4 ways to slay the office design game for retention, productivity & wellbeing

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Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? Wrong, we’re all guilty of it. Brain studies have shown that when you see an attractive product (for us, it’s triple glazed chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles), it triggers the part of the brain that governs hand movement. What does this tell us? We reach out to touch things that we find beautiful.

I doughnut regret anything. 

What has this got to do with the commercial property sector?

In 2018, organisations should be investing in creating workspaces that are aesthetically pleasing for their employees. Because, employee well-being comes down to productivity, performance and job satisfaction. A slip in well-being can have detrimental effects on a business. One of the largest contributors of wellbeing is the physical space in which we work. So what makes an office space a solid ten? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; what might be attractive to someone may not be to another (mustard yellow walls were never my thing, but each to their own). However, there are four key design principles you can follow to lift your office performance:

Incorporate open spaces in your floor plan

Eighties-style cubicle farms aren’t trending – they’re about as cool as frosted tips or crocs with socks. According to The Predictive Index, sitting for eight hours a day, staring into a monitor with fabric walls as your only company, encourages poor engagement. Over time, it may lead to anxiety and isolation… much like our friend here.

Nobody puts Bobby in the corner.

It’s all about the open flow, maaaaan. Not only are open space offices more attractive and light-filled, but they encourage workplace unity. When office floor plans are open, employees feel part of what’s going on around them, and they can better build relationships with their co-workers through collaboration. According to the team at Volaris, “in order for businesses to grow, we need to improve collaboration; success lies in the flow of ideas between co-workers and departments”.

Consider creative break-out areas

Employees approach their work differently, so consider offering diverse workspaces. Some of the world’s biggest companies have thought about this when designing fit-outs. Take enterprise application software company SAP for example, which offers a variety of spaces including open plan desk arrangements, private spaces, an innovation hub, a co-working cafe, conference rooms and meetings rooms. (They’re just missing the Bikram yoga studio, but perhaps I’m asking for too much).

And, millennials are some of the most discerning when it comes to their workplace. Commercial Real Estate explains, when it comes to office design, the words ‘corporate’, ‘dull’ and ‘boring’ are not in their design vocabulary. There’s an expectation that “future workplaces should be about flexibility, slides, craft beer, ping pong tables, and even go-karts in offices”.

So we’re not expecting you to go and rip out your printing room and replace it with a karaoke bar with a smoke machine, but think about how your current office space might be impacting your employees.

Breathe in the good stuff, exhale the bulldust.

Add visual stimulus

No one brings boring Barry to the party – don’t be afraid to show your company’s personality through your office space. Visual stimulus can impact employee behaviours, moods and attitudes and that colour can even affect things like as perceived room temperature and ambience. Similar scientific studies have shown that colour can positively impact productivity in the workplace.

When to comes to colour picking… just not beige. No one is friends with beige, okay?

Even artwork can have a profound effect on the mood of employees. A survey completed by the Business Committee for the Arts and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors drew responses from employees working in multiple industries, ranging from food distributors to law firms. The results found that art in the workplace help address key challenges in business, such as reducing stress (78% of participants agreed), increasing creativity (64% of participants agreed) and encouraging expression of opinions (77% of participants agreed).

Go green

In recent years, there’s been considerable research into the benefits of plants in the workplace. A 2017 Harvard University paper, found that the cognitive performance of employees that worked in a green office space was double that of those working in conventional environments. *Puts glasses on* This phenomenon is called ‘biophilia’ and illustrates the idea that plants have a profound impact on humans and can generate positive physiological responses including lowering your heart rate and increasing brain activity.

Do you need some encourage-mint?

Whilst you’ve probably got a couple of plants around the office (do they need watering?), there are some interesting ways that you can increase their effectiveness. If you already have an open plan office, troughs can be used as walls to separate meeting and breakout areas. Or, incorporate a green-wall or vertical garden to make a bold design statement. If you’re limited with space, try quirky alternatives to standard vases and pots.

Ready to design your office for better ROI?

There’s no question that a well designed office space is a smart return on investment. But, don’t be afraid to think outside the box to lift the visual appeal of your office space. Consider your business and its values and bring this to life visually. But, most importantly, think of your employees – what’s going to bring the best out of them?

If you’re thinking of a change, reach out and have a chat with us. Redesigning and designing attractive fit outs is what we do best. Get in touch.

 

5 commercial lease negotiating tips that The Godfather would be proud of

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You thought friands were getting expensive – which is ironic considering they start with ‘free’ – but Sydney’s real estate market is worse still (and not nearly as sweet). Housing costs are rising quicker than the Uber shares, yet sold signs are popping up everywhere – marking sales that have gone 20% or more over the price guide.

