Smarta has just moved offices – in three weeks. If you’ve never managed an office move before that might not sound like such a big deal – but if you have, you’ll know how stressful, time-consuming and laden with hidden disasters the process can be.
Now we’re sitting in our modest but perfectly kitted-out new HQ, we thought it only fair to share with you how we did it.
Viking Direct’s Mike Jones (organiser and space-maximiser extraordinaire) and Smarta’s very own Hayley and Debra will be revealing the secrets to organising an office move blissfully-free of the usual panic phonecalls, lost boxes and furniture failures.
Picking the premises
Our first step was picking our new premises. Ideally you need to leave at least three or four months for this, but you can push yourself into super-search mode if need be. Smarta’s Debra says: “The most important things is to have a deadline. It gives you something to aim for and makes sure things don’t drag on forever.”
Don’t be fussy about looks. You’re a small business on a budget – no one expects you to be featured in the next edition of Luxury Interiors Weekly. What’s key is meeting your team’s requirements and getting a lease that suits you.
If you need to get in somewhere pronto, go for a flexible lease. These suit start-ups, as you can leave on short notice if you need to suddenly slash costs. Beware that opting for a non-flexible lease can mean up to three months negotiation time before the contract’s signed. Get advice on negotiating the terms of your lease in this feature. Always check prices against similar office space in the area.
Use the checklist when you make a decision:
- Most crucially: is it big enough and can you afford it?
- Is there room for you to expand?
- Is the office serviced or unserviced?
- If it’s unserviced, how much extra will it cost you to put in all the fittings you need?
- What’s the security like, in the building and the area?
- How will this affect your insurance? (You will get a better deal the more doors and locks there are, and the further up off ground level you are)
- Will you have to pay for your own locks?
- How hands-on are the management? Do they provide their own plumber/electrician/etc.
- Who is responsible for maintenance – management or you?
- Are you forbidden from doing anything?
- Are you allowed to redecorate?
- Will you have access 24/7, or do you have to be out the building by a certain time?
- Check service charges.
- Check business rates.
- What are transport links and parking like? Will this inconvenience visiting clients?
- What shops and amenities are nearby? (You need somewhere to lunch!)
- Is there a shower?
- Is there a place to store bikes securely?
- Is there a lift or do you have to walk up several flights of stairs?
- Are there enough power sockets?
- Is there a kitchen you can use?
- Do you have a drinking water tap?
- Is there air con/central heating? How hot/cold does it get throughout the year?
- Are there any building works going on nearby that could disrupt you, and how long are they likely to last?
- Check all the windows open.
First things first: “You massively need a project plan,” Hayley explains. “There’s just so much to remember. It’s crucial.” Your plan is your checklist – and your sanity.
Mike recommends getting started three months ahead of your move date. “You’ll want to shop around to check you’re getting exactly what you want. It can be done quicker, but by doing so you limit your options.”
This is what our plan looked like – Debra actually broke it down further into daily tasks. Feel free to use it as the skeleton of your own checklist and plan. But remember we were on a tight time-scale – you may be able to spread these tasks out.
Four to six weeks before move:
- Measure new office
- Order furniture (more on that below)
Four weeks before move:
- Get security company to survey new office (security company usually need a month’s notice – ask your new building manager if they expect you to find your own security company)
- Get someone in to look at new office who can advise on planning design (your furniture company may provide this person – ask them)
- Order furniture
- Get removal quotes and book best firm (more on that below)
- Sort out the following for new office: insurance, business rates, IT (talk to current supplier about managing the move), electronics/cables, phones and phone lines
Three weeks before move:
- Tell your current suppliers your leave date: milk, newspapers and magazines, water cooler, cleaners
- Get stationery quotes
- Sign contract with security company
- Organise change of address notification to contacts and suppliers so it’s ready to send
Two weeks before move:
- All broadband and phones need to be in place by next week
- Set up forwarding numbers and postal redirections ready for move date
- Start kitchen build
- Figure out how to get the essentials in place for when you arrive in new office: drinking water, internet, a phoneline, and anything else you need
One week before move:
- Get crates delivered by delivery company and start packing up (more on that below)
- Research and sort best deals for: utilities, water cooler, milk, newspapers and magazines
- Build any big cupboards and storage units
- IT company set up cables and wiring
- Furniture delivered
- Removals men set up furniture
- IT company set up computers, servers, etc
- Send all contacts change of address notice (and change of phone number if there’s no way you can keep your old one)
- Organise cleaners to do final clean of old office if landlord requires it
Get the right furniture and maximise space
Choose your supplier carefully. We chose Viking Direct because as well as having a really extensive range that included everything we needed, they could also promise to get our stuff delivered within five to 10 working days. Plus, it’s standard practise for them to assemble all the furniture when they deliver it – so no Ikea instruction-leaflet nightmares for us!
