Is it time for an office move?
Did you know that the average cost of a desk in central London is more than £8,000 p/a? Whilst it is slightly less expensive in other cities around the UK, that is a large overhead for any company – particularly if the space is not being used.
Almost 75% of City firms are reviewing their office space provision, focussing on how much space they really need. This follows the significant increase in remote working and flexible working during the pandemic. This is likely to be the new normal once the world recovers from these challenging times.
But have you ever wondered what is really involved in considering an office move? There may be more thank you think. From my experience there are four main stages: Strategy, Business Case, People Impact, and Planning. Let’s have a look at each of these in a little more detail.
It seems obvious, but the strategy must consider if reducing your footprint is better achieved by relocation or by downsizing within existing space. And if a move or downsize is not viable, then you should consider how best to optimise the use of the existing space e.g. through subcontract or introducing franchises.
Depending on your size, you may also want to consider alternative arrangements that would satisfy your need, such as a central hub with spoke sites for drop in space established on the city periphery. A lot of the larger serviced office providers have multiple locations in a city, so it is possible to supplement a core location with multiple, flexible workspaces.
To help make these decisions, your initial thinking should be about where the office needs to be. Primarily this should fit with the overall business strategy and the client proposition. If you can, consider where the majority of your staff are located and how easily they can access the location.
Once that is clear, you should consider the alignment with Business Continuity plans, security requirements, and the levels of facility support expected (e.g. repairs, maintenance, cleaning).
Next, work out how you calculate the business needs and how much space is actually needed by considering desk space, offices, client meeting space, reception areas, break out areas, storage space, server rooms, and facilities (e.g. kitchen areas, locker rooms, showers, recreational space). This data may already be to hand, or you may need to start monitoring current utilisation. Fitting it all together and creating floor plans is the fun part.
Also consider your future headcount projections, taking account of peak periods. The shape and size of the teams, and how the resource or teams are split will be important. As will understanding which people need to be in the office, which teams need confidential space, which people can work remotely, and how you accommodate team working/meetings (bearing in mind being physically together can inspire innovation).
Finally, consider the terms of the existing lease and when it expires. This single factor may drive the strategy if you have a long lease that you cannot exit from early.
At this point you should understand what your options are, but not necessarily if any of these options are viable. For that you need to consider the numbers.
I’m making a general assumption that if you are considering a property move then a budget will be able to be secured against other competing priorities.
You should already know the existing lease costs. You may also know the likely renewal costs and if these can be negotiated favourably (hopefully you are on good terms with the landlord!). For a move to new premises you should be able to obtain indictive costs for a new lease.
With regards to the move costs, you should include infrastructure costs for internal fit out/build, IT installation, new kit, the actual cost of moving, decommissioning, & lease exit costs. It will be more than you think.
Depending on whether you are relocating and where to, there may also be redundancy and recruitment costs (subject to HR policies and what is reasonable in changes to travel time).
Once all the costs have been collated, assess them against the perceived benefits derived from reduced future costs. There are likely to be different options, each with varying payback periods.
From an individual’s perspective moving offices, or even moving space or floors within an office, can be an emotional event. Not everybody embraces change and some like things just as they are.
The staff experience is a key factor in any move:
- What does this mean for the staff in terms of commuting
- Are they expected to use workspace management systems (desk sharing, flexible room booking)
- Will there be parking facilities for bikes/cars
- What is the surrounding area like (e.g. eateries, shopping, recreation, safety)
- How will this impact morale. Not everybody wants to work flexibly, and some crave the social aspects of a workplace.
It’s important that you bring staff with you and keep them informed because you need them on your side and functioning positively. Finding champions within the business is always a good first step.
From a project management perspective, office moves can be a logistical challenge with multiple tasks that all need to be co-ordinated seamlessly, and quite frequently out of hours.
I won’t go into detail here, that’s for another time, but consider that you need to work with a number of suppliers and stakeholders to define the hour by hour schedule of events. And you need to anticipate problems and delays because they will happen, so build in plenty of contingency into the plan if the time allows.
At the end of the day, whatever you decide you need to make sure that every member of staff has everything they need and expect in the right place when they come in on Monday morning. Because no matter how successful everything else goes, that is what is important to them.