The last few months of the year are historically the busiest times for office moves – and these would usually have been in the planning stages for 12 to 18 months.

The next few years however pose a different scenario: according to the recently released Tenant Trends Australia 2018 report by global real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, commercial property tenants in Sydney and Melbourne planning to find a new home need to start searching up to three years in advance.

Space race

The two cities currently have the tightest vacancy rates seen in years, the JLL Tenant Trends report found, with Melbourne’s falling to 5.4 per cent, the lowest figure in a decade, and Sydney’s to 5.5 per cent. Brisbane is in a similar situation with its 13.9 per cent vacancy rate representing a five-year low.

Sydney’s vacancy rate will not improve until 2020 when a tranche of new office developments come online, the report states.

In Melbourne, while 10 projects are currently under construction in the CBD, the last are due for completion in 2020 which means in the short term the majority of new office space is pre-committed.

Room for change

When it came to trends, the report found coworking providers such as WeWork continue to transform the office landscape, jockeying for space with traditional providers as well as presenting alternatives to businesses undergoing their own changes.

WeWork alone acquired another 4000 sqm in Sydney’s George Street HCF building this year and has also pre-committed to another 4000sqm in the York and George building also on George Street, bringing the company’s Sydney footprint to 23,000 sqm across five locations, the report states.

Keeping increasingly mobile, tech-enabled employees engaged by giving them greater choice of when and where they work is emerging as a key requirement.

“We are now seeing the first examples of organisations leasing a core amount of space, but dealing with the need to be flexible through the use of co-working space to manage peaks and troughs in demand. We expect this trend to continue,” JLL Australia’s head of Tenant Representation Michael Greene says.

Onward and upward

Once location is decided and the hurdle of availability overcome, the practicalities of moving office come to the fore.

Office moving specialists across the board concur that while checklists are helpful, each move is so individual that larger businesses of over 100 people in particular should start arranging their relocation with a specialised firm at least a year or more in advance.

“Each move is so different we do a personalised plan with every organisation well in advance of any move,” says Daniel Fay, NSW state manager of commercial relocation specialists Office Movers.

Furthermore, a well-established specialist office relocation team will have intimate knowledge of city streets, loading bays, security procedures and height and parking restrictions.

The devil of course is in the detail: among common misconceptions is that the relocation firm is responsible for arranging access to the new building’s loading docks and bays.

“Organisations routinely assume we can do this,” Mr Fay points out. “But we can’t speak to the building manager because we’re not the incoming tenant. That is the main hiccup that comes up quite a lot for us.”

Paul Jones, director of Melbourne-based Alliance Relocation Group, experiences similar. “It probably happens about once a month, that the organisation we’re relocating hasn’t thought to book the new building’s loading bays or the lifts in particular,” he says.

Another common stumbling block that potentially costs time and money is lack of internal communication within the organisation being relocated, Mr Fay says.

“Our team recently relocated a firm of about 50 people in which one person thought someone else was looking after moving the telecommunication systems - but they weren’t,” Mr Fay recalls. “The whole move was delayed about four weeks as a result.”

Among the most important of relocation tasks, as simple as it sounds, is ensuring every item to be moved is numbered and corresponds accurately with a location map of the new office space.

“It is imperative to make sure all the labelling and planning is in place,” says Mr Jones, whose firm recently moved the 400-strong Worksafe organisation from Melbourne to Geelong. “It is very important to get that 100% right.”