Other suppliers usually take six weeks for your furniture to arrive, so if you go elsewhere, be prepared for that. Make sure they do deliver, whoever you go for – it’s a huge pain if they don’t. Remember to order cutlery, kettles, microwaves, et al.
When it comes to safeguarding the future of your employees’ spinal vertebrae, ‘The chair is key,’ Mike says. “Get a flexible chair that lets you move and doesn’t hold you in a rigid position. The key word is ‘synchronised’ or ‘synchro-chair’, which means the back and seat work in conjunction (like these ones). You can get really good chairs in the £130 – £200 bracket. Make sure they’ve got a good warranty – about five years.
“If someone is short you can introduce a footstall to get their feet in the right position. You only have to start looking at height-adjustable workspaces if you’re very small or very tall – we’re talking 6’4”.”
Rectangular desks are the most space-efficient, Mike says, though you can choose wave desks for a nicer look. Flat screen technology also saves space. “In terms of storage, if you don’t have much floor space, you have to go vertical – 2.2 metres is about the maximum height you want to go, unless you want to start incorporating step ladders!”
Mike recommends lateral filing systems rather (like this) than filing cabinets to further free up floorspace, but warns that tall storage cabinets can make a space feel enclosed.
And super-organiser Debra’s top tip for planning out your floorspace? “Get a professional to come in to give you ideas and tell you how to maximise your space. Look for a furniture company that offers the service.”
Finally, always, always draw up an accurately-measured floorplan (or get your professional to). No excuses!
How to reduce noise
You need to figure out how to keep things hush hush in your new space. The basic rule is: the more soft furnishings, the better. Get carpet and curtains if your office is echo-prone – or at least a few cheap rugs. Wallpaper helps too, although any vertical surface will absorb noise.
Mike recommends ‘sails’, which hang from the ceiling, or dividing screens. You can also get purpose-built artwork that’s designed to absorb noise – very effective, but not cheap.
Packing up and moving
You definitely need to hire a professional removals company. “You’re too important to the organisation to do it yourself,” Mike says. “If anything went wrong, you’d be off work for a while.” And make sure employees steer well clear of lifting too: take heed from the squillions of TV adverts offering five figure sums to people who’ve been injured at work.
Shop around to get a reputable removals company – and get at least three quotes.
“It’s not always about going with the cheapest,” Debra says. “Pick up on who is most professional. Check them up online and ask for proof of customer feedback.”
You’ll need at least two removal people, and they’ll bring their own van. Give them a full inventory of everything that needs moving so they can get the van size right. Make sure they have the right insurance – if they drop something, you need to be covered.
Giving yourself an overlap of a couple of days between leaving your old office and entering your new one can take the pressure off, but it’s not essential. Just get crates delivered a few days before your leave dates and make sure you start packing early – non-essential items first.
You need to get your IT company to pack up all your computers and servers on your leave date (or before if you can work off laptops) and set them up again in the new office. Do not go vigilante on this one – the equipment is too valuable.
Always have someone from your team overseeing the removals team when they bring everything to the new office, and for when the furniture is delivered. Check all items off a list to make sure nothing’s missing. The furniture company or removals team should set up furniture and place everything in the right place – keep your floor plan close at hand.
Cancel meetings for a couple of days either side of the move, and remember to set out-of-office messages on move day. Forward calls from your old office to someone’s mobile until your new phoneline is put in.
Then, when you’re settled, send out your new address notification to contacts.
Finally, crack open the bubbly, and enjoy!