Space planning; why is it fundamentally important to space plan an office in advance of signing a lease?

By Crispin Maby

Don’t take a chance. Signing up to a 5 year lease on an office suite and then finding that you can’t make the layout work the way you ideally want it to, or worse still, you simply can’t fit everyone in without making some serious compromises can have a major impact on your business for a number of years.

The landlord or letting agent is only interested in getting you to commit to a long term lease at the highest possible rental rate and service charge. It’s neither their responsibility nor is it in their interests to tell you about any negative aspects of their office building and certainly they cannot be expected to make sure the space is suitable for your needs. That’s your job, and if you get it wrong, they’re not going to be sympathetic and let you off the long term commitment you’ve just signed up to.

Your own commercial property (acquisition) agent, should you choose to appoint one to assist in your office search, should be more accommodating – after all they are working for you and you are paying them – however, they usually work on a ‘finders-fee’ which they only get if and when you’ve entered into a lease agreement. Furthermore their fee is usually based on a percentage of the annual rental, so we must question whether they really have your full interests at heart, or whether their concerns are more focussed on their own pockets. Perhaps I’m being very unfair on the commercial agents – there are a lot of very good ones out there and I know a few of them – but their job is to help you find a property of the size and specification that you decide you want. You need to tell them what you want and they will find it, but don’t expect them to spend time working out how you’re going to make best use of the space, or whether you can fit everything in. At best, they might throw a few rule-of-thumb figures at you – the most typical being 100 square feet per person – but every business is different and uses the office space in different ways, so one size (or rule) certainly doesn’t fit all. Also, the usable space of two offices of identical floor size (square footage) are likely to be completely different, so any general sizing rules should be used with caution. Take a guess and you may well find that you’re either committing to and paying for far too much space, or perhaps worse, not having enough space. Either one can have a serious financial impact on your business.

Space planning will confirm whether an office is too big, too small or just the right size and shape. But this needs to be done as soon as you find what you consider to be a potentially suitable office and most definitely not further down the line when it’s in the hands of the solicitors, or when the lease has been completed.  If it comes to light that the office is unsuitable, then you will hopefully have time to find another one that is.  There are plenty of companies and individuals who can offer you a space planning and measured building survey, some of whom might do it for free and others charge, but either way it is worth getting them in to assist you in making the right choice.


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