The 7 Most Common Office Fit Out Mistakes
Moving to new premises? Fitting out? Refurbishing existing? Moving your company’s offices, fitting out or refurbishing existing to make better use of the space, can be hazardous to your financial health if you are not prepared for what lies ahead.
Most managers put in charge of coordinating a corporate relocation, fit out or office refurbishment have never lived through the experience before. How can they know what to expect? The volume of detail that must be attended to is mind-boggling. Mostly, they learn as they go by making costly mistakes. These mistakes are costly both in terms of capital expenditure and lost productivity. As one such beleaguered manager put it, “The best education comes with a large tuition bill”. This does not have to be the case however.
The 7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid
The thousands of decisions that face an average relocation, fit out or refurbishment manager resembles a minefield. You simply can’t see where the hazards are until you step on them. Sadly, there are an almost unlimited number of ways to make costly mistakes. Here are the seven major areas where the most common mistakes are made:-
* Concluding that one building is much the same as the next
* Allowing the Comms Room to be an afterthought
* Getting started without an accurate office move budget
* Pretending you can manage the entire project yourself without outside help
* Assuming that all fit out contractors are the same
* Believing that the Landlord is unlikely to have any house rules
* Avoiding health and safety matters and hope the H & S E will not interfere
Concluding that one building is much the same as the next
A good relocation and fit-out manager should be keen to carry out detailed surveys of the short-listed buildings. These will typically include a mechanical and electrical survey; looking at the building’s services, a building survey; looking at the fabric of the premises, a structural survey and specialist assessments of lifts, IT services, telecoms and environmental issues such as mains water supplies and drainage.
Each of these surveys will identify issues that will have a bearing on the selection. They will also help with the negotiation process, as each defect in any survey will have a potential financial implication; much as it does when buying a house.
Each selected building will have its own unique characteristics; some will be relevant to the business, some not. There will be some which are indispensable, such as the way the offices will accommodate the right number of people with the potential for expansion, or the right services for the company such as security, power back up or energy efficiency.
Allowing the Comms Room to be an afterthought
The Comms Room is among the most important features of the modern office. It’s strategic location is vital; it’s relationship with power supplies, it’s security, size and environment must be carefully evaluated. Relocating the Comms Room after occupation is a task that you would be wise to avoid, not only is it highly likely to cause major disruption, it will also prove to be very costly.
At a very early stage the manager’s IT team will need to assess whether you need specialist facilities and should take into account the size and location of the Comms Room as well as the need to provide adequate cooling and fire protection. The provision of a UPS (un-interruptible power supply) or an emergency generator may also affect their plans as they too must be considered in detail from the outset.
An accurate budget is critical
Most business relocations are performed without any budget at all. Inexperienced move managers will get some quotes for furniture moving, a new telephone system perhaps and will then let their general contractor or architect control the most expensive item - the interior fit-out.
Costs escalate and can frequently run way over the initial estimates. This is madness. An experienced relocation move manager would tell you that you simply MUST have a comprehensive budget that includes ALL costs associated with business relocation. If you don't know what to expect, you can permanently scar your business with cost overruns.
Many businesses decide not to move at all once they see the entire cost of the project. Imagine not knowing these costs in advance! A budget also helps you make better decisions about selecting suppliers & contractors, considering options, minimizing cost overruns, and keeping people honest. A detailed budget is mandatory. Moving without a budget is suicide.
Pretending you can manage the entire project yourself with occasional help from someone in Administration
In the battle to optimise productivity and retain talented people the working environment faces the glare of the spotlight like never before. Companies which recognise the importance of using skilled professionals will gain a critical advantage over those which do not. The best advice is to always take advice!
Taking advice however from ill-informed people or less experienced companies can also lead to problems. Ensure that the advisors are the best you can afford with a proven track record of delivering the services you require.
Don’t assume that all fit-out contractors are the same
The starting point for selecting the right one is to make sure of comparing `apples with apples’. A good fit-out manager should have established links with all the key disciplines; workplace consultancy, design, IT, construction, project management, furniture supply & funding as well as post contract support and facilities management.
A good fit-out and refurbishment manager will be able to find out quickly which contractors are most suitable for the project; whether the project is too big or too small for them; and will check whether they specialise in high or low value contracts and whether they can easily service the project from wherever they are based. They will also make sure that they use language you understand and do not merely communicate in industry jargon. Most importantly, do they seem as though they really want the project? Are they committed? Will they do whatever it takes to deliver the brief on time and within budget?
The fit-out will involve significant costs and the implications of the chosen fit-out contractor failing to complete on time, or at all, could be substantial.
The fit-out manager should also ensure that the selected fit-out contractor really does have the ability to implement the brief and achieve the objectives. He will ask for confirmation that `what you see is what you get’. In other words, the people you meet during the selection process are the people you will work with throughout and not just "front men".
Don’t assume that the Landlord is unlikely to have any house rules
The implications of not being fully conversant with the Landlord’s house rules can have serious implications on the project timescale and costs especially in the case of multi-let buildings. For example, the fit-out contractor may be obliged to only work outside normal business hours, may not be permitted to use the lifts for bringing in materials or furniture and may have restrictions on delivery times and noisy working.
The best advice is for the fit-out manager to meet with the Landlord or their representatives to fully understand any rules and regulations that may affect the programme. This should be done prior to signing any lease.
Avoiding taking any responsibility for health and safety matters and hoping that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will not interfere
From the outset of the project until its completion both the tenant and the fit-out contractor will need to fully comply with the HSE’s Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994. These regulations not only cover the way in which the site runs, but also the way the design team works together to create a project that does not put people at risk during the build process and after completion.
So, don't put your business at risk `going-it-alone’!
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