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Every office refurbishment project is unique and can range from simply refreshing your current office to refurbishing a newly acquired space. It could even be a complete fit-out of a brand-new building. All can vary in scope and cost, but no matter what kind of project you are undertaking, it is essential to get it right, and we know that this can seem daunting.

Fear not; our step-by-step guide will give you all the tools you need to deliver a successful office fit-out. We’ve even provided a glossary to help you understand all those acronyms and jargon!

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So first off, why? You need to understand why you need to undertake this refurbishment. If you can’t answer this, then you might need to go back to the business for some clarity, but it could be:

a. Expansion

You now need to fit more people into the space. You might have acquired another business or simply expanding quickly, and you need to find a way to accommodate these new team members!

b. Reduction

Equally, your space is too big now that colleagues are working from home more. It would help if you found a way to give some of the areas back to the landlord and reduce overheads.

c. End of tenancy

You may be at the end of your lease and need to return the building to its original state (you might hear the words ‘dilapidations’ or ‘de-laps’).

d. Re-purpose

With more people working from home regularly, you might need to change your traditional office space to make it more of a destination. Flexible working solutions, known as hybrid working, could be the solution to encouraging your colleagues into the office.

e. Tiredness

We all feel this way at times! The breakout area has seen better days and requires attention. We love nothing more than taking a break, so giving your team somewhere more in keeping with your culture could be just the boost you and your office need.

f. Health and Safety and Compliance

Tired offices can sometimes be full of risk. You may consider upgrading your office to ensure it meets all current legislation.

g. Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Does your office cost more money than it should, or do you have ambitions to become more sustainable? Have you considered re-using parts of the existing space and recycling anything you no longer need? It is also essential to work with contractors and suppliers who are working to sustainable standards.

h. Inclusivity and well-being

Your office space can better reflect your company to its potential employees and clients. This could be the perfect time to think about what you can do to promote better well-being and changes you can make to the space to ensure it will work for all.

These are just some of the reasons you may need to refurbish, and hey, it could be most of them! Whichever fit-out partner you choose, make sure they ask the right questions and get to the bottom of your needs.


Who will be affected and who needs to be involved? Depending on the size and location of your office, you are likely to need to bring a few of the team along with you on the journey:

a. Employees
Think about setting up a forum or a focus group. To get the refurbishment right, you need to understand what works and more importantly, what doesn’t work right now for you and your colleagues. Trying to factor in their needs at this stage will ensure you don’t waste time or money on designs that aren’t functional or practical. Anonymous surveys are a great way to hear what your staff think about their current work environment and their ideas for a new workspace.

b. Stakeholders
Stakeholders (others within the organisation who can affect or be affected by change). These could be the people you’re sitting next to, or someone sitting in an office on the other side of the world. Wherever they are, reach out as early as possible to ensure they are aware you may need them at some point! This could be for collaborating on a design or signing off the purchase. Whoever they are, take them on the journey with you.

c. Supply Partners
If you oversee a refurbishment on the other side of the world, be sure to use a partner that can make that process as easy as possible. Your fit-out partner may be able to complete the design for you locally and then tender the works in another country. Choose an office fit-out company that you can trust. Expertise and experience are valuable, but you also need a partner that will listen to your needs, offer advice where needed, but ultimately deliver a space that you are happy with, on time and on budget. 

Consider if you want a complete turnkey service, can they provide:

  • Surveying
  • Planning and landlord negotiations
  • Space planning
  • Interior Design and 3D Visualisation
  • Furniture selection, procurement, and installation
  • Mechanical and electrical design and installation
  • Construction/Fit Out works
  • Health and safety
  • A sustainable project
  • Move management

The cost of a refurbishment could be one of those most significant single costs a company faces. It is very important to set a realistic budget and make sure that it is signed off.

