The ultimate guide to office fit out and relocation planning

The ultimate guide to office fit out and relocation planning

Business can be hectic, but your office fit out or relocation projects don’t have to be. Whether you’re downsizing, getting a bigger office, moving to a new centre of operations or just freshening up your workspace, you need a clear plan of action to help you complete your fit out or relocation efficiently and stay on budget.

But how do you get started? Relocating or fitting out your office can seem like a mammoth task, but as long as you start with a step-by-step plan, you should be able to get everything done in a timely manner. With this in mind, let’s go through our ultimate guide to office fit out and relocation planning to help you create a smooth-sailing office transformation from start to finish.

What is an office fit out?

First, let’s clarify something. Many people get confused between what is meant by office fit out and office refurbishment; it’s not surprising since they’re quite similar.

So, what’s the difference between office fit out and office refurbishment? An office fit out is slightly different to an office refurbishment in that it’s concerned with the full transformation of an office space in order for it to be occupied and used, and is primarily to do with new builds or spaces. Office refurbishment is about updating and renovating a space which is already in use or has been used; more of a refresh, if you like.

Therefore, an office refurbishment is more relevant for current office spaces that need an upgrade or update. On the other hand, an office fit out is the process of transforming an empty-shell structure into a suitable office environment, turning a blank slate into a fully functional space. This makes fit outs much more comprehensive than simple refurbishments.

What are the different types of office fit out?

However, not all office fit outs are created equal. Depending on what you start with and how extensive you want the fit out to be, you can choose from multiple types of office fit outs. So, before you get started with your office fit out and relocation plans, you need to learn about the four main office fit out types and decide which one is right for you:

1. Shell and core

This type of office fit out is technically just the state of the building before any fitting out occurs. However, it’s still classified as a type of office fit out because an empty, basic structure is sometimes exactly what the client needs.

Just like it says on the tin, this type of office fit out starts from an empty-shell framework, with a space showing a blank canvas inside. You will have the ‘hard shell’ with features like electrical supply and water systems in place, but things like flooring, partitions, wall coverings and lighting will need to be sourced and installed. Communal areas like lobbies and reception areas may be completed.

The exterior of the building will be fully completed, making this space weather-proof, but the interior will just contain the metal or concrete frame resulting from the initial construction. Since no lighting, air conditioning or interior walls are included, this space isn’t yet habitable. Property developers and landlords often like to work with shell and core fit outs as this enables them to offer a blank, neutral space to potential buyers.

A shell and core office fit out includes:

  • The structural framework of the building
  • Lift shafts
  • Lobbies
  • Electricity and water supply

2. Category A

All the basics that make an office able to function are covered in a ‘Category A’ type fit out, just without those finishing touches you’ll get in a ‘Category B’ office fit out project. Think suspended ceilings, interior walls, electrical distribution, toilets, fire detection and alarm systems – these are the kinds of basic features you’ll get with a Category A office fit out. 

A Category A office fit out is all about finishing an office space to a basic, habitable standard. Therefore, this type of fit out is more concerned with structure and necessities rather than design, style and personality, and they are often carried out by property owners and landlords to make buildings and spaces suitable for the rental market. These blank spaces make it easier for tenants to visualise how they will transform the space to suit their needs, although it’s worth noting that landlords will usually ask that the space is returned to them in Category A condition at the end of the lease. Also, if a company needs to change any electrical systems and such, they will need a Category A fit out.

A Category A office fit out includes:

  • Lighting
  • Basic mechanical and electrical services
  • Air conditioning
  • Interior walls
  • Toilets
  • Alarm and fire detection systems 
  • Raised access flooring
  • Grid ceilings
  • Basic internal finishes to the floors and walls

3. Category B

For a ‘Category B’ fit out, you basically need to install everything that isn’t specified in a ‘Category A’ fit out with the added finishing touches of office interior design and office furniture – all with a brand or business’s work dynamic and workplace needs in mind. With this type of office fit out, you can get everything you need installed to create a fully functional workspace designed to your specifications.

This fit out project encompasses everything from lighting, IT infrastructure and desking to woodwork, meeting rooms, reception areas and branding; it’s why this is the most common type of office fit out. All that’s left is choosing a layout and décor to fit your brand and work dynamic.

A Category B office fit out includes:

  • Specialist lighting and facilities
  • Floor and wall finishes/coverings
  • Partitioning for meeting rooms, offices and breakout areas
  • All furniture including soft furnishings
  • IT installation and infrastructure
  • Fully fitted kitchen areas and tea/coffee stations
  • Branded decor

During the Category B fit out process, businesses will work closely with professional office fit out contractors to discuss their requirements and create a vision for the final product. Here at Diamond Interiors, we work closely with our clients through each step of the planning, delivery and installation processes to ensure that we bring your exact vision to life. Have a nosy here at our office fit out case studies to see how we’ve helped transform some notable brands.

