Finding a new office space was my first big project when I joined EUX. ‘How hard can it be?’, ‘There must be so much choice in Bournemouth’, ‘I hope it’s near the beach’…
As the months rolled on I had seen so many offices that they all merged into one and I was beginning to feel all hope was lost. I even started scouring planning applications with the council to catch something on the horizon. That’s not to say that we didn’t find some interesting spaces that ticked many boxes. It was just, well, deep inside I knew we would find something closer to perfect.
Then, from an unexpected source, I was reliably informed about an office that had only just been put up for let. Looking on Google maps, I wasn’t sure. I thought it was going to be a bit small but, after so many viewings, it was worth a visit. And Wow. To be honest, the checklist could have been thrown away, this was it.
It felt perfect the moment I walked in. It was as if it had been designed knowing what Experience UX needed in an office. Needless to say, everyone felt exactly the same as me so, after a good night’s sleep (always good to sleep on any big decision), I secured our new home.
My search that began November 2018 took me to visit 23 offices in person, totalling nearly 40 visits, and finally ended in May 2019. I learnt a lot through the process, from finding the office to setting it up, to living in it for a year. So here, I share my lessons:
Searching, and reviewing
- Know the brief. It was essential for me to understand the differences and similarities of my stakeholders, who had different dynamics and personalities – I ended up using a Venn diagram to highlight the overlap, which then became the key criteria.
- Sleep on it: Don’t make any big decisions without sleeping on them. We happened to see an office that we were 95% there on making an offer on but decided to sleep on it. The next stay I was less sure and we decided to keep looking, it was a great decision and it turned out the estate agent had been over-promising a little.
- See everything: By seeing so many places I was able to get a good idea about the market (pricing, how quickly it was moving, and locations) and establish what we were willing to compromise on. Seeing so many places that really weren’t right made choosing the right office a quick and confident decision.
- Keep a Game Face: The expectant looks from the team, as I walked back into the office after a viewing, became difficult. Every, “it wasn’t quite right”, felt like we were forever far from our goal. And when I viewed somewhere quite good, I didn’t want to raise false hopes.
- Try not to get disheartened: This was emotional. What looks great on paper, wasn’t in person. The good ones usually had a fairly big compromise. I had set myself a target date (totally self-imposed) and to see that target approaching was disheartening. I stopped letting it be the biggest part of my day and reduced my searches to once a day to ensure it wasn’t all-encompassing.
Planning the move and pulling it together
- Plan and then plan again: I am an excel fanatic as it is and I had lists coming out of my ears. To do lists, to buy lists, to book in lists. Save them online and offline, have them as a quick link for the middle of the night thoughts.
- Hold on the paint: We decided not to go full steam ahead with wall paint, we decided to live with the office for a while and get a feel for what might work. After a year we are beginning to talk about paint as we now know where that extra boost of colour is needed.
- Do a real-life floor plan: Using masking tape to map out our furniture before I bought it helped me understand sizing and the best layouts. This was a risk as it meant I ordered our furniture later than I’d planned but it proved one of the best decisions I made.
- Don’t be afraid to bring contractors in again and again: I am sure this may not be popular with the contractors, but I didn’t sign off on any work until I was 100% clear on how it would work and look.
- Reduce disruption, but don’t forget you need help: At the time of the move we had a fair amount of project work going on so, to make the move as easy as possible, I wrote out a full plan and ensured the team had a copy. On the day of the move everyone worked from home. This was a mistake, at least for me. It ended up being just me for the majority of the day.
Living in and the future
- Build a good relationship with your landlord: We definitely got lucky with a great landlord and so building a trusted relationship with him has been great. With the few problems we had (good old Winter 2019 storms) he has been quick to help and gone the extra mile every time. We are very grateful.
- Fire Alarm and Alarms Test and learn them … a lot: Our fire alarm tests didn’t start well and some ended up lasting longer than planned. The same goes for the security alarm. The last thing anyone wants is to be the last in the office and accidentally set the alarm off, with no idea how to turn it off. So learn, educate, and keep the process safe amongst a few of you. We now have key contacts to call if the main alarm goes off so we can quickly deal with it.
- Living plants are fun, until lock down: This one speaks for itself, we wanted a lot of green in our office and luckily stopped ourselves getting a lot of live plants. I mixed real and fake. The real plants take a bit of looking after which so I did have to run a rescue mission during lock down.
- Pub Friday becomes a harder choice: We love pub Friday but it used to be an easy choice due to limited options, now being in town we have too many options. So my lesson is make a plan to find your ‘local’. Actually, just keep trying them all.
- Remember the benefits of the office and enjoy them: Bournemouth beach is 5 minutes away from our new office but, as a group, we neglect to visit as much as we should. It was a big bonus of the office for us so I’m going to make sure we all remember what we have.
We hope to see you at Experience UX, 4 Upper Hinton Road, Bournemouth soon!