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Office Space Decommissioning

by Shawn O'Neill

Here’s a secret that no one ever tells you about moving—the bulk of your relocation costs are not related to transitioning your belongings to the new space. Office space decommissioning is a significant factor in your budget, sometimes adding up to three to five times that of the actual relocation itself.

All too often, clients miss the not so obvious “other move” when it comes to their office relocation. Clients split their time and attention operating their core business while also focusing on the new space and decisions that are required to get that ready to unveil. The old space is often overlooked.

Neglecting to properly decommission the old office space leaves you exposed to unnecessary costs. The majority of commercial leases contain very specific requirements as to how the old space needs to be turned back over to the landlord. If not, it’s your deposit that hangs in the balance. The removal of unwanted furniture can be an expensive undertaking.

Most commercial leases require that the occupied space be left “broom swept.” This means that all contents, freestanding furniture, workstations, office/IT equipment, shelving, etc., must be completely removed and all floors left cleared of debris and vacuumed. That also means following through on tiny details like removing any data/IT cabling that you’ve added while in residence. Overall, you need to return the space back to its original condition prior to your occupancy. Your lease should spell out the requirements and standards you will be held to.

So how do you protect your deposit? The easiest way to satisfy your lease obligations and get your deposit back is to consult a professional who is well-versed in handling the office decommissioning process. When you partner with the right transition management company, they can help you properly navigate and negotiate your exit. Most standard moving companies aren’t experienced enough to guide you through this process. Most people over value what they have and then end up running out of time. The reality is, there is a very tight timeline when you move and the space needs to be vacated. Why wait on a potential buyer to purchase unwanted assets, when it elevates your risk of exceeding that timeline and paying a costly penalty to your former landlord?

When you value the assets you will not be moving to your new space, factor in the time it takes to liquidate them. It’s often best to hire an expert to advocate for your bottom line. There are three outcomes in an office decommissioning: net positive, net zero and net negative. To achieve “net positive,” the liquidation of furniture and/or equipment yields a positive cash return and is clearly the optimal outcome to strive toward. To attain “net zero,” you can choose to donate contents to a local charity, or have a third-party company remove them. While you don’t make any money on the transaction, you save the potential cost of having to remove the contents yourself. For those items that simply don’t have much value, and need to either be recycled or disposed, you’ll find yourself in a “net negative” position. Although there’s a nominal return for recycled items, the cost for disposing valueless items leaves you with a fee that an office decommissioning expert can help minimize.

Before you sign with a relocation company, discuss the decommissioning services that they provide. Pin down the price for the services that you need, and compare that cost with hiring various removal providers. Most commercial movers overlook decommissioning. Once you have the transition team in place, establish a decommissioning plan and lock in deadlines. Make sure that the company has the necessary skills to execute the plan. Often times, it is not worth the risk of going with the vendor with the lowest bid, as the cost for additional “buy back days” at your old space can quickly eclipse vendor savings.

So what is the takeaway from all of this? Companies that focus all their time and effort on hard costs of relocation will be blindsided by the much more important soft costs of the move. A transition management expert minimizes your company’s exposure to lost revenue by reducing the distraction to your core business and curtailing downtime. Consult with an expert and the savings on the decommissioning will more than likely pay for the actual relocation. 

Shawn O’Neil is a principal at Argosy Management Group (AMG), a leader in office relocation and logistics project/move management that services companies worldwide. For more information, visit

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 7, Issue 7 (July, 2017).
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