So, do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s start with the bad first (it hurts a little less). Unfortunately, this is happening in the commercial sector too. With steady business growth and increasing employment, there’s now high demand and low supply when it comes to commercial office spaces. In Sydney today, the average rental cost is close to $1,100 – per square metre per month. Ouch.

So why do we feel like we’ve copped a squeezed lemon to the eye? According to Commercial Real Estate, Sydney CBD’s office market outperformed well over the first quarter of this year. Additionally, 143,000 square metres of commercial office space was requested by prospective renters between January and March, a jump of 37 percent in comparison to 2017. There’s also been a number of stock withdrawals, major construction projects falling through or being postponed in and around the CBD.

All of this commercial activity has had a knock-on effect on rental yields. We hate to break it to you but, for many commercial tenants, there’s no rental relief in the coming months. Commercial Real Estate predicts this respite won’t be felt until 2019-20, “when major projects like 60 Martin Place and Wynyard Place are completed and provide more supply.”

In Sydney rent is a growin’ and that rent ain’t a slowin’. Image courtesy of Commercial Real Estate.

 

Now that we’ve got the worst part over with, we did promise you some good news. If you’re a new business looking for a commercial office or perhaps you’re ready to relocate to somewhere bigger, all is not lost. You just have to be prepared to switch up your strategy. As Mike Tyson famously said, “everybody has a game plan until they get punched in the face.” In a dynamic and competitive market, be prepared to move quickly and efficiently. This all comes down to the art of negotiation and fancy footwork.

Picture this… you’ve found your perfect office space. You’re already visualising how you’re going to put your expensive feng shui Groupon training to use: You know exactly where you’re going to run your brainstorming sessions, where the Nespresso machine is going, and where you’re going to put the water feature for harmony. But remember, for any business owner, rent is one of your biggest expenses, and you could be locked in for a while. According to BDC’s Major Account manager, Brett Prikker, it’s absolutely imperative to read through a lease thoroughly before signing it. “It’s surprising how many businesses sign a lease without reviewing it,” he says. “They just sign whatever they are given by their landlord, but leases are typically open to negotiation.”

Most of us will be familiar with negotiating: shouting single-digit figures while pointing at a “Gucci” cap in a crowded Balinese marketplace where there’s wafts of cabbage. But, effective lease negotiation plays out a little differently. For you, it means avoiding hidden costs and nasty surprises, having clarity around terms, and requesting inclusions that will benefit your business in the long run. So, if you’re ready to play ball, then read on. We’ve put together our top five (totally legal) negotiating tips that Vito Corleone would be impressed with:

Do some recon on the building

Okay, so you’ve found the one, but first you need to channel your inner Horatio from CSI – indoor sunglasses and all. Before even starting any negotiations, spend some time researching the crime scene.. sorry we mean building. It’s during this sleuthing that you might unveil invaluable information that will help you when it comes down to crunch time. Take a look at the building tenants and prospective neighbours. Do their services align with your business values? Are any of the surrounding businesses potential competition? The last thing you want is to sign a two-year lease to then find out that your neighbour offers the same services as you.

Reaching out to current tenants can give you an idea of the building itself: for example, when was the last upgrade? What’s the property management like? Are the facilities up-to-scratch? How are common areas used between tenants? (Remember, there’s always that one person who leaves food scraps in the sink.) If you’re not planning to utilise any common areas, then you could negotiate this out of your lease.

Know the market, know your numbers

One of the most important aspects of negotiating a commercial lease is agreeing on the final figure you’ll be paying regularly. So do your homework, and get to know the local market. Spend some time analysing the commercial office rent prices in the area, so when it comes to negotiating the lease, you have a clear expectation of what you should be paying for your space. If it’s obvious that the agent or landlord is asking for too much, you can be a little bit smug, because you’ve got industry figures to justify your request for a lower number ready in your back pocket. Whether you like it or not, landlords love increasing rent (and counting money in their spare time) – so knowing these numbers will give you a clear idea of what sort of rental increases to expect over the next few years. It’s here you can ask yourself, is this affordable?

Seek out those hidden costs

Go through the lease terms. Then, do it again. It’s extremely important to be aware of any hidden costs woven into the lease document, and these add-ons can vary from office building to office building. Just because maintenance was covered in the last space you rented, doesn’t mean this is the case is your new one. These costs might cover utilities, upkeep of common areas or car spaces. Once you’re aware of these costs, whip out your calculator and go Einstein on your numbers. Use a matrix, mind map, formulas or even an abacus to calculate if you can afford the rent as well as any additional fees. It’s here you can negotiate your own terms. For example, you might request the rent to increase slightly in favour for the landlord to cover all of those extra costs.

