Five common pitfalls of an office move or fit-out (and how to avoid them)

Jul 19, 2018

The pitfalls of an office move and fit-out are deep, dangerous and costly. In the first of a four-part series, here are the five hidden hazards you need to avoid during a corporate relocation or office fit-out.

The average business moves office every seven years. More often than not, the person organising it is doing it for the first time. And research* shows that two out of three relocation managers either quit or are fired within six months of the project completion date. If you’re the one organising your company’s office move or office fit-out, take note of these concealed traps to avoid becoming one of the statistics.

Let’s get to it.

[1] Inadequate preparation

Pitfall1 > The first group of hidden hazards in a refit project consists of:

  • Lack of vision
  • Scant research
  • Short-sighted strategy
  • An inexperienced team.

Without clarity of vision, the project scope can creep. Not enough research into the process and task itself will lead you straight into pitfalls 2-5. A poor strategy, without objectives, goals and tactics attached from day one, will spell disaster. And choosing a project management newbie is like walking your whole company blindfolded through a jungle full of covered traps — it’s suicidal.

So, the first job is to appoint an experienced project manager — from either inside or outside of the company — who’s known for people skills, a deep understanding of multiple departments and creating airtight, integrated strategies. 

Explore all the key components of a successful office move in our ebook. 

Then, start with the end in mind. Get the visionaries to define in detail what a flawless transition will look like. Answer when and why you want to make the change, who will be involved and what you want from the new workspace (there are more questions to guide you through the process here). Part of the research job is to assess your current workspace usage (usually carried out by a workplace consultancy). If you don’t know how productive and collaborative your current workspace is, for example, how can you decide what you need from the new space?

To avoid this pitfall you’ll need vision, an experienced move-fit-out lead, some actual research, and an integrated strategy and action plan with checklists galore. (Our Fit-out Guide is crammed with these.) 

[2] Unrealistic Budget

Pitfall 2 > A budget plan which misses out essential costs or includes inaccurate quotes because of incomplete information is a treacherous, hidden danger. 

This is a bit chicken-and-egg, and it all comes back to planning — you can’t work out the budget without accurate purchase prices, contractor quotes and compliance costs for every element of the project. If you don’t know every aspect of the project, this will go awry, you’re likely to go over budget and something will have to be dropped – it might be you.

You need to define the budget as soon as possible to avoid scope creep. What if the board decides to purchase a new system during the move-refit and it’s not included in your budget?

Also, you need to be clear when providing information for contractors to quote, because if you change the scope of the project once it’s started your supplier is likely to charge you for those extras not included in the brief. 

One more thing. Trying to do too much on the cheap is what catches most businesses out. Corner-cutting includes choosing an office design company, say, that only deals with part of the job, leaving you to manage the renovation and all the tradesmen yourself. (More about that in pitfall 5.)

To evade this pitfall, start with a complete list of operating costs for your existing workspace, make adjustments to these for the new space and add in extra capital costs and estimates for new work. If you do your research you’ll create a detailed, realistic budget with known costs and estimates. Don’t forget to add in a contingency fund for variations throughout the project.

[3] Unworkable Timeline

Pitfall 3 > Leaving it too late to start planning, not giving contractors enough time to prepare a proposal and deliver the service, or compressing the schedule once you’re in full flow can lead you straight into a deep, covered trap.

It’s never too early to plan. Whether you lease, buy or build, give yourself as much time as possible. Fit-out projects alone can take months from enquiry to completion, and typically over nine months if you go through a tender process.

Give contractors plenty of time (and all the information they need) to provide detailed quotes. Once you’ve chosen your contractors, agree your timelines and stick to them. Otherwise, you’ll either get a rushed job or a larger bill for throwing more man hours at it to meet your compressed deadline.

Everything is interdependent in a corporate relocation or office refit, so even small changes to the project plan, budget or timeline have knock-on effects — the more you compact the schedule, the higher the likelihood mistakes will be made.

To sidestep this pitfall, start planning earlier than you think you need to, be realistic about the work involved and add in extra time for unforeseen delays mid-project.

[4] Poor communication

Pitfall 4 > No consultation with staff, poor comms with executives and too little stakeholder engagement.

As with any major change, if you don’t keep customers, suppliers and other stakeholders informed you’re heading for disaster. If you don’t consult staffof the change you may well be heading for some legal action, too. (If your business has more than 50 staff it’s against the law not to inform and consult everyone about a change that may affect them.

Internally, from the initial decision and staff consultation to the move-refurb and the follow up feedback, this is where you’ll lose time, money and, possibly, some good staff if you don’t get it right. Everyone reacts differently to major, disruptive change like this. A lack of involvement can result inpoor employee engagement, a drop in productivity and resignations. As well as dialogue with employees, you’ll need a clear line of sight to the C-suite as things change.

To steer clear of this pitfall, involve everyone, read up on ICE Regs and stick as close as possible to your deadlines.

[5] The wrong suppliers

Pitfall 5 > Selecting specialist suppliers who leave you with extra jobs to do – this is the final banana skin.

You’ll need so many vendors, suppliers, partners, contractors and sub-contractors for this project, it’s hard to know where to begin. If you’re moving you’ll need a commercial estate agent, lawyer, conveyancer and removals. You may need a service provider to handle all the legal compliance. On top of that,you have a workspace consultant, office designer, office outfitter, furniture supplier, plus all the tradespeople that go with that. Then you have all the facilities management elements, like IT systems, utilities and security.

If you don’t get a reliable, turnkey solution partner to guide you through the pitfalls of an office move and refit — choosing instead to use separate designers, workplace consultants and furniture suppliers — you may be setting yourself up for extra work.

Without referrals, you’ll need a comprehensive list of screening questions for each of your potential vendors. The more suppliers the bigger the job. For our part in this whole operation, the three questions you need to ask potential office interiors company are:

1) How much can you reduce disruption during the move and/or refurbishment?

2) Do you have project managers who will deal with all the contractors and help us with every aspect of the project?

3) Are you able to handle all aspects of the project, from initial consultation through to a finished office?

Generally speaking, apart from the obvious things like reputation and track record, you’re looking for creativity, attention to detail and technical abilities from an office interiors company. This will make sure your refit matches your unique company personality, there are as few snags as possible, and they have the full array of contemporary solutions at their disposal.

And the right company should handle every aspect of the transformation for you, from managing tradespeople to advising on compliance issues and minimising disruption during the move, whether temporary or permanent.

* According to research from 2009 by the International Facility Management Association, which says: “on average, two thirds of employees who are given the task of managing an office relocation are fired or quit within six months of the move.”

For a step-by-step process that takes you through an office move, check out our Ultimate Office Move Guide & Checklist. Avoid the typical pitfalls and download the guide today:

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