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There are numerous reasons why an organisation will consider refurbishing their existing workplace, the space may not have had any attention in some time, a lease break or expiry may be looming or they may be growing as a business and need to make better use of their space.
The office has evolved to a point where it is now viewed as an asset that can be instrumental in attracting and retaining the very best talent, the lifeblood of an organisation and as a result, more and more companies are investing in creating workplaces that staff want to work in.
When you are tasked with an office refurbishment project, it can be daunting especially if it is your first time undertaking something like this. We hope this short office refurbishment guide provides logical step by step instructions to follow and proves useful.
So, you’ve been asked to investigate potentially refurbishing your existing office, where do you start?
Define the reasons for the office refurbishment
Think about the why. What is wrong with your current space and what should a new refurbished office do for you and your organisation?
It may be that your office has become dated, a little dilapidated, not seen any investment in some time and is not somewhere that staff are proud of or enjoy working. Essentially it is not an office that truly reflects your brand or corporate identity.
Your workplace has become a reflection of your brand and has a major role to play when it comes to attracting and retaining the very best staff in what is a competitive market. So, providing existing and potential staff with a workplace that really works and where they enjoy working has risen hugely in importance.
Others factors like workplace wellbeing and/or embracing a new, more efficient way of working may also influence the decision to refurbish your office. Your existing space may not be equipped to handle hot desking, agile working practices or new technology and needs to be adapted so your organisation can avail of the numerous benefits like increased productivity and improved staff morale.
Your office refurbishment can also allow you to embrace workplace wellbeing through incorporating more natural light, providing staff with a choice of work areas where they can concentrate, collaborate, catch up or simply unwind.
Another factor could be growth and you simply need to make better use of your space to accommodate more staff. Effective space planning and clearly defining what you want from your new workplace can solve this.
It could also be that you are approaching a lease break or renewal and have entered discussions with your landlord, who has offered to provide funds to refurbish the space. If this is the case, it becomes a matter of deciding whether the existing space, once refurbished is one your company can comfortably work from for the duration of the new lease.
Additionally, you may feel that your existing spaces is not utilised effectively and that a refurbishment would create a better, more efficient place to work. An example of this is where companies have numerous meeting rooms or other space that aren’t utilised effectively. Where individuals or small groups use large boardrooms for calls or informal meetings that could easily take place in breakout areas or smaller, private pods.
Why should we refurbish our Office?
It is so important that you define the reasons at an early stage as all organisations differ and have unique requirements. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to creating a workplace that will work for you, so keeping this list of reasons in focus throughout the project is key to its overall success.
So, you’ve spent time defining the reasons why you need to refurbish your office, what next?
Create an Office Refurbishment Project Team
Once you’ve defined your list of reasons for refurbishing your office, it’s time to put together a cross departmental team and most critically to get a senior project champion on board. This should be somebody senior who can make decisions, who can communicate well, has experience managing budgets and importantly, someone who wants to create a better workplace.
After selecting your project champion, you need to decide who else needs to be involved and also what skills are required, the list below includes examples of the skillsets required to deliver a successful project.
- IT: Technology in the workplace is evolving at an ever increasing pace so involving IT is a smart move to ensure you future proof the new workplace from an IT perspective.
- HR: Staff may have concerns about the new workplace so proactively involving the HR team so you can communicate effectively with staff is important.
- Facilities: Nobody knows the building better than the Facilities team so it really is a no brainer to get them involved at an early stage.
- Marketing: Creating a workplace that reflects your brand and its values is crucial so involving marketing is important so you get the branding element right.
- Operations: The day to day functioning of the business needs to continue uninterrupted during the refurbishment so involving the operations team is a must.
- PA’s: Often overlooked but a hugely influential group who can help to deliver a seamless transition from the old working environment to your newly refurbished one.
- Finance: It goes without saying that having somebody senior from the Finance team involved is crucial. Somebody who can effectively manage the budget and who can take care of the associated admin (raising PO’s, ensuring invoices are paid etc…) is so, so important.
So, you’ve defined your reasons for refurbishment, assembled your team, now it’s time to discuss what kind of workplace you want to create.
What workplace works for you?
Now is the time to get together as a team and discuss what you like and dislike about your current workplace, and to develop a brief detailing what you want to achieve.
Lock yourselves away in a room somewhere (doesn’t have to be at the office) and make a wish list for your new workplace. This can include pretty much everything from embracing new technology, adopting a new, more flexible way of working, increasing collaboration and creativity to what type of reception area you’d like.
