10 Tips for a Successful Office Renovation

An office renovation can give your staff the boost they need to increase their productivity, boost morale, and make the space fresh and new. Of course, a reno project isn't going to be hassle free. Here are some tips for making sure your renovation is a success.

Are you running short of office space? Awkward workflow and layout killing your productivity? Or maybe your decor just screams for 1997 to take it back.

Speaking of returning back, there's a doorknob that keeps putting a dent in your Aeron chair. Then the copier and printer heat rising from the print corner keeps making the router reset. You could be ready for an office renovation.

When circumstances change, your space needs to adapt. Relocation is not always an option. Give your office the boost it needs with a renovation.

With the right plan, you can improve efficiency, boost morale and restore utility to your office space. Any construction project is a big undertaking, so read on for our 10 tips for a successful office renovation.

Relocation vs. Renovation Decision

Are you sure that a renovation is the best option?

  • Convenience
  • Productivity
  • Timing
  • The end result is exactly what you need

Before you go through the expense and inconvenience of a renovation, check and see if relocating is a better option. Consider lost productivity before, during, and after the process.

Develop an understanding of your total space requirements. Review your anticipated growth and future plans with your architect or designer. With your needs evaluation completed, you can make an objective analysis of all potential sites.

The same requirements can be applied to your existing space to compare costs and benefits of new locations vs. your current space with a renovation.

Site analysis is typically done in conjunction with lease renewals. Your current or potential landlord may be willing to subsidise the work of renovating your space in order to retain or gain a tenant.

Once you have thoroughly vetted your decision to renovate, it's time to make a plan.

1. Deep Dive Information Gathering

Start your project by getting architectural and engineering documents for your space. Physically walk through the space with your design team and verify what you have. Discrepancies in plans cause construction surprises later, and that can be expensive.

  • Original Plans and Notes
  • Modifications, if any
  • If no drawings, get some done

One of the challenges of built-out space is that infrastructure conditions are concealed. Ideally, the complete set of architectural and engineering 'as-built' documents are available. If these are incomplete or somehow unavailable, it's usually worth the expense of a site survey to create them.

The more accurate a picture of the actual conditions that can be given, the better the design work. The old phrase "Time is money" counts for double here. Time spent in this phase can save much money later.

2. Set Your Goals

Do you know what do you want and why? Do you have time limitations? Are some changes required?

  • What
  • When
  • Why
  • How

Answering these questions takes you into the "How" portion of planning.

3. Create the Design Team Wants and Needs List

In terms of office renovation design, think of the current number of employees and future growth. Consider technology needs and desired functionality. Research office design trends and how people prefer to work.

  • The planning phase is longest
  • Survey needs
  • Plan to evolve

Consider the modular office partition made popular by U.S. furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. It was first introduced in 1964. It replaced the rows of desks that mimicked a factory production line. How does your office need to change?

The partitioned office is now giving way to open-plan office with various multi-use subspaces. Open-plan offices aren't perfect, though. If poorly designed, they can be noisy and stressful.

Get stakeholder input and suggestions. Expect plenty of conflicts and innovative problem-solving. This portion of your planning process allows you to avoid delays later.

Bonus Tip - Plan Your Renovation to Include the First Impression

Include the outside of the building in your renovation plan.

  • Public spaces are important
  • The first impression start before entering
  • Include some budget for freshening spaces not part of the renovation

For many businesses, the customer and worker experience begin from the moment people enter the parking lot. What needs to change to improve that first impression?

Enhance your property's curb appeal. Landscaping, aesthetic appeal, and signage can make your business memorable in a good or bad way. It's worthwhile to refresh finishes and graphics for a high perceived value and a low cost.

Up-to-date finishes in elevators, toilet rooms, and lobbies make a good public impression. In common areas, new finishes such as carpet colours and patterns, paint colours, and ceiling tiles help freshen and update the property. Don't overlook the value of small extras like plants or seasonal decor.

The public and shared spaces might be the lowest priority, but the benefits are available at minimal cost.

3. Maximise Cost Savings by Saving Existing Items

Retain existing layouts and refurbish items rather than purchasing new ones. Doors, wall finishes, and floor finishes are good candidates for this treatment. These cosmetic items are easily refreshed for minimal cost.

Correctly sized furniture, refreshed partitions, and lighting do wonders for a space. Fabric changes, updated hardware finishes (brushed stainless to replace gold tones, for example) and warm LED lighting are good examples.

For more extensive renovations, look at reusing or repurposing infrastructure to limit changes to ductwork, fire suppression sprinklers, and electrical distribution, which are among the costliest construction items.

  • Restore
  • Reuse
  • Renew
  • Rethink

To give an example, in the renovation of a historic 1932 office block, new energy efficient windows reduced air exchange to an unacceptable level but constructing ductwork to ventilate the building would have been cost prohibitive. The property management company used the old vertical mail chute system to bring air in.

The company got to keep the distinctive Art-Deco decorative features of the mail chutes while re-purposing the wasted space in the walls as an air intake. Also notable was the use of the old pneumatic tube message system. The tube system became the IT system trunk.

4. Take Incentives if Offered

Your renovation might have the goal of increasing worker morale and productivity. But consider the incentives offered to make your building energy efficient, historically accurate or other priorities.

