Note: The information in this section is provided as a general guide only and may not apply to all businesses. It is not intended as official reference information. Always seek direct independent legal, financial and business advice.
One of the more exciting times in the life of a new business is getting its first physical premises. It’s not just a place for customers and staff, but part of your business’ brand and personality. This guide will be helpful for any new business owners, but also for anyone who hasn’t gone through an office move in a long time.
On this page, you'll learn things like:
- How office layout affects the usability of a workspace.
- Which utilities you’ll need and what to look for.
- Equipment needed in a workplace
If you still have questions about power in a new business space, give our team a call on 0800 472 952 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Having your own space is a big deal – perhaps you’ve been trading as a business from home or a shared space, and have finally taken that plunge into dedicated premises. Maybe your business hasn’t even started yet and this is your first foray into retail or hospitality.
Whatever the case, you’re now in a position to determine the future course of your business based on the decisions you make around the space.
Take it slow, do your research and don’t be pressured by others. You could be in this location for a long time, so it’s best to set it up right!
Safety and security
Safety and security of anyone that comes into your workplace is priority #1.
In some parts of New Zealand such as Wellington, you’ll want to find out exactly the level of earthquake readiness a building has. This is something you can discuss with the commercial agent and/or landlord. New Zealand has some recent standards around handling earthquake prone buildings that may be useful.
Buildings can be strengthened against earthquakes, which can be measured in an ‘earthquake rating’. Go in with your eyes open and if you have concerns not being met, chat to your lawyer and/or the local council.
Fire safety should be considered when you view a potential premises. What is the building’s current process around evacuation, are there adequate preventative measures (sprinklers, alarms, extinguishers etc), and who is responsible for what? Remember, you aren’t just looking at your specific floor of the building, but the safety of the building as a whole.
In terms of security, get a handle on the building alarm system, locks, doors and cameras in the shared spaces like the foyer. You may need to work with the landlord on the alarm system of your leased area and where sensors are placed. Again, this is dependent on the roles and responsibilities set out in a lease.
A new office space should be observing other health and safety measures. We won’t go into these here, but recommend you visit Worksafe NZ for specific information.
Getting professional advice
When it comes to finding a place, none of this should be done alone – particularly if it’s the first time looking at commercial real estate. The process is complicated, and a bit of a minefield if you aren’t prepared.
If you have a business advisor already, they can help give you advice on premises, too. It’s also a good time to speak with your accountant and understand what your budget is.
Commercial real estate agents are working for the building but are also there to help you as the potential tenant. Having an initial meeting with them about your budget, requirements and location is quite a common first step.
When you start getting closer to committing, involve your lawyer. A lease for commercial property is not simple and you must get professional assistance to avoid legal issues or big costs down the road. A lawyer should be able to set the lease out in a way that you know exactly the agreement you’re entering into – and what you can/can’t do with the work space you’ve leased.
Making it yours – layout and fit-out
‘Office fit-out’ might be a term you’ve come across in your research. For many work spaces, you’ll just have a shell to work with, requiring a project to put up walls, build rooms, and reconfigure other parts. Other spaces won’t require as much change before you can move in.
Understand what you can change
What you change – and indeed can change is going to depend on the terms of the lease agreement you have with the landlord. You’ll also be restricted by the body corporate approval and council zoning laws in place. This is another reason why professional advice and legal input is essential – you shouldn’t have any unexpected barriers to fit-out later.
Even with a lease agreement that gives you the green light in principle to make changes, get 100% written approval from all required parties before proceeding with any changes!
If you want to know more about the legal part of a fit-out, chat to your lawyer.
On to the fun stuff!
During the planning of changes to a workspace, you need to consider what areas your staff and customers need:
- How many meetings might be held at one time?
- How does the reception area lead into the rest of the space?
- For an office space – what will be the layout of staff?
- Open plan or individual team areas – or even offices?
- What types of desks do we need, possibly standing?
- Where will staff work in relation to where customers will enter?
- Is there enough natural daylight coming into the office?
- Where will heating and ventilation units be placed if needed?
- How can our brand be visible within the office design?
There’s a lot to think about – that’s why many business owners will hire the help of a designer that specialises in commercial
interiors. They will map the layout of the workspace with you and be able to offer creative ways of solving your business challenges within your set budget.
Once you’ve got a good idea of the changes you are looking to make, you should speak with a number of builders to get a number of quotes. And remember that all throughout this process you are involving the landlord.
Think about brand
Take this opportunity to build your brand - think about wall decals, or a paint job to match your business’ brand colours. Even ornamental flourishes like a musical instrument on the wall can help a work space become part of your business’ overall personality.
Furniture and Fittings
The connection between office design and brand extends to tables, chairs and even lighting.
Furniture and fittings, above all, should be practical and last the distance. From light switches to chairs, everything will be used day-in day-out for hopefully years to come. Don’t go too cheap as you’ll end up replacing items quickly. On the other hand, all furniture and fittings in an office will be worn out eventually, so don’t over-invest.
