By David Laws, national business space expert at commercial property consultancy, Matthews & Goodman
Because relocating offices is not most companies’ core activity, the whole process can seem daunting, disruptive and be a huge burden on senior executives’ time, rather than an opportunity.
However, when planned and executed properly, an office move can prove highly beneficial – think what the space you occupy could mean to your brand and corporate persona, and how it could enhance the efficiency of your team’s working practices. Dovetailing the marriage of brand and building can make a profound corporate statement when recruiting talent and customers, as well as retaining them.
But the process is often rushed, which leads to poor choices being made and unnecessary hidden costs being incurred and/or spiralling out of control.
Companies move for a variety of reasons, not just for growth or contraction. It might be for strategic reasons (to be closer to customers or potential partners), because of a merger/acquisition, a lease expiry or it might simply be a cost-saving exercise.
Irrespective of the reason, the cost of moving can be broadly split into two categories: physical expenditure and unanticipated costs.
Physical spaceBusiness space is the second biggest outgoing for any business. Therefore, a potential move allows the management team to assess how much space is actually needed and ascertain whether a saving can be made. Of course a move can be disruptive – according to E.ON, companies lose on average 7.5 working days as a result of moving. So smart planning and deep knowledge of the ‘process’ is critical.
Start by considering how much space you really need, instead of what you think you need. One hundred employees does not necessarily equal 100 desks: part-time staff, job-sharers and remote workers means desk-sharing is a smart option. Do you really need acres of storage in a paperless office? What size are your desks? Are laptops a better option than desktops? Are multiple physical meeting rooms necessary, or would break-out spaces be more efficient and allow for territory free working?
These ‘occupational planning’ issues are critical when calculating your actual space requirements. Get it right and significant savings could be made.
Unanticipated costsIn addition to expected costs (such as price per sq ft), there can also be several unknowns, so it’s worth seeking the advice of experts to minimise your moving and ongoing occupational costs.
It is easy to assess the aesthetic qualities of a potential office, but you must think beyond the cosmetics. A pre-acquisition survey, for example, is a smart investment, as it will highlight both the true condition of the space, as well as the performance and potential liabilities of ‘un-seens’ - such as mechanical and electrical systems.
Secondly, ensure the contract is clear and unambiguous. Again, seek counsel from a property expert who understands the implications of issues such as potentially problematical break clauses, rent reviews and dilapidation agreements. Inappropriate wording of these clauses could result in expensive property costs.
People usually consider that moving costs only apply to moving into new premises. The costs of leaving an office should also be factored in. Typically, tenants tend to fall out with their landlords when they receive a service charge invoice, or at the end of a lease when they receive the dilapidations claim. These costs can be significant and are often unexpected, which is why consulting a qualified building surveyor is critical – it can help you navigate the tricky ‘lease breach’ minefield, rectify the issue and reduce the claim.
Although moving can be a major and quite daunting task, it is also an opportunity to secure new premises which mirror your company’s personality and ambitions, improve workplace efficiency and ultimately become a tool for growth.