25 February 2016 | By Colin Allan
Moving office is not dissimilar to moving house. It can be stressful and filled with a long list of confusing legalities, but it also presents a wonderful opportunity to reinvent your environment and create a space that is fit for purpose and welcoming.
Consolidation, lease breaks and bringing teams together under one roof, or simply looking for a cheaper rent, are the most common reasons for relocating. However, we've noticed another trend that is emerging among both big and small enterprises - companies are now moving their office spaces with the aim of having a place that better represents them and boosts their brand. As the office space can physically represent the type of business you run, the talent you have, and the clients you work with, it holds within it a major competitive advantage, especially if you do it right.
2. Good office design
Of course, there are the obvious benefits. Office relocation has been known to have a positive impact on streamlining working practices and patterns, improving the company's overall workplace culture, re-energising staff, and attracting and retaining the best possible talent. However, as with moving home, relocation is not for the faint-hearted. There is a lot of detail to consider and a good office design is fundamental to this process.
Firstly, you will need to have a really good understanding of the business and its brand to work out what's needed. Often senior management will think that it understands what the business needs and this may very well be the case in some instances, but not always. For example, the CEO of a FTSE 100 company won't necessarily know the confidential printing requirements of the finance team, or the commute time for each employee.
3. The idea of change
It is worth getting staff involved and doing the necessary legwork before making any final design decisions. Staff engagement during office relocation has always been important, but be sure you don't scare people by asking too many questions too early on. Instead, allocate team leaders who can relay the necessary information between staff and the design team that will help build up your plan, while sensitively introducing the idea of change to the workforce.
Additionally, doing a bit of investigative work in the first instance can be really useful in developing a workplace strategy. You wouldn't move into a new home without understanding the new property or how different rooms could be used for different purposes - the same goes for your new office. Once you've properly explored your needs and the new location, a workplace strategy can help to outline the parameters and highlight the best opportunities for change.
4. How much space do you need?
As part of this assessment, you may find that the smallest details can actually make a big difference. You may not actually need more meetings rooms, for example. Morgan Lovell has found that, on average, 10 per cent of booked meeting rooms consist of one person conducting a phone call or trying to concentrate on an individual task. We also found that most meeting rooms are just too big, with only a third of the seats being used in the space. As a result, a lot of businesses are now shifting to social settings, with meetings taking place in coffee-shop style spaces. The same misjudgment can also apply to the actual layout of your desks. Open-plan tends to be the norm, but people can often struggle to concentrate in open-plan environments and this can result in huge productivity loss.
5. Don't be a copycat
A hugely important thing to remember is that your brand is your own. One of the biggest mistakes we have seen businesses make is trying to copy what has already been done. It's easy to become misled by the values of other businesses. Google might be renowned for having a very 'cool' and forward-thinking office space, but this doesn't necessarily mean that its office design would suit your brand. Every company will have its own approach to working practices and, while it's good to aspire to the values of a respected brand, that's very different from actually imitating its operational and organisational culture.
6. Nurturing collaboration
A great example of a company really focusing on its values by relocating and establishing a new office is national disability charity Livability. Our company recently worked with the company to assist with its move from long-term Shoreditch address to the Greenwich Peninsula, with a focus on delivering an innovative and fully inclusive workplace that placed disabled accessibility at the heart of the office design. Having properly assessed what was important to the business, from the systems and processes, down to the smaller design details, we were ultimately able to create a workplace that was optimised for collaboration and full inclusion, thus putting a real emphasis on Livability's brand and values.
Colin Allan is a director of Morgan Lovell Southern