It’s also important to look at ways of solving issues that exist in the current office. There may be a lack of regular communication between different teams, a lack of meeting room availability, staff not feeling confident to work away from their desk and/or nowhere to take a private or work related call. All of these issues are important to pinpoint and to include in the brief for when you start speaking with office design and build companies.
This initial wish list will morph into your brief so make sure you include everything, otherwise there’s a possibility that the same issues may reappear in your newly refurbished office.
All of these factors will influence the final office design so take the time to discuss them in detail, it will be worth it in the end. It is also worth adding that this doesn’t necessarily need to involve just the team members, hosting a company meeting to get staff views can also be invaluable.
So, your newly assembled team have discussed not only why your office needs to be refurbished but also what your new workplace should deliver for you. This has formed the basis of your brief, so what next?
Speak with Office Refurbishment Companies
The sooner you pick a partner to work with to design and build your new workplace, the better and the sooner you can start planning. The more time you have to engage with your chosen partner, the greater chance of success as you’ll have spent more time developing your brief and defining exactly what will work for your organisation.
So where to start? How do I select a partner to refurbish our office? Our recommendation would be to do some research online and ask friends, colleagues, peers and even neighbouring companies who they would recommend. Spend some time taking a look through each company’s case studies, looking at who they have worked with and their recent work and before making contact with 3-5 companies you are confident could deliver.
After making contact, each company should try to arrange a time to come and view your existing space, to discuss your objectives and to answer any questions you might have. What questions should you ask? Here’s a list to choose from:
- Have you worked with companies in our sector?
- Who have you recently delivered projects for? (Ask for projects of a similar size)
- Can you deliver a refurbishment project in occupation?
- How do you plan a refurbishment ensuring there is no disruption to normal operations?
- Do you work to a fixed price budget? (no hidden fees)
- Do you offer a space planning/test fit service prior to appointment?
- How financially stable are they?
- Can we visit some offices you have recently refurbished?
- Can they assist with planning permission/license to alter applications?
- How do you ensure you deliver refurbishment in occupation projects on time?
- Do you have extensive knowledge of office furniture?
Agree an office refurbishment budget
An office refurbishment will be a major investment for your organisation, so it is important to ensure you budget in the right way and explore all of the options available to you.
Your selected refurbishment partner should be able to help you calculate some top level budgets based on what you want to create and the size and complexity of the project.
Realistically speaking, fit out costs vary depending on a number of factors including:
- the type of building and space being refurbished
- how old the building is
- the state of its mechanical and electrical services (heating, air con, ventilation etc…)
- the level/quality of finishes and furniture required
- IT/AV upgrade costs
We normally communicate to prospective clients that costs vary from £35 per Sq. Ft. for a basic refurbishment right up to over £100 per Sq. Ft. where no expense has been spared.
It is worth speaking with your landlord to see if that can contribute towards the cost or to negotiate a lower rent, after all the office refurbishment will leave them with a vastly improved, more valuable asset.
Exploring leasing options and relevant tax breaks may also be beneficial and can end up saving you a sizeable amount in the long term. Speak with your internal tax experts or if you don’t have somebody in-house, it is advisable to speak to an external advisor as you can save by:
- Maximising your capital allowances
- Activating tax allowances for using sustainable materials during the refurb
- Signing up for a low interest leasing option
Costs: Ensure that your chosen office refurbishment partner can work to your budget and that they can provide a detailed line by line cost breakdown for everything from painting and decor to storage and furniture costs.
Work closely with your office refurbishment partner
So now that you have selected an office refurbishment partner to work with and agreed on a budget to deliver the project, it’s time to plan the project ensuring your new office is delivered on time and on budget.
Your partner can assist with getting the relevant permissions and licence to alter from your landlord and if necessary the local authorities. Once all of the required paperwork is in order, you should start to discuss a detailed plan with timings and key milestones, critical for any refurbishment project. It is also important to ensure that any disruptive, noisy works and bulky deliveries are scheduled outside of working hours.
If you want the space to remain as a live working environment for the duration of the project, discussing staff moves (as their spaces are been refurbished), allocating swing space and storage for equipment and furniture is very important.
Agreeing a timely, phased approach, where the space is divided into separate blocks, each to refurbish in turn is critical at this stage. While the project programme is being agreed, it is also essential that you and your team engage with the office designers to discuss the design style you wish to adopt before finalising and signing off on the design for your new workplace.