Consider the length of the lease

So everything is looking a-okay so far and you’re ready to proceed with the paperwork. Now you need to think about how long you will require your lease for. Is this your first time renting? As Small Biz Trends suggest, given the fragility of a starting a business, you might not want to get tied into a really long-term commitment. Always have a backup plan if everything doesn’t quite work out. On the other hand, if you’re already established, then consider the fact that you might outgrow your office. For example, if you end up hiring more team members down the track, you might need extra desks or offices. There’s nothing worse than having an office space with the ambience of a fried chicken takeaway joint on a Friday night.

Request your own clauses

It might surprise you have the right to modify your lease. Treat your lease as you would a Create Your Taste burger at Maccas. You might not be the onion type, but my goodness you’ll order the double cheese. Much like the extra bacon, pick and choose clauses that are favourable to you and your business. Whilst the space might be almost perfect, there might be some improvements needing to be made. Maybe it needs a little bit of an upgrade prior to you moving in? For example, maybe that late 90s, off-yellow carpet has to go. These are the types of things you can negotiate prior to signing the dotted line. We talked about competition earlier – imagine if one of your competitors moved right on in next door? You can negotiate a clause that stops this from happening. Finally, it might be worth exploring the capacity to sublet your space, particularly if your business circumstances change, should you choose to move or close.

Ready to use your bargaining power?

Taking over a new office space is exciting for any business owner. It might mean taking a leap of faith on a startup, a change of business direction, growth, or a chance to impress your conservative parents. No matter your business circumstances, it’s imperative that you plan, review and scrutinise your lease agreement and terms. Understand your legal positioning and negotiate with confidence.

At CR Commercial Property Group (CRCPG), we’re The Godfather* when it comes to everything commercial leasing related. Whether you require assistance sourcing a new office location, designing and implementing a new fitout, or need someone to take care of those crucial commercial property decisions, then our team is here to help (*cigar not included).

Get in touch today.

When is a deal a deal? The secret to getting the best deal on a new lease

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STAY PUT VS NEW LEASE

You have been in a workspace for a number of years. You and your employees are happy with the location and could probably make the drive with your eyes closed.

You know your lease expiration is quickly approaching and you, of course, plan on extending the lease.  Although providing notice on your current lease may seem like an easy decision, you could be costing your company by not pursuing all options and evaluating the market. This point is when the landlord has all the power, and where a tenant advisor can give you the leverage you need.

So, what does a tenant advisor do? And why would you partner with an advisor?

A tenant advisor works for you and your best interests.  Using employee, company, and customer data, an advisor can help you understand your specific needs and assist you with space forecasting for 3, 5 and sometimes 10+ years out. They’ll consider questions such as: how much square-meterage do you really need?  What location makes the most sense for you?  What rate should you pay compared to others in the market?

So, in summary:

  1. Tenant advisors bring all available space to the table. While landlord representatives may be biased to the space that they are representing, tenant reps have no allegiance to landlords. This allows you to see the full market and grasp all market options and prices.
  2. When the tenant advisor compares properties, “apples-to-apples”, they are able to show how “hidden” costs can impact the rental rate per year and over the life of the lease.
  3. As a tenant, you may see a lease document once every 5, 8, or maybe even 10 years. The tenant advisor see’s hundreds of leases and has the advantage of knowing market averages and what articles may need to be included in the lease.  Leases are typically drafted by the landlord, meaning they are written in the landlord’s benefit.
  4. Negotiations are a process with a lot of back and forth. Since the landlord will be taking care of you and your space for the term of the lease, having a tenant advisor mitigate the transaction can ease any harsh feelings that may occur.

These are just some of the examples of how a tenant advisor can help you gain leverage with your upcoming lease. You owe it to yourself and your company to seek professional guidance in any lease transaction, so get in touch with the right help today.

 

Be Part of the Solution for the Growing Gap in Project Management

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The gap is widening between the employers’ need for skilled project management, and the availability of skilled professionals that can fill the roles. Not only is this attributed to the dramatic increase of the number of jobs requiring specific skills, but the retirement rate and the significant demand in project talent.

These are driving the industry towards an increase in independent project managers over the next 5 years, as dedicated practitioners are struggling to hire the right mix of technical and leadership skills, alongside strategic business management.

