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A crash course in office relocation and office design ideas

 

Your office says a lot about your brand. Are you traditional or funky? Serious or free spirited? The look and feel of your building, interior design and location says a lot about you.[1] So much so that for some organizations, office moving and fresh office design ideas can help prepare your brand for the next chapter of growth.

But moving your business isn’t an easy decision—it calls for asking tough questions:[2]

  • What must you have?
  • What would be nice to have?
  • What earns a big, fat “nope”?
  • How much can you pay?

A new or redesigned office can incite value-creating collaborations among team members. At Pixar℠, Steve Jobs recognized that when groups are separated—for example, all computer scientists in one building, all animators in another—they couldn’t share ideas and solutions. To encourage collaboration and creativity, all groups were brought into the same “cavernous” facility.[3] Similarly, a new space may help you do business in a whole new way.

This Blue Paper® will explore why businesses move, how to choose a new location if you’re in the market, the latest office design ideas, how to determine whether to rent or buy, and why moving may not be the right decision for some organizations. Before you bust out that label maker and start packing boxes, read on!

 

Why businesses choose office moving—and what they get out of it

You know the story: A business starts small and gets big—so big that it “begins to find fault with its facilities, services, utilities, infrastructure or other features” at its current address.[4] A move becomes imminent.

Four primary reasons may dictate why a business moves to a new address:[5],[6],[7],[8],[9]

  • Labor and work force issues. The chief reason behind a move often is finding talent. Moving to an area with the right kind of employees can add value to an organization. A new space could put you closer to an attractive labor pool, and it usually means more space for additional team members.
  • Quality-of-life issues. A move could put you in a place with more favorable recreational opportunities, education, crime rates, health care, weather and more. Unhealthy and unsafe areas are disadvantages for recruitment and retention.
  • Desirable new markets. Companies expand and/or switch cities to boost profits.
  • Need to lower costs/increase cash flow. A new location could be less expensive.

We looked at why you’d want to move; now, let’s explore what you get out of it. Moving and fresh office design ideas “can be the catalyst for giving your entire company a makeover, and not just an aesthetic one.” Office relocation can:[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]

  • Help you show off (in a good way). Clients and would-be hires respond positively to new digs. A new office is “a signal of success, determination and dynamism: You aren’t just standing still, letting the company fall into a routine.”
  • Inspire an assessment of operations. You may discover ways to reduce cost. If there are new work styles you’ve been itching to try, a new office could give your team the space to experiment. A new office is a blank space: “Creating open working spaces, small acoustic rooms, hot-desking areas and employee lunch areas will become easier.”
  • Shift perception of the business by internal audiences. Combining brand and company culture in office design helps team members feel supported and inspired.
  • Add to your bottom line. Large companies often receive tax breaks for relocating, because they bring jobs to a community. (Small businesses, however, may not receive such perks; do your homework on incentives available to you.)

The reasons why an organization chooses to move are unique to each business—as are the benefits. Investigating a move and its potential outcomes could be an illuminating exercise, even if you’re happy at your current address.

 

The most important decision in office moving

What are the first, second and third commandments of real estate? Location, location, location. Use these three steps to decide where to locate your business:[15],[16],[17],[18],[19]

 

1.) Determine your needs. Think about your goals in the following areas:

  • Exposure and accessibility. Get to know locations on foot, by car and (if necessary) by plane. Understand what it would be like for customers, vendors, employees and potential new hires to visit and leave your facility. Different businesses have different site needs: For example, retail relies on foot traffic. But, for some businesses, confidentiality is critical. And when it comes to accessibility, if you’re inside an office building, know whether you can get in on weekends (if weekend work is part of your culture).
  • Brand image. Formal or casual? If you’re a retail outfit, traditional store or kiosk? Your physical location must align with your style and image. The history of a location also impacts your image. The community remembers previous tenants and their level of success. Research how location influenced the organizations that came before you.
  • Competition. Will people comparison shop you and nearby competitors? Will you catch overflow traffic from nearby businesses if you’re in an entertainment district? Think about how nearby competition will affect your marketing.
  • Demographics. Who are your customers, and where do they live and work in relation to your would-be location? (This is more important to some businesses.) Also, think about whether a location works for—or against—recruiting the talent you need. Would-be employees will check out housing, schools, recreation and other lifestyle elements.
  • Your future growth. When picking a location, consider an option that gives you room to grow. However, before you start packing, inventory fixtures, equipment, furniture and records, and jettison what you don’t need.
  • Proximity to suppliers. Make it easy to find you!
  • Safety. You want employees to feel safe coming to and leaving work.
  • Building infrastructure. Is the building ready for your electrical, climate and IT demands? Hire independent engineers to find out. It’s less distracting to make upgrades during a move than it is to install a new system in a working office.
  • Utilities and other costs. If you’re looking to lease, you’ll need to know if they’re included in rent. If not, a utility company can summarize charges from previous years. Investigate whether utilities require deposits, and add them to your moving budget. Cleaning services, insurance and parking all may be additional location expenses.
  • Zoning regulations. Zoning matters, for you and neighboring businesses. For example, a liquor store next to your day care is not desirable.

