How to reduce risk in unoccupied business premises


The Coronavirus pandemic has led to a fundamental shift in the way in which we work. Lockdown saw entire teams leave the office to work remotely for a number of months. And now, even though restrictions have been lifted, many employees continue to do their jobs from the comfort of their own homes. But, when it comes to office buildings or commercial premises, the risk is still there – even though the people are not.

How many people are working from home?

According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures cited by the BBC, around 30% of employed people in the UK were working exclusively from home at the beginning of July.
As of 1st August 2020, employers in England have been able to ask staff to come back into the office at their own discretion, provided they feel it safe to do so. However, employees seem to have got used to their at-home set up; research from Eskenzi found that 91% of UK office-based workers now want to work remotely at least part of the time.
Many employees have realised the benefits of working from home. Among them are saving time and money on the commute, an all-round better work-life balance, and also higher productivity.
There are benefits for companies, too; a boost to employee morale and productivity also means a welcome boost to business efficiency. Plus, companies are saving on all of the costs associated with having employees work in the office – like electricity, water, equipment, and even little things like free fruit in the staff kitchen!

Is your commercial property currently unoccupied?

Maybe you’re one of the many companies that has realised the benefits that come with allowing your staff to work from home.
If you are, then your commercial premises may be sitting there unoccupied – but is it secure? There are a number of unique risks associated with commercial properties that are left unoccupied for a period of time, and it’s important that you take steps to minimise them.
Just as a note on this: empty properties and unoccupied properties mean two different things, at least to commercial insurers. Unoccupied tends to be the term used to describe a property that doesn’t have people in it, though there may be fittings, furnishings and equipment. Meanwhile, an empty property tends to have nothing in it. Talk to your insurer to find out which type of commercial insurance is appropriate for you.
Chances are your commercial premises are currently unoccupied – your business equipment is there, but your people aren’t. Either way, it’s important that you speak with your insurer to let them know about the change of circumstances. You need to be sure that you’re protected against all potential risks.
If your policy is soon due for renewal, then why not see what we can do for you? Insurance Choice specialises in arranging competitively priced commercial insurance for a wide range of businesses property types. What’s more, we’re able to create an insurance package that’s bespoke to your business and specific needs.
 An overhead view of a person at a desk using a laptop while working from home

10 top tips for reducing risk in your commercial premises

Here are 10 things you can do to help prevent things from going awry while your workplace is left unoccupied.

  1. If the premises is going to be left unoccupied for a number of months or more, it’s good practice to carry out a thorough risk assessment, identifying potential risks and setting out how you will mitigate/prevent them.
  2. Make sure existing CCTV cameras are kept running and consider installing additional cameras to provide an extra level of security while the building is unoccupied. Cameras outside the premises can act as an effective deterrent for criminals.
  3. Continue to maintain and test fire and burglar alarms (this may be carried out by a professional firm or in line with your insurer requirements).
  4. If you’re unable to do it yourself, consider appointing a ‘property guardian’ who is able to regularly visit (at least once a week) and maintain the building while it’s unoccupied. Obviously, this needs to be someone you know and trust, and you should take the time to go through all the areas that need to be checked and maintained.
  5. Boarding up the door and windows could be an option if you’re really concerned about potential break-ins or vandalism (for instance, if the property is located in a very quiet area or somewhere where break-ins are common). However, you should check with your insurer before doing this – some providers may be concerned that it in fact advertises that the property is unoccupied.
  6. Disconnect your utilities at the main – that includes your electricity supply (unless it’s needed for fire and burglar alarms or fire suppression system), water and gas supplies (unless used to maintain key services). If you do disconnect gas and water, then don’t forget to draw down the fuel and water systems within the premises.
  7. If you have any scheduled maintenance for equipment, machinery or alarm/detection systems, then get this booked in as soon as possible. This will help to prevent the likelihood of issue or system failures while the property is unoccupied.
  8. Rid the property of any waste inside and out – especially combustible waste that could be a fire risk. And speaking of waste, you may need to make arrangements or notify waste removal companies that the building is unoccupied.
  9. Secure all letterboxes and openings in the building by sealing them up and consider redirecting business post if you know the property will be unmanned for an extended period.
  10. Spend time checking that locks and physical security devices and systems are in good working order, replacing if not. This also includes the security systems around the perimeter of the building, such as fences and lighting.

 A person working from home at a desk on a laptop

Find commercial insurance with Insurance Choice

The Insurance Choice Commercial team has been arranging low-cost, high-value insurance for more than two decades. Over that time we have specialised in tailoring commercial policies to meet the individual needs of businesses.
As well as covering things such as buildings, contents, loss of rental, goods in transit, employers’ liability and business interruption, we can also offer flexible payment options so you can pay off your policy in monthly instalments.
Get a quote for commercial insurance today!

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.