It can be seen that too many organisations have little centralised control in their offices, especially in the handling of landlords, designers, architects, builders and construction managers.

As it has been found that project managers contribute to national productivity and supports the GDP which links to the standard of living, it is important to find a solution for the growing gap that is occurring.

Analysis concurred that the lack of future practitioners has far exceeded expectations, originally concluding that project related jobs would exceed 52.4 million by the year 2020. By the start of 2017, this was already exceeded, reaching 66 million.

Becoming a project professional can be done through a number of pathways, and now is the time to approach it. It needs to start with organisations, especially with a projected 2.2 million new project oriented roles needing to be filled annually until 2027.

There is an evident need for solutions to be implemented across the board. In our industry tier, it can start with single providers being made responsible for your real estate, project management, design and construction facility management. This will not only heighten the level of commitment by each project, but will allow you to have focussed and direct avenues of business. This can be seen as a single point of accountability, so you can have peace of mind and a trusted partner to manage all these business-critical functions.

It can also lead to future job development, and a more structured business model, directly aiding the industry and assisting the solidity of national growth.  This can be done through strategy and action, ensuring that you have relevant opportunities to the skills and knowledge that you are able to supply.

To put in place a workplace strategy, or to find methods of project management that are best suited to development within construction, get in touch with CR Commercial Property Group.

Fitout Partners and Designers: How to Ensure They’ll Work Together

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Experience is the key to this game and you simply can’t learn that.

 

The starting point for selecting the right fitout partner for you is to make sure that you are comparing apples with apples. A good fitout partner should have all the key disciplines, workplace consultancy, design, IT, project management, construction partners, furniture suppliers as well as post contract support and facilities management.

It is important to consider the nature of your fit-out partner, and whether they will be able to form a positive relationship with your in-house team. You must ensure that they align with your business models and ethics, and understand the importance of delivering high quality work in line with your company name and culture. A fitout partner could be working with your company for weeks or months or years on end, so it is vital to ensure that they are the right fit across the board. Analyse their track record and performance, look for their experience, and study their technical skills and knowledge.

A factor that should be considered amongst this is whether the project itself is suitable for the fitout partner. Evaluate whether the project is too big or too small for them. See if they specialise in high or low value contracts, and that they can easily service your project from wherever they are based. Make sure they use language you understand and do not merely communicate in industry jargon.

Most importantly, do they seem as if they really want your project? Are they committed?  Will they do whatever it takes to deliver your brief on time and within budget?

Your fitout will involve significant costs, and the implications of your chosen fitout partner failing to complete the work on time, or at all, could be substantial.

Check them out thoroughly.  Satisfy yourself that they have the right level of financial stability and insurances to cover the project and survive the frequently turbulent commercial property sector.

It still surprises us how many professionals take things on face value and do not take up references when embarking on such a huge undertaking. It is therefore not surprising how many people subsequently live to regret it. The best advice here is to meet with them, speak with their clients, and carry out the proper due diligence.

Ask for confirmation that what you see is what you get. Check that the people you meet during the selection process are the people that you will work with and not just the “front men” or sales people. Ensure that you meet with them and form an understanding of the people that you will be working with. Too often, the projects start with the key people and your project is then passed down the line to a more junior person.

 

CR Commercial Property has no problem with you reviewing our capabilities – its why we wrote this article.

Formulating an Exit Strategy from Your Existing Building

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The search for new office premises is exciting and energising, but the same cannot be said for the process of an exit strategy for your current location. The anticipation of moving to a brand new location is an exciting time to hit the refresh button, to implement all those bold fit-out ideas that you and your colleagues have been wanting to do, to have your space arranged as you’ve always wanted but would be too disruptive to daily operations to spend time doing.

However, all of this is overshadowed by the need to move out from your current premises as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible. That’s why it is important to have an exit strategy in place, with tangible goals and timelines to work to in order to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

 

Things you need to be aware of

The most important considerations when it comes to moving out from your current address are your lease obligations.   Lease obligations go on until the end of the lease term, and it is essential that you review your lease carefully in order to fully qualify and quantify all of your responsibilities.

 

Developing an exit strategy

To plan your departure, it is essential that you:

  • Think ahead and develop an exit strategy
  • Assess all dilapidations and obligations
  • Quantify disposal costs
  • Review lease obligations

 

As the experts in office relocations and make goods, CR Commercial Property Group can help you develop an effective exit strategy that ensures that the process is as smooth as possible for you.     To speak to one of our project managers,  simply call 9299 2777.