 

2.) Evaluate your finances. Obviously, you want to move to a space you can afford. But, there’s more to your moving money story:

  • Hidden costs, such as renovations, IT upgrades and decorating, along with business interruption and low productivity as workers get used to the new space.
  • Taxes, including income, sales and property.
  • Minimum wage, which varies by state and municipality.
  • Economic incentives for which your business may qualify.

 

3.) Discover whether the new neighborhood is business friendly. Laws change from location to location. A business counselor and local community resources such as U.S. Small Business Administration offices, small business development centers, women’s business centers and other government support agencies can provide guidance. And, talking to other business owners and would-be co-tenants can give you clarity and unique insight. Free government-provided demographic data also is useful.

 

Fresh office design ideas

After you’ve decided where you’re going to move, you must decide what your new space is going to look like. Answer these questions to guide decisions:[20],[21]

  • Who are your workers? Consider that more than 50 percent of millennials prefer an open floor plan to cubes and offices. Less than 50 percent of Gen Xers and boomers prefer an open floor plan. A little something for everyone could go a long way toward accommodating different work styles.
  • How do they work? Especially key is how teammates work together and within your office environment.
  • How can your corporate identity come through in office design? Let visitors know they’ve arrived at your office—and not another generic space. Consider a “statement” piece that leaves a lasting impression.

Different employees have different working styles, different personalities and belong to different generations. Defining a singular organizational goal—and expressing it in office design—can unite disparate team members.[22] Gain inspiration from the following office design ideas for the workplace of the future, whether you’re moving or updating your current space:

 

Technology[23],[24],[25]

  • Power up. Deliver technology accessibility everywhere. Implement docking stations and device charging zones throughout your workspace.
  • Stay mobile. For “digerati” knowledge workers, “work is something you do, not a place you commute to.” They’re in control of when and where they work, so they need lightweight laptops, smartphones and cloud-based programs and apps to keep pace. Remember, too, that productivity continues during commutes in private vehicles and on public transport.

 

Collaboration and brainstorming[26],[27],[28],[29]

  • Furnish for collaboration. Whiteboards and glass partitions can fuel creativity. Minimize brainstorm noise with high-back sofas, movable partitions and semi-enclosed booths.
  • Enable impromptu encounters. Open spaces can mimic a café setting, where casual conversation may spark creativity and productivity. For something more out of the box, Google’s New York offices feature “vertical ladder chutes” between adjacent floors. “Casual collisions” between team members are encouraged to incite collaboration.
  • Offer a prize. Give high performers access to a “trophy workspace” on campus, ideal for networking encounters.

 

Downtime[30],[31]

  • Have some fun. Fun office features—a small gym, pool table, table tennis—support team members’ well-being. They show that the company cares about its people.
  • Fill bellies. All work spaces at Google® New York are no more than 150 feet from food—a restaurant, mini-kitchen or cafeteria. Keeping employees well fed helps keep them happy and productive.

 

Exterior campus[32],[33],[34]

  • Add a social front lawn. A placemaking firm in Minneapolis is encouraging homeowners to move furniture, grill out, plant a garden or build a Little Library to make their neighborhoods more social. “They’re going to have serendipitous interactions with neighbors in a way that was never possible,” according to the project leader. A business easily could develop similar exterior environments that encourage interaction.
  • Work al fresco. Long Beach, California, created an outdoor office in a downtown park. The office features “free quality internet, electricity, a comfortable place to sit, water … and shading so it’s possible to look at a laptop.” Equip an outdoor space with office amenities—so there’s less envy over offices with windows.
  • Bring outside in. Working outside isn’t always an option, and working inside all day can sap energy and creative mojo. Bring nature inside with large windows, natural textures and garden elements.