This process can involve a series of design meetings, workshops, trips to showrooms to select furniture and other finishes and visits to other offices to determine your likes and dislikes.
Tip: This is an exciting time and you should start to get a real feel for how your new office will look and remember that your partner is there to help you every step of the way so if you need help or anything explained, don’t hesitate to ask.
Selecting the right office furniture
The office design has been finalised, your project plan has been agreed and everybody is gearing up to move onsite to deliver the project, don’t forget to spend some time selecting the right furniture for your new workplace.
Your furniture selection is important as it should reflect your brand and will be the most visible element of your new workplace. Spending time appraising and selecting seating, desking, collaboration furniture and meeting room tables can make a huge difference and help you to create a workplace that truly reflects and works for your organisation.
It is also important to select the right furniture for different areas of the office. What we mean here is that selecting specific furniture can denote what an particular area is designed for:
• Comfortable couches to promote informal collaboration
• Tall tables to promote quick standing meetings
• Private booths for calls and/or where staff can concentrate
• Ergonomically friendly seating for desk based working
There is a plethora of options available and lots of quality furniture brands to choose from, so it is advisable to spend some time visiting showrooms with the furniture expert from your office refurbishment partner and also taking on board their advice.
Furniture is also playing an increasingly important role when it comes to workplace wellbeing with an increasing number of companies opting for sit-stand desks for staff, tall tables designed for quick, efficient standing meetings and booths providing staff with somewhere to concentrate.
Take your time and get advice from furniture experts before making your selection and ensure it works within your budget and that each item can be delivered on time.
Tip: Selecting ergonomically friendly furniture for your workplace has enormous benefits and is worth investigating and investing in. The last thing you want is furniture that isn’t comfortable or that has the potential to cause injury over the long term.
Managing the office refurbishment onsite
As the project moves onsite and work begins, it is important to ensure that all staff are aware of what is happening, that the programme of activity has been agreed and that your office refurbishment partner and internal team are ready to move staff and equipment as per the plan.
It is also incredibly important that your partner adopts a strict approach to health and safety so the highest standards are followed throughout. Maintaining a clean, accident free site is what you should be aiming for.
Other factors to consider include:
- Access to parking for contractors
- Access to facilities for contractors
- Scheduling frequent site visits to appraise progress
- Keeping lines of communication open (regular team meetings are recommended)
- Arranging access for out of hours works and deliveries
- If in a multi occupant building, ensure other tenants know what is planned
It is also crucial that everything in the approved new office design has been approved so there are no delays with delivery of bespoke items like joinery or manufactured furniture. It is also important that you work closely with your office refurbishment partner to ensure there is no disruption to normal work activities as a result of noise, deliveries or anything else associated with the project.
Managing the handover of your new office
The project is underway, your staff (and you), are getting excited about their new workplace and everything is starting to come together, so how do you manage the handover and transition to the new space.
If you have agreed a phased handover of space, managing this handover and transition to a brand new working environment is critical to ensure staff can get up and running quickly. As each block is refurbished and handed over, furniture and equipment must be moved in and installed ready for use the following week (this work normally takes place over a weekend with staff starting work in the new space the following Monday).
The regular meetings should flag up any issues or challenges allowing you time to adapt but, everything should run as per your agreed plan.
As the office refurbishment approaches completion, spend some time evaluating your new space highlighting anything you would like changed – this can range from the relatively minor to the more serious. Your objective should be making sure that everything is perfect for when your staff move in and start working.
Moving into your new space
It’s almost time to move and it seems like there are a million and one thing’s to take care of in advance, but where should your focus lie?
Communication is key at this stage, not just with your refurbishment partners but also with your project team (don’t be afraid to delegate) and most importantly with your staff. Ensuring that all staff know what is happening, what to expect and who to direct questions to is vital.
This can be tackled by sending regular email updates, hosting pre-move team meetings and/or taking staff on tours of the ‘almost’ finished space. Keeping everyone in the loop will make sure the transition is as smooth as possible and will allow you and your team to address questions and potential issues well in advance of any move.
On the day of the final move, host a team breakfast and have your project champion address everybody speaking about the new workplace and what it is designed to achieve with some time for Q&A. It’s important that staff embrace their new space, and are aware of any new innovations (and how to use them properly).
Tip: Show off your fabulous new space and host a party inviting clients and staff – it’s the beginning of a new era so it is worth marking the occasion.
We hope you find our office refurbishment guide to be useful, and if you need any help, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]