How to design and fit out an office that actually works


Take a look around your office.

First, look at your team – are they happy, or do they look like they’ve had enough?
Look at your lighting – you’re probably using older-style strip lights that cast a poor-quality light.

Check out the furniture, the fittings, the layout – it all needs refreshing, right?

An office that isn’t designed for modern business and employee needs doesn’t motivate your team to work hard.   It demoralises them, and the poor results you see thanks to a lack of motivation means that you get down, too. It’s happening everywhere – you’re not alone!

So, what’s the answer?

An office makeover: a complete refresh of your layout and working practices.  A new look that your team want to come to every day, where they can interact and feel as if they are worthwhile.

Of course, that’s not going to happen for nothing, and you’ll need a decent budget. Yet, the upside of an office refresh is one of a better working environment.  As a result, that means better business overall.

Let’s have a look at the best way to go about designing and fitting out a new office.

How to design an office: your first steps

How to get started with designing your office

Once you’ve decided to re-design and fit out your office, and everyone is up for the idea, it’s important not to get carried away.

This is a significant project, and it needs careful planning. You need to sit down with the people who will be affected and discuss – in the first instance – why you need to refit the office.

There could be many reasons, such as:

  • The office is simply outdated, untidy and shabby, which is not a great impression for visitors.
  • You’ve outgrown the office and have too many people in too small a space.
  • Your office does not meet current health and safety regulations or is borderline.
  • You need to bring your office aesthetic in line with the company ethos, as your brand is now more established.

These are a few of the main reasons why you might need a change, and we’ve already mentioned it will motivate the team, so set about establishing your goals as the first step.

At this point, you need to remember to consider the future.  Will your current office suit for enough time to justify the refit, or would it be more sensible to look for new premises?

5 things to consider about your future workspace

There may be some merit in considering a change of premises, and it’s at this point in the procedure – before you start to plan the office refit – that you need to think about this.

Here are some reasons you may want to move:

  • Will your current office still be viable in 10 years?
  • Do you need more space that cannot be allocated in your present location?
  • Does the current office comply with regulations and changes to come?
  • Would you be better placed closer to suppliers and logistics providers?
  • Are you permitted by the landlord to undergo extensive changes?

Basically, what you need to determine here is whether it is financially viable to start refitting this office. You may also want to consider any developments in transport links that may make it easier for your workforce to get to and from work in a different location.

You may also want to look at projected growth and consider how quickly you might outgrow your premises.

You should carry out a feasibility study at this point: all this is, is a detailed investigation into the overall feasibility of the project. You need to consider the financial side of things.  Is it within your allotted budget to achieve what you require – and also legal aspects, such as planning permission for any changes? The latter may require the services of a legal professional if you are to make sure every aspect is covered.

You may quickly discover that the space you have is not suitable for your envisaged changes.  In which case we recommend you get in touch with an agent who is involved in commercial letting and talk to them about what you are looking for.

Either way – stay or move – you need to put a team in place now to get the project underway.

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How to choose your project management team

No single person can handle the entire project themselves, hence the need to hand-pick people who can take on the various parts of the job.

You will know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, so start by looking for an overall project manager. This could be you, or it could be someone you believe will be better at bringing all the different threads together. This should be a person who is very familiar with how the business runs, who can handle budgets, and who is preferably in a senior position. It should also be someone who the other members of the team are willing to listen to!

Also, you need to get a team of people together who are expert in certain areas, these being the following and perhaps others that may apply to your particular office:

  • HR
  • Marketing and Sales
  • IT
  • Health and Safety

These are the four main elements of the office that need individual attention, and you should ensure that whoever you choose to head each is entirely up to date with the processes involved. They also need to be good team players and be able to liaise seamlessly with each other, and with the project manager and the fit-out team.

As a suggestion, the IT project manager should also have a strong knowledge of telephony, which is a significant part of any business right now. You want your new office to be one in which communication is effortless.

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7 questions to ask your contractor

This may be the most challenging part of the task, as clearly you need to engage the services of a professional office fit-out team.

Choosing the right one is not something you should do in a moment; spend some time looking at different companies, and in this instance, Google is very much your friend!