Things to include when determining your budget for the project:

  • Changes to occupancy costs – maintenance, energy bills, License to Alter Planning permission/building regulation fees, if applicable
  • Insurance
  • Fire or environmental assessments
  • The design and fit-out cost
  • Furniture costs, including delivery and installation in some cases
  • IT and Telecoms
  • M&E – you may decide to update the whole mechanical or electrical systems, but even if you don’t sometimes lights will have to move to accommodate new walls and the same with heating and cooling equipment.
  • Waste – from just de-cluttering to a full strip out of flooring, walls, ceilings; disposal of all materials needs to be considered and recycling should be done wherever possible.
  • Security
  • Dilapidation costs
  • Energy performance
  • Contingency – it is always good to have a contingency in place
  • Moving costs (this can even be internal)
  • Audio visual requirements


Remember that you may be able to claim tax breaks, always check out the HMRC website to see where you can save some money!


A refurbishment project has the potential to be very disruptive to your business, some disruption is inevitable but there are some considerations that can be made to minimise this:

  • It is worth discussing whether some works can be undertaken outside of office hours (but bear in mind that this will come at a cost).
  • You could phase the project so that business can carry on as normal, but it is worth considering how disruptive it would be to staff in terms of noise, security, dust etc.
  • Things like electrics, HVAC and data may have to be done out of hours so it’s worth discussing that before the programme is drawn up.

When it comes to drawing up the programme preparation is key to avoid surprises and delays on site. Some important things that might catch you out:

  • Ensure that surveys for plumbing, HVAC, power & data have been undertaken so the scope of works needed can be programmed accurately.
  • Strip out and removal of materials as well as removal and possible storage of furniture and equipment.
  • Lead times for materials and furniture, sometimes these can be surprisingly long!
  • Custom elements – bespoke joinery, branding elements, signage. Anything that is bespoke to your project could come with a longer lead time.
  • IT – once the office is set up there is still a lot of work needed to get telecoms and data up and running.
  • Snagging – although this will hopefully be minimal it is worth programming in time at the end of the project for any snagging required before sign-off and occupancy.

Once the programme has been agreed make sure that everyone involved has access to it.


This is where you and your chosen design team can get creative. It can be daunting when faced with a blank canvas but there are some practical questions to answer that will help form the base of a really good design brief:

  • How many people will be occupying the space? You don’t want to be doing this again in a couple of years so try to plan for expansion as well if you think you need it. A good design should offer flexibility, but make sure the team are aware of any plans for future growth.
  •  How many fixed workstations do you need? With hybrid working becoming the norm many businesses are opting for more hot desking areas rather than fixed desks.
  • How should the teams be organised? Think about which teams work closely together.
  • What sort of spaces/rooms do you need?
    – Reception
    – Meeting rooms
    – Collaboration spaces
    – Offices
    – Training spaces
    – Break out areas
    – Kitchens/ tea points
    – Comms room(s)
    – Copy/printer areas
    – Recycling areas
    – Mailroom(s)
    – Toilets/showers
    – Storage – including secured storage
    – Other – prayer room, mother’s room

Having an open plan office is great and promotes a more sociable and communicative atmosphere, but consideration needs to be paid to the way in which different teams work:

  • Noise and privacy:
    – Are there teams who are frequently on calls, i.e. Sales, Customer Service?
    – Are there teams that need peace and quiet for focused tasks?
    – Are there teams where privacy is absolutely essential, i.e. HR, Accounts?
  • Facilities:
    – Who would benefit from being close to the printers/copiers?
    – Do accounts/HR need separate printing and copying equipment for confidential documents?

This will all help with the initial space planning and inform the best layout for everyone in the office.

HVAC and Lighting

Depending on the scope of works, you may require the space to be stripped back completely. This is an ideal opportunity to assess the lighting, electrics, and HVAC systems. Remember that improving your lighting and HVAC can contribute towards an environmental rating such as BREEAM (as well as saving you money in the long term and creating a space with well-being and sustainability in mind)!

  • Make the most of natural light. But consider solar gain and glare.
  • Consider installing a lighting system with some sort of control system. This can allow you to zone the lighting and have presence/ absence detection as well as daylight linking.
  • Simply switching out existing inefficient lighting to LED can be a quick and cost-effective way of improving efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Meeting wellbeing criteria benefits businesses and employees, we have a blog on office lighting and how it can affect health, well-being, productivity, energy efficiency and running costs. You can read it here
  • If possible, consider an EMS to make your office more energy efficient by controlling when and where heating, cooling and ventilation is used.
  • Check with the landlord about the current EPC rating, if you are improving this you could re-negotiate on your lease.

Look and Feel

  • What atmosphere do you want to create and what company culture do you want to promote?
  • Do you want your brand colours reflected in the design? Get the marketing team involved to ensure that the design meets any brand guidelines.
  • Do you have images of existing office spaces that you like? Inspiration pictures and mood boards are a great way of communicating your ideas and vision.
  • Will you be hosting clients in the office, if so, what do you want to communicate to them about your brand and identity?

Health and Wellbeing

  • Do you want to provide shower facilities so people can walk/run/bike to work?
  • Do you want to provide sit-stand desks?
  • Do you want to encourage people to get away from their desks by including collaboration spaces, break-out areas, dining areas, soft seating?
  • Do you want to incorporate biophilia into the design? This is something we are passionate about, and you can find out the benefits of this by reading our biophilic design blog here


  • It is important to understand how the noise travels around your space. If people are concentrating on focus work whilst others are constantly talking on the phone, neither party may be performing at their best so it’s worth considering.
  • Do you want to provide phone booths or meeting pods?
  • Do any of the meeting spaces need acoustic partitioning or glazing – this will increase costs.
  • In open plan areas how will you dampen noise? There are loads of options: acoustic wall panelling, acoustic light fixtures, baffles, biophilia…
  • What is the construction of the floor and ceilings? Noise can travel between spaces through suspended ceilings or raise
  • access floors. Your chosen fit-out partner will be able to advise on possible solutions.

Regulations and Accessibility

  • Ensure that your designs are compliant with all regulations, in particular: The DDA, The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
  • Think about who may be using or visiting the space, can they access and navigate it with ease?


  • Can you re-use any elements of the buildings such as partition walls, doors, glazing? Too often a space will be completely stripped out before work begins, but utilising existing elements will save time, energy, and money.
  • Can the design incorporate the existing M&E layout? Moving air-handling units can be expensive so it’s worth planning spaces around these.
  • Specify furniture, fixings, fittings, and flooring with a high content of recycled materials.
  • Use paints and adhesives that have a lower environmental impact wherever possible (low VOCs).
  • Only use FSC3 certified timber.


  • Before specifying any furniture, do you have any existing furniture that can be used? Some furniture can be re-upholstered or up cycled to look as good as new.
  • Prioritise the health and wellbeing of your staff over the look of the furniture. Not all office chairs were created equal, they should come with a recommendation of hours of usage. Look out for certifications and ensure that tests were carried out to adequate standards.
  • Does the furniture come with guarantees and warranties? Think about the cost of furniture over its lifetime not just the upfront cost, often the cheapest option can end up costing you more in the long run.
  • Does the manufacturer offer delivery and installation? Remember lead times and take this into consideration when specifying products.
  • Do you have enough storage? If people are hot-desking, do you need to provide lockers for secure storage? How much document storage will individuals and teams need? Do you want everyone hanging their coats on the back of their brand new office chairs?


  • Assess whether your existing IT and telephone systems are effective or if they need upgrading – now is the time to do it!
  • How many power points and data points does each workstation need?
  • Think about cable management and plan where floor boxes will need to be, avoid extension leads and trailing cables at all costs!
  • Think about where the comms room and cabinets will be, get the IT department involved to make sure it works for them.
  • Think about the location of printers, scanners, screens, projectors, anything that needs power! Wherever possible sockets and wires should be hidden so it is worth thinking about these things from the outset so it can be built into the design.
  • Often the AV is an after-thought in projects but if you want video conferencing capabilities in meeting rooms, or room booking systems in place then this should be included in the initial design. These things are extremely difficult to retro fit.
  • Even if you don’t think you can afford all the AV equipment that you would love to have, consider wiring in for them anyway and then you can always purchase and install the equipment later.

Once work begins on site, your project manager should have everything under control, but make sure they keep you up to date with every stage of the fit out.

