10 Things to Remember When Moving an Office Space

Published on Thursday, 3 October 2013 08:08:44    Written by Marc
In my past life when taking care of portfolios of real estate, I would often get questions about the cost of moving offices from one place to another. Sometimes, it was in order to merge sites together, other times it was to downsize an office or a manufacturing plant. Other times, it was to increase the size of the space; but, regardless of the reason, the question is always the same, “How much would it cost to relocate to…”

IMG_4142Of course, my colleagues only wanted a guesstimate (an idea of the cost). However, as we all know, you provide a rough estimate to someone once and somehow it rapidly becomes the official number that starts to go around. Then you find yourself having to justify why the number that came from you is 15% off (and usually on the low side of course). Once you are burned a few times, and before you give someone a guesstimate again, even verbally, you start to do your homework.

So, how much does it really cost to move an office space? I will limit the content of the text here to standard offices, since we know that moving other type of sites like industrial sites can vary enormously.

Over the years, I came to develop some rules of thumb and checklists for moving offices. While not perfect, if you do enough office relocating within the same company, you rapidly start to see patterns of what people ask for and how much things cost.

First, moving costs more than you may think. Unless you do moves often and manage to get the process down to an art, there ALWAYS seems to be hidden cost, always-new costs that you did not incur on the last move. Preparing for this, at least mentally, will go a long way towards wrecking your nerves.

What to remember:

  1. Plan, plan, and plan again for the space you will occupy. This seems trivial; after all, if you are going to move a team of people from one office to another, you need to know where people are going right? In addition, once you made a plan, everyone will be happy and will stick to the plan right? If only it was the case…

    Planning has to be one of the most frustrating parts of relocating an office. While it is relatively easy to sit down with an office planner/designer and come up with an ideal solution, getting the plan ‘sold’ to people is sometimes a different story. Get all people responsible for the new office engaged from the start. Better to have departments have a discussion (sometimes argue) among themselves over some sensitive issues such as layout, what group sits next to which other and other than having the discussion via yourself. It is easy to be caught in the middle of intense discussions if you are the ‘middle man’ trying to coordinate things without involving the people that will occupy the site. Best is to lay out the ground rules such as how much space in total you have, some things that are fixed: Location of washrooms and exits and windows (for example) and let the concerned people know what they have to debate. It is also a good time to ask or instruct (depending on your company or organization) if there are rules as to who can get what and how big. For example, if your company policy is that only a person with a title of director gets a closed office with a certain maximum size, it will be good to let them know from the start. This may trigger some changes in some departments. If you do not have any company policies, you will need to see what you can provide to the people, considering the size of the office space and the people you are moving there. It might also be a good time to start to implement policies for offices. Once you manage to get everyone on board and signoff (ideally in writing by each head of department) on a proposed layout, you need to stick to the layout. Yes, it is easier said than done, but you must understand that once the fit-up work starts, changing things will cost money.
  2. Tenant fit-ups. The person responsible for the space fit-up, whether you company needs to do only a minor renovation at the new office space or a new construction altogether will have to coordinate the work with consultants (architects, engineers, designers), as well as with contractors and the landlord. Depending on the agreement with the contractor, they might also need to coordinate with the city for permits. The task of coordinating the fit-ups (and insuring the project is on time and on budget) is often a complex one and should be given to someone that has the experience in that field.
  3. Decide what you will move. This also may seem to be a no brainer, but there are often more items than furniture in an office. You will need to decide if you bring the phone system and plan for the best time to remove the phone and install it in the new office (will there be downtime during that period?) In addition, do you have large cabinets for storing documents? Do you need a vault? You need to plan for this and for the weight that these equipment can have on the building structure. You may in some cases need to confirm with the landlord that the floor load can support what you want to install. Moreover, as for the furniture, if you plan to bring it, you will need to plan the exact layout and make sure the furniture can fit in the new space without the need for alteration. In some cases the shape of some furniture may make that it is not possible reuse them. In other cases it may be that the planned colors for the office do not go with the furniture materials (especially the cloth on the cubicles). You might need to plan the cost for modifying some of the furniture to adapt them to the specificities of the new office space.
  4. Storage. If you have some storage space in your existing office, will you be able to transfer it to the new building were you are moving? If not, will you need to lease storage at another site?
  5. When you move is important. This has to be planned with the movers. Often the physical moving of furniture goes well, but the setup of things at the new site often takes more time than initially planned. You will need to plan to have some loss of productivity during the moving time, perhaps get some external help for some tasks.
  6. IT infrastructure. This consists normally of servers, phones, and related items. While the IT guys normally do a good job of planning for an office move, you will still need to coordinate with them so they know who is sitting where so they can connect all offices. People tend to have little patience when they come into a new office and find out they will not have access to their emails for the first day.
  7. Additional equipment. Do not forget to plan for any additional equipment you might need, such as copiers, coffee machine, etc. Most of this equipment normally moves with the personnel, but often companies use the opportunity of the moving process to change a few things. For example, instead of every employee having a printer on their desk, the company may opt to have shared printers, which are faster and have a lower cost per impression. These will need to be planned (where they go, how they are connected).
  8. Plants and coffee. It may seem a small detail, but in many office buildings the plants are supplied either by the landlord or by a specialized company. If you move to a site where you can have access to the same specialized company, it may be as simple as informing them. But in some cases, if your landlord was providing you with plants and the landlord for your new office does not, then you will need to plan for this. Same thing for coffee. If you had a specialized company come and fill up your coffee supply, make sure you have planned for this, if not your colleagues will remind you of this, especially in the morning.
  9. Stationary and other paper. While you might not be the one responsible for printing the stationary for the office, someone probably is. It is good if the person in charge of this knows the exact address where the people are moving. In some cases it’s easy, but in other cases where the landlord assigns suite numbers or worse, where you need to get a new suite number from the city, you might want to transmit the proper information to the people in charge of making the new stationary
  10. Certificate of occupancy. In most places, the city will require you to get a certificate of occupancy. Do not forget to plan some time for this.

Bonus tip: When setting things up, arrange to get a handy person, ideally from your landlord, to be available for installing frames and other small items. When people move they want to be up and running as fast as possible, having someone that can help set up their frames, move items such as cabinets and plant for example will allow the employees to feel at home in their new office more rapidly.