Narrow your choice down to a few that you think could be the right choice – staying local is always sensible – and start talking to each of them.

Consider the following:

  1. Can they give you references?
  2. Is there an example of their previous work you can look at?
  3. Have they worked on an office in your sector?
  4. Are they fully insured?
  5. Are they a member of a relevant professional body?
  6. What is their past experience in the trade?
  7. Do they have an in-house health and safety policy?

If the contractor wants a place on your shortlist, they need a tick by each of these essential points.

You also need to meet the people who will be working with you and your team as the project may take some time, and assess whether you can work with them. Everyone must fit in with a project such as this.

As for the price, a reputable company should be happy to give you a no-obligation quote.  It’s good practice to gather a few quotes to compare.

Don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest; feel free to talk to a company you prefer and see if they can come down on their price. Negotiation is the key here! This brings us neatly onto our next section, which is an important one!

Preparing for hidden costs

The point where you set your budget is about to arrive, but it’s not just the fit-out costs you have to consider. Believe us when we say that along the way there will be ‘hidden costs’, so this next little section is worth looking at if you want to budget for those, too!

What are we talking about when we say hidden costs?

We mean things that you may not think of at first, but with our help, you will include in your overall costs!

These are some of the extra costs to think about in addition to your fit-out cost:

  • Storage for items while the work is in progress
  • Legal fees
  • Any recruitment you may wish to undertake for the upcoming growth
  • Training in new systems
  • Any relocation costs
  • Possible loss of business temporarily while the work is in progress

Then there’s the likes of security and insurance for new or existing premises, possible extra rental fees, and any other costs associated with a new building. You need to look into this very carefully and ensure the team have a proper budget for additional expenses, and that everything is agreed beforehand.

One thing you should also consider carefully is using whatever you can from your current office. Of course, everyone wants that swish new desk, but what about the furniture already in place? Can it be of use?

Any original fittings that can be used can help you save money – or free up money to be directed in areas more important to you.  Consider existing desks for use in the staff room, kitchen or in occasional rooms, for example. Any cost saved is a bonus at this point.

What are the hidden costs of an office refurb

Your 3-point checklist for getting everyone on board

So, now we’ve covered how to get the ball rolling, you need to make sure everyone on board is up to speed and understands their responsibilities.

Here’s a checklist for you that should help:


One of the most important aspects is insurance. The fit-out company you choose should be covered by their own insurance, but you may have to take out additional for your own needs. Talk to your legal adviser about public liability and so on to be sure.


Make sure you have agreed everything in detail with your landlords, whether you are remaining and altering or leaving and moving on. There will be clauses in your contracts in either case, so once again we advise getting legal advice to make sure everything is above board.

Compliance with regulations

Another area where a legal adviser can help.  There are many health and safety and other regulations that your new design, or new office, will need to comply with.  Make sure you go through these carefully, or you could end up with an expensive and unusable space.

The 3 design basics for your office

Designing an office layout is not just about placing a desk here and there and making sure that everyone has a working computer.

It’s about building for productivity, making sure communication is seamless, and encouraging everyone to get down to work and make you money!

It’s also about providing your team with a space in which they feel comfortable and are happy to be in every day, so here are a few factors to consider:


This is more important than you may think, as certain light conditions encourage more efficient working practices. Look at combining available natural light with LED lighting for the best effect.


Your office may be open plan, but it helps to have some form of divider between workstations to provide a touch of privacy when needed.  Another option is to have a room where people can go to deal with confidential or sensitive calls.


Not too bright, not too dull, keep the walls and carpets to a neutral but light colour, or perhaps you have a corporate colour you want to use?

These are the simple things you need to consider, so to conclude, here’s a brief reminder for you:

Get your team in place, ensure you get quotes from several fit-out companies, make sure everything is above board and legal, and then you’re ready to go!

What is your ideal office design?

What does your workplace paradise look like?  Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favourite design tips.

Either way, let us know by leaving a comment below right now.

If you are looking for a flexible, modern work space for your business in Scotland, contact us to find out about our vacancies!