Many people will attest to moving house being one of the most stressful things you'll do in your life. Not only do you have mortgage brokers and banks to deal with, there are removal companies, utility providers, as well as all the other bills to sort out. However, for business owners, moving house can be a walk in the park compared to moving their business premises. With that in mind, here are our top tips that we learned from our own office move, back in 2016.
Finding the perfect premises
We’re not necessarily speaking from experience here, but you’re generally going to need a decent amount of time – we’d suggest anywhere between three and six months – to find an office that ticks all the right boxes for your business. Of course, the perfect office for one business will look different to that of another, but there are still a few things that all companies should be taking into account.
Is the office easily accessible by road, and located close to a mainline railway station? Is there ample parking available for employees and visitors? Are there any local amenities within walking distance of the office, including shops, cafes, restaurants, and somewhere for that post-work Friday drink? Proximity to a gym, bank or post office might also be important to some staff.
No matter the size of your business, there will always be budgets. This means you’ll know how much you are willing and able to spend on a new premises. If you’re looking to buy a new office through a commercial property agent, make sure you know what fees you’ll have to pay, in addition to the regular mortgage payments. On the other hand, if you’re renting or leasing, there might be additional maintenance charges to be paid. It’s also worth checking if you have to pay for utilities, office supplies and furniture. This will often depend on whether the office is serviced or unserviced.
An office move generally coincides with the growth of a company’s workforce, to the point where the current premises can no longer accommodate the number of employees. If your company is taking on a lot of new staff in a short space of time, it’s probably worth finding an office that can accommodate further expansion of the business. The last thing any business wants is to move to another office after six months or a year.
Unless you’re a big-spending tech startup, you’re probably not going to need an on-site gym or games arcade. However, at the very least, you will probably be looking for a decent-sized kitchen, a social area with comfy furniture, attractive bathroom facilities, and anywhere between two and five meeting rooms, depending on the size of the business.
Everyone has different tastes when it comes to design. However, it’s safe to say that a drab, dated office won’t fit the bill for the majority of forward-thinking businesses. The most important thing to consider is whether the presentation of the office aligns with how you’re looking to present yourself as a business. For example, if your company caters to young children and parents, you might be looking for bright and vibrant colours, while an ambitious tech firm might go for something that’s expansive and minimalist in equal measure.
The secrets to a successful move
So, you’ve found a fantastic new office, but that’s only the beginning. Now it’s time to start prepping for moving day. We could give you an exhaustive list of stuff to remember here, but instead we’ve tried to condense it into a handful of key considerations. Hopefully we haven’t missed anything.
The first thing to do after signing on the dotted line for your new office is to let your current landlord know that you’ll be moving out. Your lease or rental agreement will stipulate what period of notice you’re required to give, so make sure you check your contract before letting your new landlord know when you’ll be moving in. If you’re in a serviced office, the notice period will probably be one month, but otherwise you might need to give anything from three to six months.
Getting the vans in
Moving office can be a logistical nightmare, so you will need to decide early on whether you want to employ a professional removals company to take care of things, or hire a fleet of vans and manage it yourself. If you opt for the former, it’ll be worth spending some time browsing the web and checking out reviews of removals companies in your area. Alternatively, if you know another company that has moved office recently, you could always ask them for a recommendation. Should you decide to manage the move in-house, you may need to organise overtime payment for the staff who are happy to give up a couple of evenings, or even a weekend, to lend a helping hand.
If your new office isn’t occupied in the months preceding the move, it will give you an opportunity to show it to your employees, and agree on a layout that suits everyone. It will also allow you to put together an inventory of any furniture and equipment that you might need to purchase ahead of time. Chances are you’ll be taking some of your existing furniture with you, but you’ll probably need to top up if you’re growing your team and moving to a bigger office.
Sort out your suppliers
It’ll be a little embarrassing if you find yourself without water, electricity or internet access on your first day in the new office. To ensure that everything is up and running when you step through the door, you’ll need to speak with your current suppliers about transferring your accounts at least a month before moving day. If you’re looking to change any of your suppliers, give yourself ample time to compare prices from other providers and close down your existing accounts. You’ll also want to make sure that you can get out of any long-term contracts without too much cost to the business. For example, broadband leased line contracts may have fixed terms of three-to-five years, and can be expensive to leave mid-term.
One of the things that can easily be forgotten when moving office is insurance, but forgetting it can be a costly mistake for any business. As well as taking out new policies for your new premises, it’s also important to cancel any insurance policies tied to your old office. Shop around for the best deals, and establish which types of insurance you will need to take out. If you’re not sure, it might be worth employing the services of a professional insurance broker.
Play it safe
As soon as your local fire and rescue authority knows a new company has moved into the office, a representative will pay a visit to the building to assess its fire risk. To pre-empt such a visit, it’s worth getting your house – or office – in order from the day you move in. That means making sure that all emergency exits are clearly marked, unobstructed and accessible; all electrical equipment is fitted correctly; all staff have been properly trained; and a safe meeting point has been agreed. You might even consider carrying out a fire drill within the first couple of weeks.
Update your address
Last but not least, people are going to need to know that you’ve moved. Suppliers and customers can be informed of your change of address ahead of time, and you can also update any key literature, including letterheads, invoice templates, contracts, business cards and marketing materials.
On the day of the move, you will have to amend your website, social media pages, email signatures, as well as any other sites where your company details are listed, such as online directories. And to ensure that Google knows about your new location, you will need to verify your business on Google My Business. Your previous address will show up in Google as ‘permanently closed’, so you may want to consider completely removing it if you feel this gives the wrong message.
Meanwhile, your Companies House profile will need updating and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will require notification of your new address. We’d also suggest leaving your new address with your former landlord – or whoever has moved into your old office – so you don’t miss any important post.
For all of the stress that inevitably comes with a change in premises, try not to lose sight of the fact that it’s a fundamentally positive step forward, especially if you’re upsizing. An office move is an important part of growing your business, and with some careful planning and delegation, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Take your time, make a detailed list of things to remember, and don’t forget to raise a glass to the move when you’re nicely settled in.