With a few simple steps, the time and expense associated with churn can be drastically reduced.

“Agility” and “activity-based” spaces have become buzzwords in the context of modern space planning. Current trends in office space planning focus on designing workplaces which accommodate several activities, from formal meetings, workshops and informal discussions to impromptu interaction with colleagues, information sharing, “hot desking”, deskbound activities and relaxation.

Although the activities undertaken by an organisation are largely dictated by its nature, almost every modern workplace requires a robust environment with enough flexibility to allow for ‘churn’; the term used by facilities managers to describe the continuous cycle of relocations in the office environment.

Even in its simplest form, churn is an intricate operation involving a series of activities, such as reconfiguring desk layouts, moving partitions, relocating electrical, data and voice cabling, rebalancing air conditioning units and ensuring that fire detection, fire protection and fire escape routes meet statutory requirements. This can devolve into an administrative and logistical nightmare.

Added to this, churns usually take place outside normal working hours; thus, poorly managed churn can be extremely expensive, not to mention disruptive.
Because of this, and with moving costs ranging from R3 500 to R50 000 per person per move, it is vital that the facilities manager plans meticulously to ensure that changes in accommodation occur smoothly, cost effectively and with minimum disruption to the business. The following four easy steps provide a framework for churn in a corporate office environment:

1. Ensure a fit-for-purpose churn policy:
The churn rate, or ratio between workstation moves and personnel, is indicative of the fluidity of the business. The higher the churn rate, the bigger the financial burden on the business. With churn rates reaching as high as 500% in some commercial office buildings, it is vital that the facilities manager persuades the decision making powers to enforce a flexible space offering to the employees – such as “hot desking”, seating in an informal area or in an area where relaxation takes place, like a cafeteria.

2. Standardise:

  • Meaningful standardisation facilitates seamless churn operations.
  • Using standard furniture throughout the organisation makes for easier moves and allows generic, practical layout designs;
  • Standard IT reduces the costs and burden on the IT department;
  • Space planners should adhere to ceiling tile layouts to ensure easier alterations in future;
  • Standard documents and processes, such as “battle tested” contract documents, work flow procedures, templates and checklists, make it easy to adhere to cost, quality and time requirements and will set the benchmark for consensus between all parties;
  • If practical, make it a rule that relocations take place during normal working hours rather than weekends and evenings, which is more costly.

3. Fit for purpose procurement:

Instead of obtaining quotes or tenders for minor jobs, like replacing existing carpets, it may save time and money to obtain “interval tenders” on a quarterly basis. 

  • Request a space planner to draw up three hypothetical jobs of various sizes (small, medium and large).
  • Compile detailed bills of quantities for each job, separated into two sections: preliminaries (giving the contractor a chance to price for items not directly linked to a trade) and building work - ensuring that all possible items for a churn job are included.
  • Obtain at least three quotations and tenders based on the hypothetical jobs.
  • Include all commercial and Occupational Health and Safety aspects in the documentation.
  • Once prices have been garnered, convene with all the contractors and use the prices obtained as a basis to fix rates.
  • Alternate future jobs between the identified contractors.

This procurement procedure will ensure a pool of immediately available contactors who will work to an agreed rate. Construction costs may be reduced as the successful tenderers are able to draw on economies of scale.

4. Get assistance

Where there are many large, complex churn projects, an on-site facilities manager may benefit from the experience and expertise of a professional facilities management company with a proven track record to assist. For instance, Excellerate Facilities Management is able to churn over 1.5km of drywall per annum in a large commercial office block, at a rate of less than R10 000 per person.