4. Category A+

The final category is less common overall, but it’s becoming increasingly popular with landlords hoping to attract new tenants without having to undertake a full Category B fit out. Category A+ fit outs are an in-between option, which means they’re more developed than Category A fit outs but less developed and less personalised than Category B fit outs.

This means that Category A+ fit outs bring an office space to a habitable standard so that a tenant can move in and start working immediately. When the tenant decides to personalise the space, there won’t be too much left to do, which makes these spaces appealing to business owners who want to move into an office space that only needs minimal upgrades and branding to bring it up to scratch. For landlords, Category A+ fit outs allow them to appeal to a broad audience due to the generic office design and also appeal to those who don’t want to undertake a large office refurbishment.

Plus, these office spaces are typically offered on a shorter lease. This allows landlords to quickly put these spaces on the rental market without undertaking extensive Category B fit outs, and businesses will be able to move in for a short period of time and make minimal adjustments to the space (if any).

Office relocation

A complete office fit out will often go hand in hand with office relocation. Whereas office refurbishments are usually used for existing office spaces to give everything a much needed update, office fit out services are typically required to bring a new office space up to an acceptable standard before moving in. Therefore, an office relocation requires a lot of prior planning and preparation before the relocation process even begins.

Whether you’re expanding, downsizing, moving to a better location or just looking for a more suitable office space, an office relocation could be exactly what your business needs. However, the entire office fit out and relocation process can be very stressful, time consuming and expensive, especially if you don’t plan it out in detail beforehand. In the next part of this guide, we’ll show you how to plan and execute your office relocation in ten easy-to-follow steps.

Step-by-step guide to planning an office fit out and office relocation

Once you’ve chosen your preferred type of fit out, you’re ready to start planning your office fit out and/or relocation. To get the best return on your investment and reduce your stress levels as much as possible, make sure you follow the logical, streamlined approach laid out below:

Step 1. Create an internal project team

The first step is to create an internal project team within your business, headed by a trusted senior member of staff. This team will be in charge of moving logistics and will also play a key part in creating office design ideas that benefit the whole organisation. Make sure this team includes members from multiple departments so that all viewpoints and parts of the business are accounted for.

Step 2. Conduct research

To start off any office fit out project right, you need to conduct thorough research. With the help and expertise of your internal project team, you should brainstorm office design and location ideas. Don’t rush through this step – you need to properly consider all viewpoints, challenges and opportunities before creating a solid strategy for your office relocation and/or fit out.

Questions to think about include:

  • Who does my workplace need to accommodate?
  • Where will my new office be located or should be located – will this be better for business operations, networking and employees’ commutes?
  • What are the basic necessities for the office?
  • How important is the expression of branding in the office will we have a lot of visitors?
  • How can I uphold good health and safety in the workplace?
  • Where do I see the brand and business going?
  • How do I improve accessibility in the new office?
  • What would drive productivity?
  • Would my business benefit from an open-plan layout?
  • Do I need breakout areas or relaxation rooms?
  • How can I make sustainability a priority in office design and relocation?
  • Who needs to be informed about the relocation beforehand – employees, clients, stakeholders?
  • What data needs to be backed up before the relocation?

All of these questions need to be answered first. You may find more cropping up as the project runs, but so long as you have a strong foundation of research to understand how your new office should look and how it should accommodate employees, you will have a more efficient and smooth office fit out project ahead.

Step 3. Visualise your ideas

When beginning an office fit out project or even imagining a dream office, it starts with a vision. Many office fit out experts can help you in your visualisation by getting to know your brand and where it sees itself in the future, what direction it wants to take and where it needs to be. Only a few, however, can allow you to truly visualise your new or reimagined office space with clever technology.

For instance, here at Diamond Interiors we have 3D visualisation tools to help you see exactly how a project can look, enabling you to make informed decisions before any construction can take place. A 3D visualiser can create an interactive, visual model of any design to give you a tour, giving you a feel for a new office space. With this, you can address any changes that may need to be made that you may fail to notice until the finished project.

Interested in using a 3D visualisation tool to see what a new office could look like for you? For any questions or more information on how this works, contact our friendly office fit out and design experts today.

Step 4. Set a budget

Without being strict on finances, you could easily find yourself spending much more money than you originally planned. This is why it’s necessary to set a budget early on in the process, after you’ve considered what you want and need. Make sure you include things like professional fees, moving costs and insurance along with the cost of the actual relocation and office fit out.