You should be involved in weekly site meetings and sign-off procedures should be in place. Take lots of photos and don’t be afraid to ask questions or raise any concerns that you might have, snagging along the way is much easier then leaving it all to the end.

Make sure to keep everyone updated with progress and organise a completion party! Your fit out partner may ask for professional photographs of the space to be taken and you can use these too, to showcase your wonderful new office space.


At the end of your project, your fit out partner should supply you with a 0&M (Operations and maintenance) manual. This will give you a list of the products used, the warranties they hold as well as how to care and clean for everything. You should also be issued with any electrical and gas safety certificates (if works have been done with these elements).

Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy the space and take a well-earned rest!

When undertaking an office fit-out or refurbishment there are simple steps that can be taken to ensure that the project is safe for everyone involved. It will vary depending on the size of the project and the scope of works to be carried out, but it should never be overlooked. It can seem overwhelming to meet all the regulations and criteria but we are here to break it down for you so that you can keep everyone safe during the project.

What is SSoW?

SSoW might have popped up whilst browsing how to be health and safety compliant. It means a safe system of work. People, substances, and equipment need to be considered when developing a SSow. It’s a formal procedure based on an examination of work to identify any hazards. It defines safe methods of working which eliminates those identified hazards or minimises the risks associated with them. In very simple terms, it explains how to do all of the jobs in a safe way.

In the UK these should be set out in a formal framework for workers to follow. Typically, these would be laid out in a written document, but they can be more informal via verbal instructions and guidelines.

What protective equipment is required?

All construction sites must have adequate protective equipment to reduce the risk of injury to both workers. This should include: 

  • Hard hats – to protect from falling objects or debris, these should be always worn by anyone on site, always
  • High-vis vests – so that workers can be always seen
  • Construction cones – to identify any hazards
  • Signage – some examples: wet floor signage, no entry
  • Eye protection – protects from dust, debris, fumes
  • Foot protection – to prevent injury from dropped objects or hazardous items on the floor 
  • Ear protection – to protect during noisy tasks 

Often workers will have the relevant equipment, but you must keep in mind that all visitors to the site should be wearing the relevant safety equipment. So, the client, consultants or any unexpected visitors should be provided with the necessary equipment or come to the site prepared.

Do I need to provide first aid?

Although everyone hopes that a project is completed without injuries on site, measures need to be in place in case of an injury or medical emergency.

  • There should be an up-to-date first aid kit on site.
  • There should always be someone on site who is first aid trained.
  • An eye wash station should be provided in case of any emergency.
  • An accident book should be kept on site and filled in, in the case of an emergency.

How do I ensure safe use of equipment?

  • Only those qualified to do so should be using any kind of machinery or equipment.
  • The equipment used on site should be to a high safety standard. Inspections should be carried out regularly to ensure they are in good working order.
  • Any worker should have some sort of proof that they can work on a construction site. This could be a CSCS card which proves that the individual has the appropriate training and qualification for the job they are doing.

Do I need to conduct safety reviews?

  • Safety reviews of a site should be carried out throughout the project.
  • One of the best ways to ensure the safety of a project is to appoint a safety focused Project Manager – they will ensure that a site is safe and secure.
  • Any breech of the points listed here should be recorded and tracked. If someone on site is putting themselves and others at risk of injury by not complying, then they can be asked to leave site.

Are there any other health and safety requirements?

  • A fire assembly point(s) needs to be identified and signage should be provided so anyone on site can make their way to a safe place from anywhere within the building.
  • A log should be kept of all visitors and workers coming to the site, everyone needs to sign in and sign out to ensure that people can be accounted for should an emergency arise.
  • The site should be kept clean and tidy, it is the simplest yet most effective way to avoid accidents.
  • Skips or other refuse points should be provided to ensure that material can be quickly and safely removed from the site.
  • If any hazardous materials need disposing of, adequate waste management should be provided to remove these in a safe way.

When looking to appoint an office fit-out team, things like health & safety can sometimes be forgotten. It’s worth partnering with someone that you can trust to take responsibility for the health and safety of the site and all of those involved with delivering the project. Ensure that they have the necessary liability insurance and don’t be afraid to ask about their SSoW procedures even in initial meetings.