Some typical government grants:

  • Beautification
  • Historical restoration
  • Energy efficiency
  • Carbon credit

Could any of these tick the box in combination with your needs?

The renovation of the aforementioned 1932 office block was partially completed with a government grant for historical preservation and restoration of its Art-Deco facade and a grant to improve energy efficiency.

In another example of using desired features to subsidise needed construction, the new Facebook headquarters includes a nine-acre green roof, organic garden, electric car charging ports and solar panels. It also has LEED Platinum certification and many other features partially subsidised by different incentives.

5. Strategize and Prioritize Stakeholder Input

Work on mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems can add up to two-thirds of total construction costs. Your deep dive into the architectural and engineering documents should reveal most of the infrastructure. But physically probe above the existing ceiling, behind the walls and under the floors to verify critical clearances.

  • Control infrastructure changes
  • Control unknowns
  • Limit unplanned additions

Your budget and timeline are key to a successful renovation strategy. Add up your construction costs, materials, new furniture, labour, consulting, etc. Now comes the tough to swallow part, add in your contingency. This buffer is to cover all your "surprises".

For new construction projects, the rule of thumb is to add a 10% design contingency. An additional 10% is budgeted for construction contingencies. You should plan the same for your renovation.

Beware of "scope creep". Renovation plans go quickly awry when stakeholders keep coming back with "just one more thing" while the walls are open or the carpets are out. Prioritise the project requests and limit changes.

6. Create an Office Renovation Workflow

One of the many reasons for your renovation is probably workplace productivity improvement.

  • Plan your timeline
  • Keep workflow during the construction phase in mind
  • Shift construction to off hours

Keep in mind that worker productivity is impacted during a renovation. In fact, it can drop dramatically unless planned carefully.

Plan ahead to keep clutter to a minimum, communicate accommodation changes and limit workflow disturbances. Critical to good work conditions are light and noise levels. Maintain light artificially if you must cover windows during construction.

If you must make noise during the work day, consider a telecommuting program or noise-cancelling headphones during noisy phases of construction. Otherwise, schedule construction for after-hours. Consider dust control and air quality too. Many renovation projects begin in the late afternoon and finish up in the wee hours.

Select your builder and subcontractors with your needs and timeline in mind. A successful office renovation requires flexibility on all sides. Commercial building renovations often require far different skills and capabilities than a simple home handyman can provide.

7. Make Space for Workers

Often, workers must shift spaces during a renovation. Keep IT and power needs in mind for temporary accommodation. Use vacant areas, temporary partitions and protection, and construction phasing to minimise production disturbances.

If you have temporary quarters available, your workers will have minimum downtime. If expansion is part of your renovation plan, build out the new space, then temporarily shift staff to that space while renovating the existing space is an option. If no space is available, your construction schedule must adjust.

  • Pre-plan
  • Temporary space
  • One floor at a time

Sometimes it will be necessary to conduct multiple "micro-phases". This type of project plan should be taken into account during the design phase. If you minimize the expensive and time-consuming above the ceiling work, this portion of your renovation can be easy.

Whenever possible, it's most efficient and cost-effective to renovate complete floors at one time. Pre-planning minimises disruption and the number of moves to which your workers must adjust. Whenever possible, move furniture, IT and people as little as possible.

8. Keep Multiple Stakeholders In the Loop, Not In Charge

Communicate with your team, but don't let them interfere with the decision making process or timeline once construction has begun.

  • Educate and inform
  • Take input in the design phase
  • Only one project manager

The team of people who need to be involved with a renovation is staggering. Every single person has needs and priorities. Consider the design team, general contractor, landlord, management and office staff. Create a detailed communication plan to keep everyone updated.

Input on design and work features should be discussed during the planning phase and not during construction. Limit access and authority to speak with your contractor and designer to a designated representative. (See: scope creep)

Share the vision and timeline of the renovation plan with employees and agree on the proposed work schedule. Welcome your staff for periodic tours and updates.

9. Select a Construction Partner with Experience

A realistic project plan requires buy-in from your design team, construction team, and your employees. An experienced contractor can anticipate things before they happen.

  • Budget high
  • Set an appropriate timeline
  • Know about safety

Create a contingency of at least 10 percent for unforeseen expenses. Discovering that ductwork must be relocated to accommodate a new office partition can raise your expenses quickly.

Try to schedule your renovation to a slow season. Consider:

  • Seasonal business fluctuations
  • Availability of contractors
  • Major project timelines

Your office workers will be in a construction area. Make sure your contractor knows about safe work practices, partitions, and barriers. Heat, dust, noise, and smells are part of the process but must be limited as best as possible.

10. Office Renovation Success

The final step of any office renovation is introducing the results. Productivity gains, morale boosts and overall satisfaction increases are your rewards. However, you can't just create a space, add people and call it a day.

At the end of the construction phase, conduct walkthroughs and training to allow people to maximise features immediately. Point out the results of employee input during the planning phase. Offer training on new technology.

Be sure to acknowledge and appreciate your stakeholders for their input during the design phase. After all, where would the project be without them?

When it comes to your workspace renovation, find a partner who understands cost control, planning, and scheduling. There are no excuses when it comes to keeping a business running. Contact us today for a consultation.