move to a new office or work from home during the works. As a result, you may have to refurbish your office while your people remain in the space.

Now that you know about the 5 key challenges of occupied office refurbishment, you’re able to decide if these issues are manageable, or if occupied office refurbishment isn’t right for your company. If these issues are manageable, you also know better how to manage them – setting your office refurbishment up for success.

To learn more about preparing for your office refurbishment, download the How to Plan an Office Refurbishment E-book. It’s a 7-step guide to help you plan your office refurbishment from defining your brief right through to signing the contract. For inspiration, check out our work with Campbell Lutyens and Red Consultancy, two occupied office refurbishments in our portfolio.



bottom of page