 

Comfortable furniture[35],[36],[37],[38]

  • Get cozy. The office of the future has both office and home furnishings. Think comfort and collaboration. Ideas include lounges, colorful upholstery, low-hanging light fixtures, benches and exercise ball chairs. Sitting up straight at a desk isn’t the best way for everyone to work. Sometimes comfort and productivity arrive when you’re standing or even lying down.
  • Get moving. Moving muscles relieves discomfort and stress. Treadmill desks and footrests encourage shifting weight and offer opportunities for movement.

 

Quiet study[39]

  • Respect introverts. Isolated offline spaces allow focus and quiet productivity. Sometimes you just need to work by yourself!

 

A big question in office moving: Rent or buy?

Along with figuring out where your new office is going to be and what it’s going to look like, you have to decide whether you’ll own it or rent it.

These days, low interest rates are making many businesses think about buying their own space instead of leasing. Here are some factors that may tip the scales toward buying:[40]

  • You’d be a better landlord than your current landlord. You can better control expenses and improve your ROI.
  • You change locations often. The money spent on increasing rent, common area maintenance and moving would be better invested in a place of your own.
  • Your company is hard to move. You’ve got fixtures and equipment that are difficult to relocate.
  • You wish your rent payment was an investment. Investing in an asset has more appeal than giving thousands to someone else.

But, buying isn’t for every organization, even if the market is favorable. Here are some factors that indicate buying may not be in the cards:[41]

  • Your future is a moving target. You may be relocating, significantly expanding or downsizing in the next few years, and buying is a major commitment.
  • An up-and-coming address is not on the table. If you’re already in a central business district that works for employees and clients, buying in a neighborhood with a lower cost per square foot may not be advantageous.
  • Your current lease is a full-service lease. Your landlord takes care of maintenance and cleaning—activities that you’ll be in charge of should you buy.
  • Equity would be better in your business. Capital investment in your business and working on your business—instead of buying a building and maintaining it—is a smarter move.

Contact a real estate professional for more insight on the ins and outs of ownership.[42] Buying a building calls for more upfront capital investment versus leasing space. Leasing likely is more expensive month over month, but when your lease is up, you may need to find a new address.[43] Each option has its strengths and weaknesses.

 

Why office moving isn’t for every organization

Let’s face it. Moving can be a hassle. And, no one says you have to move—really. In fact, there are many alternatives to moving.

You could expand without moving by taking over adjacent space. This could be a good option because:[44]

  • You save on moving costs
  • Your interruption is less acute
  • Old customers still can find you

Another option is spreading facilities over several locations. For example, warehousing and manufacturing could be in one facility, and sales could be in another. This could be easier on customers.[45] Moving part of an operation is likely easier than moving everything.

You could grow your business with your current staff by focusing on efficiency. Newer equipment or upgrades to existing equipment also could increase output.[46] Increased productivity doesn’t have to come from a new or bigger space.

Finally, in the spirit of growth, a business could earn cash by selling a facility that has appreciated in value and renting a less expensive work space.[47] Yes, this does ultimately involve moving, but it’s for a slightly different reason.

 

How to avoid office moving pitfalls

You’ve no doubt heard horror stories about moving, and maybe they’ve kept you from exploring business relocation. The laundry list of things that can go wrong includes:[48],[49],[50]

  • Focusing too narrowly on a few costs (and cutting corners on cost)
  • Failing to use available economic development services
  • Ignoring quality-of-life factors
  • Missing important environmental or regulatory concerns
  • Failing to plan for future expansion
  • Implementing off-brand design elements that feel gimmicky and distract employees

According to one economic development consultant, “There’s no set time for how long it should take to move.”[51] The best advice is to start planning early.[52] Most problems could be eliminated—or at least minimized—by taking time to troubleshoot and plan. Avoiding rushed decisions ensures the transition to your new digs is strategic and financially thoughtful.

Office relocation and redesign is a lot of work. But the effort could invigorate your team, give you room to grow and put your brand in an exciting new light for current and future clients. The workplace of your dreams begins with a vision and ends as the perfect home for your brand.

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