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An office clearance requires careful planning and project management. This office clearance guide provides some useful tips and advice on how best to go about it.
At the risk of stating the obvious, before you start on an office clearance project, you need to know what has to be cleared. Ideally the only items left in the premises before you engage an office clearance specialist will be those you wish to get rid of. If not, you should take the time to identify exactly what you will be taking with you and what you will be leaving behind. Without this it will be very difficult for the clearance firm to estimate the duration of the clearance or for you to gather comparable quotes from different contractors.
When does the property have to be completely cleared by? Agree the date and work backwards. Firstly, allow some time at the end as a contingency in case the clearance overruns. The larger the clearance the greater the contingency required. Then there is the time required for the office clearance itself. Naturally this will depend on the size of property and amount of contents that need to be cleared – but, assuming you are not up against any tight external deadlines, a rough guide would be to allow one day for every 3 Luton van loads (approximately 6 builders skips) of junk cleared. You should also add at least a week for contractors to prepare their quotes and prepare adequate resource in their operational calendar to undertake the clearance. Seeking quotes faster than this and expecting clearance companies to start and complete the job within shorter timeframes will not only add considerable levels of stress and increase the chances of deadlines not being met, it will also restrict your choice of contractor to those firms that are not already busy – which typically means the worst ones in the market! It will also greatly reduce your chances of achieving significant reuse (either through sale to second hand office furniture dealers or donating items to charities) because the reuse market is notoriously undynamic.
Once you know what items need to be cleared and have decided on your required timeframe, you need to choose an office clearance specialist to undertake the work. The key to getting the right company is to follow the 4 ‘R’s – namely references, resources, rapport, and rates. Firstly, references – if your clearance is large and complex, use a company that has genuine experience of this type of work and can provide credible references for the same. References should not only be glowing, but also recent. Secondly, resources - check they have appropriate resources available to undertake the clearance. It’s no problem if an office clearance company takes on a couple of temporary staff to assist with a large project, but the project manager, bulk of the clearance crews, and the site team supervisor all really need to know their stuff. Thirdly, rapport. Make a point of asking to meet the operational team (not just the business development manager) before awarding the office clearance contract. It’s bound to get a little stressful at least once during the clearance and you need to be working with people you can get on with and who are good communicators. Finally, rates. How much will they be charging? To ensure you get comparable and informed quotes, be sure to ask contractors to provide not only a total project price but also a rate per van or truck load, the cubic capacity of their collection vehicle(s), and an estimate of how many loads they think the clearance will be. This latter figure will also provide a useful insight into how experienced the office clearance company is. It might seem that a poor estimate of volume leading to a low price quote is a good thing, but in practise a wrongly priced quote is more than likely to result in project overruns, awkward requests for additional payments, and generally a whole heap of extra hassle.
Any office clearance contractor worth their salt will have access to a network of specialist second hand dealers, charities, and recycling organizations for passing on office furniture and IT equipment. So don’t be shy in asking them, once they have visited your premises, what they are considering in terms of reuse and recycling and whether rebates are likely to be available. At the very least, they should be talking about separation of loads into separate streams such as wood, paper, metal and general mixed waste. At best, they will be referring to the number of items that could be reused and asking whether you are more interested in charitable donation or straight forward resale.
Out of interest, the market for second hand office furniture like desks, office chairs, filing cabinets and pedestals is relatively fickle, often very slow moving, and only really works well for large quantities of the same item that are in good condition. Selling or donating small amounts of diverse furniture takes time and the prices available, unless the item is particularly high value, mean that you will adding to your costs rather than reducing them. So, if you have 20 old office chairs of varying quality, spec and condition, you are unlikely to be heading off to Barbados on the back of your earnings when you try to sell them! But 100 modern desks of the same style and in good condition are likely to be of interest to the second hand office furniture market, although you may have to wait a few weeks to find a buyer with the capacity to take them.
Equally, working IT equipment, especially computers, is resalable. Redundant computer monitors (CRTs) and appliances containing refrigerants (CFCs), such as air con units and fridges, are however, hazardous waste and as a result relatively expensive to get rid of because they need to be disposed of in a certain way. Bear in mind that disposal of any waste electronics and electrical equipment (WEEE) is a specialist area and one that is highly regulated, so always make sure the organisation you are working with can provide you with appropriate documentation and evidence of where the WEEE is being taken.
You have a duty of care to ensure your waste is disposed of properly. If a contractor you engage takes away your waste only for it to end up fly tipped or illegally exported, you could end up being criminally prosecuted, as well as open to civil claims for any damage caused to third parties.
Firstly, check the clearance company is a licensed waste carrier and also has suitable insurances and health and safety polices and practises in place for this sort of work. A risk assessment should definitely be produced for the project.
Once the clearance has started you should receive a waste transfer note for each collection (vanload, skip, or rollon rolloff container) of waste the office clearance company makes from your site. The waste transfer note should detail among other things the date, the collection address, the waste being removed, including its volume and/or weight, and the names of your organisation and the waste contractor undertaking the collection.
If any hazardous waste items (most commonly computer monitors or fridge and air-conditioning units) are removed, you should also receive a hazardous waste consignment note detailing the same.
Bear in mind that any items passed on for reuse are not actually waste, so will not require a waste transfer note. However, for your own internal records, always ask for a receipt for any reuse collection detailing what items have been taken, on what date, and the organisation to which they were destined.
Finally, although not yet a legal requirement, it is increasingly common for companies undergoing an office clearance to be provided with a final report of what was removed, where it was taken, and how much was reused, recycled or sent to landfill. Typically, if reuse occurs, details will be provided of exactly which items were removed (eg. 150 desks, 20 filing cabinets) whereas if materials are sent for recycling or disposed of as general waste, it is more usual for this waste to be described in terms of its waste type (eg. paper & cardboard) and overall weight and volume (eg. 1250kg, 20 cubic yards). The contractor should also provide details of which waste facilities each waste load was taken to and what that facility’s reported % landfill diversion rates are.
Client references and case studies are available on request.