Here’s some examples of typical fittings you’ll need to get:
- Light switches
- Wall sockets
- Cupboards and drawers
- Door handles
- Window latches
If you do get the help of that interior designer when planning the fit-out, they may work furniture and lighting into the plan at the same time. If furniture isn’t part of that discussion, then you have the option of speaking to companies who provide bespoke furniture solutions for work spaces. They’ll visit the space, measure up, hear your requirements and come back with a quote.
Otherwise if you wish to do it yourself, just make sure you’ve got measurements for everything before buying anything! Then consider how all the furniture (couches, coffee tables) fits together.
Good lighting in an environment can make a huge difference on you and your team’s productivity. The older fluorescent lighting of 30-40 years ago don’t provide a good even spread of light and aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Thanks to a lot of technological progress since then, eco-friendly LED bulbs provide much better lighting and come in larger bulb sizes fit for larger spaces like a workplace. Without good lighting, your staff can suffer from eyesight strain and headaches. If you want to learn more about managing lighting, head on over to our guide.
You’ve got options here. Polished concrete is quite popular now in some industries – it’s also quite easy to sweep and keep looking clean. Just remember, the type of material used for flooring (and indeed walls) will have an impact on the acoustics. Too many hard flat surfaces in an open space can make for loud, booming echoes which become annoying fast. To counterbalance an open plan, concrete floor space, you’ll need to get soundproofing – often foam panels strategically placed by an expert to soak up excessive noise. Offices with carpeted floors usually don’t require the same attention to acoustics.
Speaking with a flooring expert is highly recommended – they may even visit the space and provide some relevant recommendations.
You’ll need to supply the whiteware and small appliances in a new workspace – think kettle (or hot water zip), microwave, fridge, toaster etc. Set a realistic budget here – much like fittings, you don’t want to spend too much on high-end products that will be used daily, but also don’t want to scrimp and buy appliances that break after six months.
Some appliance retailers will come and view your kitchen and help choose the right combination of products that best fit your budget and available space. They’ll have experience understanding what you need from your staff kitchen and coordinate the layout. You may even want to chat to someone in this area before the builders start on cabinetry or flooring. That way you can factor in dishwasher or fridge size into the design from the start.
Some businesses like to go second hand. There is the risk here of buying worn out appliances, which can end up costing more through power inefficiencies (such as a fridge with a loose seal). We wouldn’t rule it out, but do your due diligence!
You may end up in premises with bathrooms that are part of the building, as opposed to your specific area, such as stairwell-located toilets. Others may not have any communal building facilities and instead have these located inside your office. Many buildings have both.
If your space needs dedicated bathrooms, you’ll need to consider this as part of the planning process. Think about whether you need separate staff and customer bathrooms, and, like the kitchen, consider the plumbing requirements of your plans. As with the kitchen, you should choose reliable fittings that won’t lead to plumbing faults later; in a shared building these can become an issue.
Work with the landlord on any parts of the fit-out requiring plumbing – they’ll need to be across this to protect all tenants.
If you are setting up an office, you’ll likely want a reception area for visitors. Think about how this area is positioned. Is it clear that this area is where people should wait upon entry? This will avoid people wandering into staff areas accidently.
A waiting area is also somewhere that should present your brand and values to visitors as they sit and wait. The culture of a business can be showcased through good reception area design. We can’t tell you how to communicate your unique brand, but some common areas you might want to consider include the walls, what books are on the coffee table and sometimes even what’s playing on a TV screen.
Shared spaces and signage
Your new premises may be in a shared office building. This means shared stairwells, elevators, foyer and possibly bathrooms.
Part of your lease should cover what you’re able to put up in terms of signage in the building – both outside, in the foyer, in the elevator and outside the direct entrance into your business. Just speak to your landlord before going ahead if you aren’t quite sure. You can usually get a good idea from what neighbouring businesses are already doing.
Utilities are a required cost of doing business. In a new workplace you’ll need to look at getting at least some of these set up, if not all:
You will need to find a power provider that offers a competitive rate, support and business-friendly billing. Read our guide on ‘Choosing a business electricity provider’ for more help here.
If you are a business primarily working digitally, choose internet that will keep up with multiple users working at high download or upload speeds. Ultra-fast broadband is fast becoming available across New Zealand. Even if you’re not a tech-centric business, most if not all businesses will require internet access. Hunt around for the best deal.
Depending on your business, you may need an external provider to set up a local network between all your computers and devices, and potentially a server room. Ongoing, you may need IT support for things like system updates, security patches, or equipment faults.
Keeping the workplace clean and tidy is essential. A good cleaning company will keep the bathrooms, kitchen and floors shining. They will also remove rubbish and recycling if required, although you may have a separate recycling provider. You should do your reference checks and make sure you get to know your cleaners – they will need full access to your workplace, so trust is key.
Are you sending packages out often? Then we’d recommend working with one courier provider who can guarantee a great level of service and be there for support when issues arise.
While you may have given up a fixed landline at home, it’s still common practice to have a fixed line in a workplace to operate as the business’ central point of contact. If you’re a business that needs staff with mobile phones, you should chat to all the main telecommunication providers about business plans that offer a group data pool, different billing options and multiple handset deals. You may be assigned a business manager who can arrange everything once you’ve told them your business’ needs.
Useful resources from around the web
We encourage you to read as much about setting up workplaces as you can. Here are some New Zealand-based sources you may wish to read: