10/08/2015

By Kevin Scott-Cowell is CEO at 8x8 Solutions


British small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) have now finally recovered from the 2008 recession, according to a recent report. What’s even more encouraging for the UK economy is that there are 400,000 more private sector jobs compared to pre-recession levels. To accommodate these new starters, many businesses are now finding that they’ll need to move offices to accommodate these new employees.

In fact, the latest SME Business Barometer report by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills reveals nearly a quarter (23%) of SMEs said they expect to employ more staff than they do currently. Overcrowded offices increase distractions from co-workers and ultimately reduced overall productivity, so moving premises will be high on the agenda for many businesses.

The scale of SMEs who are planning on moving is huge. In fact, almost one in ten (9%) of SMEs said they plan to invest in moving offices in the next year. This means half a million (464,724) businesses will relocate in the next year.

Relocating is a logistical nightmare, with customers to keep happy, staff to keep informed, and premises to move. But it’s not just complicated — it can also have a huge impact on revenues. On average, more than £15,000 per business is lost in staff downtime during a move. Nationally, this reaches a staggering £7 billion. This is a cost that SMEs can’t afford to burden themselves with. These additional costs, when businesses are attempting to grow could be holding back the British ‘Mittelstand’ from expanding even more, and stifling economic opportunity for all.

In addition to downtime, businesses on the move can encounter many issues that can have a real impact on their bottom line. These range from loss of or broken office furniture, difficulties in staff relocating or even customers being unable to contact the new office. Embracing technology won’t stop furniture from breaking, but businesses can mitigate the issues of staff relocation and keeping customers connected.

Planning and executing an office relocation will always involve an investment of time. With the high value of a CEO or business owner's time, they need to make sure this time is efficiently spent. It is important to delegate tasks where possible. Micromanaging a company move will make the entire process even more difficult. Trusting the existing employees will not only create positive moral but keep staff in the loop.

A key concern for businesses will be to ensure that whilst customers are made aware of the relocation, their level of service is not compromised in any way and client relationships are not seriously damaged. The business also needs to ensure that prospective customers can also make contact during the upheaval, protecting valuable potential leads. Using internet connected (VoIP) phones allows clients to reach employees even if they are working from home during the relocation, or in fact, anywhere they have an internet connection. Additionally, businesses can keep the same number, so there are no missed calls or confused customers.

Businesses that have decided to move office are in a perfect position to review the incumbent computer systems. Depending on when the business last moved, the options available might be vastly different. In the last ten years, there have been phenomenal leaps forward in technology; and an office move is the perfect opportunity to future proof an organisation. From desktops to phones, business leaders can utilise cloud technology to streamline their business. The Cebr recently revealed that businesses that have embraced cloud computing are actually better prepared at dealing with disruptions to their business, such as extreme weather, like snow, wind and rain, not to mention the ever present threat of rail strikes.

Using cloud technology, businesses can ensure that staff downtime is kept to a minimum. Employees simply plug in wherever there is Wi-Fi and work remotely. For fast growing businesses, it is important to invest in scalable solutions that will grow with them. Investing in new and resource hungry IT systems like conventional PBX units can prove costly to manage, upgrade and replace. Savvy business leaders planning on multiple offices will invest in cloud based systems. Their offices and people can be easily connected, business continuity maintained and company cultures kept intact.

Although an office relocation can be a stressful period for any company, the move can be turned into a great advantage. Business leaders that use moving as an opportunity to reassess their business operations and invest in the future, will find it can actually be a rewarding and positive process.

Five Top Tips When Relocating Your Office

1. Take time to plan your move thoroughly.
2. Use your time wisely and delegate tasks to your employees.
3. Ensure that customers can reach employees throughout the move.
4. Invest in technology that can grow as your company develops.
5. Don't be afraid to switch systems or alter the status quo to benefit the company.