A key measure of success for every growing business is reaching that point where you literally have no room to swing a proverbial cat. The team has grown, you’ve invested in new tech, you’ve tried flexible working, but more desk space is still needed and extra meeting rooms are required.
So, you’re faced with two binary options; do you stay in your current premises and hope a refurb will help or do you look to pastures new?
Overbury, the office fit out and refurbishment specialist, works with businesses to help them understand their current position and what their future business requirements are likely to be, helping to create future-proofed spaces which can accommodate companies’ growth ambitions.
Here, Philip Westwood, director at Overbury Northern, looks at some of the key things to consider for any business owner looking to expand.
A good question to ask yourself is why you are looking to move in the first place. Historically, many took the decision of whether to move based on the restrictions of their lease. Now we are seeing more and more businesses use the move as a catalyst to help drive a needed change in the company’s culture.
Refurb and re-invest
Fitting out your new space can provide a great fresh start and gives you the advantage of consistency and can often (although not always) be less costly and disruptive than an office move.
With a lack of new office stock coming to market, more businesses are choosing to refurbish their existing premises rather than moving to a new space. Not least because it can be more cost effective, but it also presents a fantastic opportunity to create a really special working environment for your staff which stamps the company’s personality firm in place.
However, it is important to consider whether staying put will support the business needs in five, ten or even fifteen years. Will the space you are in be able to accommodate further changes in technology, planned recruitment and crucially, the retention of an existing team? Is it somewhere you see the business staying in the future?
By talking to your existing landlord at an early stage of the process, you can start to determine whether their plans for investment of the building as a whole will benefit your business in the long term. From the refurbishment of common areas to the development of co-working spaces and upgrading meeting rooms, will the building function the way in which you will want it to?
A refurbishment or upgrade of existing space can, on the face of it, be more economical, ensure consistency in output and provide a platform to incorporate a cultural change. But factors such as work taking place whilst you are in occupation can be ultimately disruptive. You may need to consider whether you’ll take a phased approach and remain in occupancy throughout the renovation, or will you move to a temporary workspace while your refurbishment is carried out?
Make sure the contractors put processes in place to minimise disruption to your own business and that of other tenants and occupiers. It’s also a wise idea to consider undertaking the work during quieter periods, which vary from business to business. For some Christmas may be an obvious time but for companies such as travel agencies, quieter months may perhaps fall in September or March.
Many are often drawn to offices with character and period features. However, if the building is older, does it support environmental and well building standards?
Accreditations such as BREEAM and SKA are important and do have elements of wellbeing. However, we are working with more and more clients to demonstrate how office design can have a significant and positive effect on staff wellbeing. UK businesses can now earn a stamp of approval for how their offices support health and wellbeing. The WELL Building Standard™ made its way to the UK from the US towards the end of 2015, and it has been welcomed by those procuring and completing office fit outs.
Whilst we’ve only seen a handful of offices in the North achieve a WELL certification, many are taking its principles and are proactively using them as a guideline to create better, healthier environments.
Supporting travel company, Travel Counsellors, in their relocation to the Venus Building in Manchester was an exciting and rewarding time for the firm. From the outset, the agency was highly focused on the wellbeing of their employees, wanting to ensure its workforce embraced the relocation from its existing offices to the new office scheme on the edge of Manchester. Central to the brief was the need to create a welcoming, modern environment which would encourage greater collaboration and be a place where employees would enjoy working.
The finished space includes two floors of open plan office space with central breakout areas that support agile working and encourage interaction. The company’s culture comes through in the homely and welcoming design, whilst the teardrop ceilings in the breakout areas are visible from the outside to create a light, spacious working environment. This project wouldn’t have been as successful had Travel Counsellors not taken the decision to relocate as their former offices simply wouldn’t have been able to support this type of design and fit out.
Set out clearly what you want your new space to deliver for you. Do you want to attract new talent and if so, what would those people want? Is it communal working spaces, breakout areas or workstations perhaps? An office refurb or relocation can be a great catalyst for behavioural and cultural change if approach in the right way so if you want to boost collaboration, break down silos or implement wellbeing initiatives, now is the time to do it. Once you have outlined all these factors, you can use this as the basis for your design brief.
We have recently completed the fit out for international property advisory firm CBRE’s new offices on the 10th floor of flagship office development, One St. Peter’s Square. This move saw the firm relocate its 130-strong team from the Belvedere office building on Booth Street, increasing its office space by thirty per cent to 11,309 sq ft.
We worked with design specialist, TP Bennett to help deliver an exceptional design which took full advantage of the views of the office’s location, the additional space and high building specification. The staff working areas have been designed into strategic ‘neighbourhoods’ where teams are encouraged to share space and resources, collaborate and ultimately be more productive.
There has been a significant investment into the staff breakout and informal meeting areas, which as CBRE’s senior director of national building consultancy at CBRE Manchester, Oliver Thomas said: “encourages wellbeing organically, rather than via the latest trend or gimmick."
A fresh start
If you do decide that relocation is the way forward for you then think about whether there is an option available to suit your needs, both in terms of size, budget and location. Employing some strong negotiating skills can sometime deliver a cost-neutral move, with options including a landlord’s contribution or a rent-free period to be negotiated.
The age-old issue of choosing the right location is always a key factor in considering any new space. Think about where the staff are going to come from and make sure you are located close to an appropriate labour pool. If you need students then close to the University would make sense, if you need creatives then areas like the Northern Quarter are going to be a more attractive proposition. It may sound really obvious but you’d be surprised how many people just look at price as the overarching factor.
Overbury’s experienced team is helping support businesses through these complicated decisions, working with businesses to thoroughly understand their culture, future plans and the needs of the staff.
A brand-new office that looks great can help attract and retain talent and instil a sense of pride amongst your staff. It can also be an opportunity to boost productivity and embrace new ways of working.
With any move or refurb, getting the internal project team right is paramount to a successful fit out.
As a business owner you need to be honest and decide whether you are actually the right person to oversee the project. Do you have time, do you have the right skills? Consider whether it is worth delegating to another senior team member who could manage the external project team which will likely include architects, M&E engineers, fit-out contractors and designers. Someone who is super-organised, can work to deadlines and manage budgets would be a great choice.
Delivering change is not always easy and it is important to keep people informed throughout the project to alleviate their concerns. Holding update forums, sending newsletters, or having change champions are great ways to keep your staff engaged and updated throughout the project. Talking to people about what’s going on is also a good way to get feedback on design decisions, so any problems or suggestions can be addressed as you go along.
We have recently helped global engineering and design consultancy Arup relocate from the 12th floor to the 10th floor of the Bruntwood building in Liverpool city centre, almost doubling the size of its floor area.
As Garry Banks, director of Arup, explained: “ We relocated 60+ staff over a weekend without any drama, of course lots of hard work and dedication but we didn’t encounter any major issues. It was also the measure of the buy in of our staff that we had dozens of volunteers over the weekend helping us move personal items, furniture and equipment and also hoovering, polishing and cleaning. If you engage with your team, listen to them and make them part of the process then they feel a real connection to what you are trying to achieve.”
Your office should attract and retain the right people that you need safeguard the future of your organisation. If you’re space is limiting you, be it because of location, configuration, design or space, then it’s time to address this so that you have the right platform on which to grow in the right way.
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