Due to the different types of office fit out, the total cost of fitting out your office space can vary quite a lot – usually between £40 and £95+ per square foot. For a more accurate estimate based on your personal needs and office size, you can use our office fit out calculator. Simply add the works required and type in your office size and number of people to get a fit out cost estimate. Having an accurate estimate is crucial for the office planning process.

Step 5. Hire a project manager

It’s all about having a strong and dedicated project management team behind you when it comes to office fit outs. In addition to creating an internal team, who will handle logistics and employee ideas and concerns, you should also strongly consider hiring a professional project management team to help you navigate through the process of fitting out your current office or relocating to a new office that requires a full office fit out.

Having a project manager with experience and expertise will help in ways you couldn’t imagine. Not only will you save time and money (you’ll have fewer hiccups and less need for fixing failures or mistakes) with an office fit out project manager, you’ll also be fully reliant on an expert in the field to source the perfect additions for your office space that meet all your requirements. A fully dedicated project management team will keep an eye on budgets, construction, surveying and sourcing, whilst you can get on with business. 

Step 6. Survey new buildings for your office relocation

If you’ve decided to relocate, you need time on your hands to search and survey suitable locations that will fit your business and workplace requirements. In addition to thinking about day-to-day operations and where your clients are based, you also need to think about where your employees are mainly located, and whether the relocation would result in unreasonable commutes. Not only will long commute times have a negative impact on your business’s environmental sustainability, but a poor location may also drive away top talent and make it more difficult to hire the best candidates.

Plus, once you’ve found a suitable location, you’ll still need to thoroughly evaluate the rental agreement to make sure there are no surprises in the small print – this could end up costing you money or causing a lot of stress when you need to move in the future. Pay specific attention to clauses that mention deposits, early contract termination and the condition that the property must be in when returned (e.g., will it need to be returned to a Category A state?).

When deciding where you want to rehome your business for the foreseeable future, you need to get it perfect from the start. This means researching good locations, comparing costs and surveying properties to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line, and all this can be done by a trusted office relocation planning & consultancy team. Check out our ultimate office relocation checklist for everything you need to remember.

Step 7. Take advantage of the expertise of office fit out specialists

Once you’ve found a new office space, it really is one of the smartest decisions you can make to use office fit out specialists when it comes to transforming or relocating office spaces. The benefits of working with office fit out companies are numerous, but the main advantage is that you get expert design support to create the exact office you’ve been visualising.

Having the experts behind you, paired with invaluable experience, is simply good business due to the time and money you’ll save as well as the minimising the stress to you and your business. From sorting architectural issues to sourcing suitable, ergonomic office furnishings, office fit out experts will help you achieve a brand-new office design in no time.

Step 8. Install office furniture that fits your workplace needs

Whatever your workplace needs or brand goals, under an office fit out project, you can source and add in a range of perfectly fitting office furnishings to encourage workplace productivity. Not only that, office furniture products sourced by experienced office designers will be of the highest standard and will optimise space, satisfy workplace health and safety needs, and suit branding. You just need proficient office furniture installers behind you to get the job done in a speedy time with the least amount of fuss – all without compromising on safety. Adding in those finishing touches will bring your new office to life and shape the workplace up nicely, ready for productive work to be done.

Did you know that at Diamond Interiors, we make a point of using exquisitely designed, quality furniture from manufacturers we have a great working relationship with and trust. To that end, all of the furniture and fittings we supply has a minimum of 5 years manufacturers warranty.

Step 9. Get your office removal and storage in order

Make sure you’ve thought about where all your old office furnishings are going to go. Or, maybe you need somewhere to hold all of your new office additions whilst the office fit out project is in a construction phase, or it’s in the phase of building the ‘shell’.

A specialised office fit out team can take care of all of this with office removal and storage services and facilities. You can also rely on the experts to safely transport, remove or store valuables and any data backups. They can also package items up as well as dismantle furniture for you professionally, so you don’t have to worry about damaging anything. And when it comes to the big moving day, you can rely on stored items to be already packaged up securely, ready to travel to their new business home.

Step 10. Get employee feedback and post-project support

Once an office redesign or fit out project has been completed, you should have help ready for any possible changes. Employees, after testing the new office space out, may have some feedback for you or modification requests. Whatever the change or need, a post-project support team will be there to save you, as they won’t just call it a day and wave goodbye to you when the new office has been put together. They’re there to review and amend any design or workspace set-ups if need be. If there are any issues, it’s with post-project support that you can resolve them in as little time as possible.

Are you looking to relocate? Maybe you need a brand-new office space but need help with fitting it out? With decades of experience behind us, you can rely on Diamond Interiors with your office fit out projects; contact us today or reach us on 0845 340 4195.