Handling the Painful Realities of a Remodel and the Lessons We Learned

No remodel is without a little pain, and ours was no exception. Here’s what we learned that can help you for your next office remodel.

If you have ever been through a remodel, whether at your office or in your home, you are well aware of the pain it can cause. While we all watch the movie Groundhoug Day and cringe thinking about living the same day over and over again, there is a part of us that craves routine, habits, and predictability. In a commercial remodel, there is guaranteed to be disruption to the everyday work flow of an office that we all have grown accustomed to. Whether that disruption lasts for one day or six weeks, everyone will experience some sort of pain in the process. 

…and we are no exception. Even as a commercial furniture dealer who installs furniture for a living, often working within the midst of office remodels, there were many painful realities that we were forced to confront throughout our own remodel. Thankfully, we can now look back at our experiences with a newfound wisdom and pass along the many lessons that we learned. Here were some of the painful realities we faced and our solutions for confronting them:

Painful Reality #1: Remodeling Projects Are Complicated and Require A Lot of Planning

Solution #1: Find Your Team, Know Your Roles

For any remodel, it’s incredibly important to identify who on your internal team will be involved prior to starting the project. Generally, this team is going to include people from your leadership team, your facilities team, your human resources team, and office managers or administrators. Some of these roles will be involved from beginning to end, while others only need to be engaged on moving day(s). 

Once your internal team is assembled and roles and expectations have been set, you can begin to assess what needs of the remodel will require outside help. Identifying the gaps in the knowledge, skills, or capacity of your internal team will reveal what external roles need to be filled. Honesty is key here. Oftentimes, people want to control every piece of a project even if they don’t have the necessary knowledge, skills, or capacity to do so. For a remodel to be successful, your internal teammates have to be open and willing to accept help where it’s needed.

Believe In Your Team

Most likely for a remodel, your external team is going to include an architect (who may consult various engineers), a contractor (who will employ many subcontractors), an interior designer, a commercial furniture dealer, and a mover. Not every project will require all of these roles, but for a decent-size remodel, it’s helpful to have experts in each of these areas. But it’s not enough just to have these experts involved on a project. In order to have a successful remodel… 

Painful Reality #2: Your Internal Team Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Do Everything

Solution #2: Lean on Outside Experts

This lesson was one that we learned the importance of very quickly in our remodel, and we are glad that we did. As mentioned before, many issues that come up during remodels exist because of a lack of honesty between the internal project team during the planning phase. Generally, this lack of honesty happens when someone, intentionally or not, overstates their skills, knowledge, or capacity. Maybe a company’s facilities manager used to work for a construction company so he feels like he can be the general contractor on the project even though he doesn’t have the time or capacity to do so. Or maybe the human resources team feels like they can handle coordinating the architectural finishes with the new furniture even though they have no formal education or training in interior design. 

During our remodel, we looked to a number of experts to help us in areas where we either lacked knowledge, skills, capacity, or all three. While we consider ourselves passionate experts when it comes to designing commercial furniture, we do not do architecture or full-service interior design. To help out in this area, we enlisted Cushing Terrell’s Senior Interior Designer, Randi Thomas, who we have worked with on many client projects in the past. Randi was instrumental in providing the perspective and knowledge that comes from working in a full-service interior design firm and consulted on the design of the millwork reception station, the new wall headers, product selections, and finish selections.

We enlisted the aid of a number of subcontractors as well, including Alloway Electric Co., Inc. to provide the power connections for our relocated and new groups of workstations, along with the installation of new light fixtures throughout the space.

Painful Reality #3: Moving Day Is Messy and Disruptive

Solution #3: Set Expectations, Assign Responsibilities, Plan for ‘Remote’ Work

For those of us that have been through remodels, this one likely hits right at home. Unless the remodel is taking place in a vacant building, it is going to affect the people working in or around it. In our remodel, we shifted and reconfigured an entire group of workstations to the other side of our showroom. In doing so, almost every member of our team had to be temporarily displaced from their workstation until the reconfigure was complete. 

There were a number of expectations that needed to be set prior to moving day, including:

We didn’t do this perfectly by any means. Thankfully, our team was extremely flexible and understanding as we have worked adjacently to so many remodels during furniture installation. Some of our team worked from home while others had a work party in one of the large conference rooms (life was just easier pre-coronavirus!). Regardless of what expectations and responsibilities need to be addressed, we would highly recommend doing it well in advance of moving day so there are no surprises for the team. 

Painful Reality #4: In the Mess, It’s Easy to Lose Sight of the Finish Line

Solution #4: Establish a Strong ‘Why’ for the Remodel and Make the Finish Line Worth It

Behind every remodel, there are compelling reasons for starting the project in the first place. Unfortunately, those reasons aren’t always well-communicated amongst a team, so what should be an exciting transition becomes an annoying hassle. Everyone longs for the finish line not because of what the remodel is going to achieve, but because they envision a day where they are no longer stuck in the middle of a construction site. 

Before embarking on the project, take time in the midst of setting expectations to rally your team behind a compelling cause for why you are remodeling. Construction and commercial furniture are huge investments, so the impact on a company’s goals and culture should be equally as huge. Keep the finish line front of mind in a positive way for the team and get everyone excited about how awesome it will be to have “X” new thing or “X” new space to work in. 

We all were aware of the goals of our remodel and felt that it was well worth the small moments of pain along the way!

Part of making the finish line worth it is to not neglect the small details. One of the things that we felt made a huge impact: having our task chairs and workstations professionally cleaned prior to moving in. This small, relatively inexpensive addition made a huge difference for how we felt about the remodeled spaces when we moved back in. Seeing everything clean and shiny reinforced the ‘why’ behind our remodel. 

If you’re getting ready to embark on a remodel or a new construction project, we can relate. These painful realities will threaten the overall success of your project like they did ours. However, with the right planning and the right people, your remodel can and will go smoothly. And we are here to help! We are passionate experts in commercial furniture, and you can lean on our team throughout your project.

Planning a Remodel for Your Office?

We are here and ready to be your expert in navigating the furniture aspect of your next remodeling project. Whether you are adding more workstations like we did, or simply reconfiguring your existing furniture layout to make things fit, we can help!