Laura Johnson on the things to consider during an office relocation
Is your office bursting at the seams? Maybe a shake-up in your leadership team or an acquisition has sparked the need to adjust your premises to support a new culture? Or are you finding your location is putting off new recruits? There are lots of motives behind office relocations. Whatever the trigger, it’s an opportunity to make sure your work environment is supporting your strategy.
It may be the physical aspects of your building - such as empty seats after a restructure – that initially open your eyes to the need to relocate. But moving office shouldn’t be purely a property exercise. “You’re not housing widgets, you have property for a purpose and that’s to house human beings,” says Monica Parker, head of workplace strategy at Morgan Lovell. “Whenever you engage in any change of property, you’ve got to consider the behaviour of the people within it.”
As a result, more enlightened organisations are no longer delegating finding new office space to their estates teams. “I’m finding I’m being hired by either the C-suite or HR,” Parker says. “You’ve got to have HR at the table and you’ve got to collect evidence on how people behave and how they are reacting to their space.”
Anonymous online staff surveys, engagement interviews and focus groups all provide vital employee input to relocation decisions, but a fondness for soft seating areas and the collaborative working benefits of an onsite coffee shop shouldn't dominate your shortlisting process. Mark Taylor, head of national offices for Colliers International shares some important property considerations for companies facing a move:
Future-proofing your premises
You’ve got four great properties on the table as potential new offices but which one do you go for? Taylor advises to think ahead when you’re evaluating your options. “First and foremost, we look at exit strategies for our clients – how can you shrink or grow with the building?” says Taylor. “We look at how they will offload the property in five years time when their company has changed. They need to know it’s not an issue.”
Shrinking IT space
Trading in bulky PCs for cloud computing-friendly flat screens is freeing up space in offices. “Businesses are still taking the same size of property but they’re using the internal envelope differently,” says Taylor. “For example, everyone now has benching desks to fit flat screens on. This allows more freedom of space in the office so you can have sofas, kitchens and pool tables.”
How do your employees travel to work?
Consider the accessibility of public transport if your employees favour the train or bus and if your cycle to work scheme has been a hit, you may need to house bikes. And showers. Also consider how you would like your workforce to travel to work. Providing a location and facilities that encourage your employees to ditch their private company cars in favour of lower CO2 emitting options will boost your green credentials; something that may be high on your corporate social responsibility agenda.
Who’s your landlord?
“Ask very clear details about who your landlord is,” Taylor advises. “Are they financially stable? Are they able to underpin the warranties that go with the building? Is the landlord a developer who will be selling the building once it’s fully income producing?” You need to know if you pick up the phone someone will answer it and address any issues you encounter during your lease.
Who are your neighbours?
Take a stroll around our major cities and you’ll find a road where a lawyer or accountant will answer almost every door. Traditionally, occupying a certain address was essential for a company’s credibility. This is starting to change.
If your market position, benefits package and super cool office makes you the envy of your peers, the fact that your competitors’ finest talent is in easily poachable distance is beneficial to your recruitment strategy. However, if your company’s status and out-dated office is not so sought after, your close proximity to competitors could be damaging to staff retention levels.
The sheer number of issues stemming from a seemingly straightforward decision to move office makes choosing new premises a particularly sensitive change for leaders to manage. And the tears and tantrums won't end when the lease is signed. You’ve still got the controversial topics of seating plans and the brand of soap in your toilets to negotiate.