After a year of constant changes to how people work, depending on how strict safety measures need to be to combat the novel coronavirus, many companies are deciding to close offices permanently. Take outsourcing firm Capita, which is planning to close over a third of its UK offices for good, a decision largely taken due to the fact its staff have been working successfully from home. Indeed, a study by internet provider TalkTalk reported that more than half of workers are more productive while working from home.
However, closing down an office can be incredibly stressful, and there’s a huge amount to organise, with any mistakes — such as failing to book a removal company in time or having budget restrictions — could prove costly. So to help you, we’ve put together some practical tips on how to close down your office efficiently, while also reducing your impact on the environment and your employees’ productivity.
1. Make a detailed plan
Making a plan for moving out of your office will help minimise disruption, and give you a step-by-step guide to exactly what needs to be done and when. Even if you’re vacating at short notice due to the pandemic, putting together a detailed list of things will be a huge benefit, and there are a number of useful downloadable office move checklists to help you get started.
First, draw up your office floor layout, and take note of all of the equipment and furniture, as this will allow you to take stock of everything and decide what you’re going to do with it. For instance, if your chairs and desks are in good condition, you may be able to find them a new home or have them recycled. You should also work out how to cancel energy and internet suppliers, and change your business address. You should also create an estimated timeline for the move, and include any of the costs involved.
2. Dispose of electrical equipment properly
If you’re not reselling your computers, printers or kitchen appliances, they will need to be disposed of safely. You should never throw electrical equipment into the general waste, as they will otherwise end up in landfill, where they can leak chemicals into the soil and nearby waterways, posing a risk to humans and the environment.
Instead, you should always recycle your waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). As London-based recycling company Bywaters notes, having this done professionally can ensure that “all of your WEEE waste will be recycled sustainably, in accordance with the government’s WEEE regulations.” Consequently, it will either be donated to charities and local businesses, or broken down into its component parts to be reused or recycled, which helps reduce your business’s environmental impact, as zero waste enters landfill. You should also make sure that all of your hard drives have been wiped in order to prevent data breaches from old computers.
3. Back up your data electronically and delete all traces
Before you dispose of any electrical equipment, it’s very important to back up any sensitive business data onto external storage devices or cloud-based platforms, before permanently deleting it from old devices. This will not only keep your private information secure, but prevent any data breaches if someone else should get their hands on your old devices.
Most corporate devices contain sensitive data such as employee details, logins and addresses, and banking information, which could potentially be leaked if they fall into the hands of a third-party. However, simply deleting these files isn’t enough — you must also overwrite sensitive data, turn on drive encryption, deauthorize your PC, and wipe your internal hard drive to safely get rid of your computers.
4. Hire an office clearance service
Emptying the contents of your office internally, either by yourself or with your team, will take up everyone’s valuable time, and could also pose a health and safety risk to those getting involved. As such, hiring a professional office clearance company is a better option. This will minimise disruption to your business, save you time, and allow you to continue working stress-free.
What’s more, these professionals know exactly what they’re doing, so will be able to remove your old furniture efficiently and safely. These companies sometimes offer recycling as part of their services, ensuring that your used furniture will be used again rather than being sent to landfill. They will also be able to properly dispose of any sensitive or confidential data left on your devices, and can conduct waste audits which detail what items have been removed.
5. Let people know you’re closing
Everyone from your employees and clients, to your suppliers and service providers for commodities like tax, water and gas, as well as your bank and insurance companies will need to get in touch with you, even without a permanent central base. Consequently, informing your clients and customers that you will be closing your office permanently can save you any hassle and confusion in the long run. You should also be sure to let your landlord know, as you could otherwise face legal issues if you try to leave a tenancy agreement before the agreed date.
Inform the relevant people by email, as well as updating your website, and posting on your social media channels. You should aim to do this well ahead of the closure, and you should make a big deal of the change. Closing your office might seem like a negative move, but it’s easily painted in a more positive light by explaining that this move will actually be beneficial to your business. For instance, if you’re closing because your employees work more efficiently from home, trumpet this fact to give your clients peace of mind.