Once you have committed to your new workplace, you need to fit it out to suit your operational requirements.

It is vital that planning the fit-out is not left too late in the moving process as you may end up facing costly delays and – if you are relocating – paying rent on two workplaces. Similarly, it is essential to have someone in your business who is responsible for overseeing the fit-out process.

Given that this role involves decision making, it is advisable that this person has sufficient executive power to ensure that delays do not occur while decisions are being made. Accordingly, the person in charge should ideally be at board level or a similarly senior management level.

What’s involved in a fit-out?

Sometimes a fit-out can be quite a minimal process and involve simply moving in your office equipment and ordering the necessary IT, telecoms and utilities connections.

In other instances, it may be more substantial and, for example, involve re-configuring space, creating raised floors, installing additional equipment and comprehensive redecoration.

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Whatever works you are planning to carry out make sure you have the prior agreement of the landlord and, where appropriate, the required planning permissions or building regulation approval. There is no point designing a perfect fit-out if you cannot get the landlord’s consent or if the fit-out is delayed while you ask for consent.

When specifying your fit-out bear in mind that at the expiry of the lease you will face reinstatement obligations to return the property to the landlord in an agreed condition so wherever possible it is advisable to keep your fit-out straightforward and devote only an appropriate amount of capital expenditure.

What do you need and how can you get it done?

When considering your fit-out it is wise to identify at an early stage what you require and what implementation will be involved. When you have completed this exercise, if you feel that what is needed in terms of managing the fit-out is beyond your in-house capabilities then you should speak to an external fitting-out contractor. Making sure that your workplace works for you is a vital part of your business so, if in doubt, take advice. Mistakes can be expensive to rectify and disruptive once you’re in occupation.

Although working with a contractor represents an additional fee, it is likely that you will effectively recoup this through the efficiency and speed with which your fit-out proceeds. This is particularly pertinent if you are paying rent during the fit-out period. A fitting-out expert will also be able to help you avoid the pitfalls that someone who is inexperienced with fitting-out may encounter.

In today’s business world, IT is pivotal to operational efficiency and also has an impact on how you configure your workplace so – depending on the IT intensity of your business – it may make sense to seek specialist IT advice. For more guidance, see the section Setting up your ICT infrastructure.

It is also advisable to undertake a Workstation Risk Assessment to ensure regulatory compliance as this may influence your furniture, lighting, air-conditioning and other aspects of the fit-out specification.

Establish what the landlord is supplying: in a refurbished property if the space has not been provided to MSDF (Minimum Standard Developers Finish) level then you should normally receive an allowance for floorboxes (power/telecom connectivity junctions), lighting and carpets.

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A Mechanical & Electrical Engineering consultant will be able to evaluate if the existing plant servicing your space is sufficient for the air-conditioning, heating and lighting provision that you require.

You should also consider what provision there is for an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) as instant power failures can be disastrous for IT systems. Similarly, consider what your disaster recovery strategy will be: what would you do if your workplace was made unusable by fire or a similar incident? Are you installing a system where there is automatic data back-up and, if so, where physically will this be located?

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Selecting a fitting-out contractor

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When looking for a suitable fitting-out contractor, there are a series of points to address that will help you get the right partner:

  • Be clear about the brief and interview at least three contractors to get comparative quotes and service levels
  • Ask for relevant examples of their past work and references from previous clients.
  • Find out if they have a space planning service and see if this is included in the project fee.
  • Find out exactly who will be dealing with your project on a day-to-day basis (do you feel you can have a productive working relationship with that individual?)
  • Do they communicate what your project will entail clearly and without jargon?
  • Are they a well-established company who have the resources to service your project?
  • Ask for details of relevant insurance cover.
  • Ask each contractor to identify how their fee structure works and to provide an outline budget for the planned works.
  • Identify the timelines for the work and specify a date when you will move in (over runs are expensive and disruptive).
  • Make sure the contractor will be available to deal with any "snagging" problems with the fit-out once you’ve taken occupation of the space. Having an after-sales service is vital.
  • Examine the conditions of the fit-out contract and get your solicitor to evaluate it before you sign.

Working with your fitting-out contractor

The key benchmarks for your fit-out are time, money and quality. You should expect your contractor to provide regular updates on all these factors to ensure that what you have instructed is being done in the time allotted and to the agreed cost and standard.

You should have scheduled meetings with your project manager and, where appropriate, visit the property regularly to see how the works are progressing.

Next steps

While the fit-out is proceeding you should be planning the move into your new workplace.

Details about how to do this can be found in the section, Relocating: planning your move and minimising business disruption.

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