Moving is never really much fun.
All those boxes, all the hassle, the complex logistics of the whole operation… Add to that the very fact that we, as humans, are serious creatures of habit and it’s enough to make you want to stay put in the exact same spot, forever.
Perhaps not; but any kind of relocation is a big enough project before you even start to consider how it might affect everyone else. With an office move, this means your employees. Whatever the motivation for the move, company relocation needs to be a positive experience: one that will result in improved operations, more cost-effective facilities, raised productivity, and increased profits. Keeping people on-side during the shake-up is therefore of utmost importance.
Communication is the key to keeping employee morale high before, during, and after the relocation process. As well as announcing the important details (such as where to and when) it’s important to keep people informed about how things are progressing more generally. Ensure you send out regular updates from a very early stage to keep any rumors (“I heard the building is on an ancient burial ground”) and uncertainty (“They’re going to fire half the company!”) from spreading throughout the business.
Make sure your communication methods are also appropriate for your message. For example, staff will appreciate a senior manager delivering the initial message face to face more than a blanket email to all staff. It may also be worth setting up an FAQ section on the company intranet which encourages open discussion and gives content to further newsletters. This is a great opportunity to excite people about the possible benefits of the new office too. Share photos and objectives – if staff know what you are trying to achieve, seemingly personal issues like “who will I be sitting next to” will become trivial and staff will be able to focus on the bigger picture.
Make sure you engage with staff regarding the move. Encourage open discussion and involve employees in conversation – there may be factors that you haven’t considered such as car parking spaces or employees’ changes in commute. Find out if there are things about the current (old) office that didn’t work and if that might be improved in the new space – this will also help employees see the relocation in positive light. Employees can be the best consultants when it comes to improving work flow and environment – just be sure to manage expectations when someone suggests that indoor swimming pool/arcade games room/massage parlour.
Similar to other comprehensive tasks in a company, the office move is essentially a team sport – and this refers to more than just the physical act of moving: one person simply cannot accomplish every task that is required.
Each company therefore needs a committee for the project and this is a great way to involve employees in the whole relocation process. Selecting a representative from each department to form a committee and act as a “moving champion” facilitates two-way communication and involves employees in each phase of change. This also ensures that each department can flag any potential issues prior to relocating and provide input into any solutions. Considerations that involve the look and feel of the new space will always benefit from employee input and hopefully result in a space that maximizes efficiency as you will know the kind of area that will help employees to do their specific jobs better.
The involvement from departmental coordinators is crucial to making sure employees remain happy throughout the move and helps to foresee problems that might cause delays later on.
Additionally, employees should certainly see the new office before the day of moving. Schedule times when employees can visit the new office and get a tour. The more comfortable all your staff are with the people, amenities, and atmosphere, the sooner they’ll be ready to work in their new space.
If possible, take small groups over with you and have lunch at one of the local establishments. This is also a good opportunity to encourage research of the new area. If your company has been located in one place for a while, employees will have their favorite eating spots, coffee shops and business-related services nearby. To help with the transition, one of the tasks of the moving committee could be to create a short, fun guide to the new area with a list of local businesses including restaurants, cafes, gyms, dry cleaners and supermarkets. Consider having an estate agent who’s familiar with the new office area to give a short presentation about transportation options and to answer questions on the new location so people’s expectations are managed from early on.
So the move is on and whilst some people accept it as a necessity, there are those tricky few making mountains out of molehills. The best way to combat this negativity? Presents.
Are there things you can do or upgrades you can make at the new space that will help not only employee sentiments (“All my hard work and we don’t even get new pens!”) but also business output? Moving office is the ideal time to in fact look at any potential technology upgrades. Since the systems will need be taken down, disassembled, and reassembled over the move period anyway, this is the ideal time to look at how the latest technology can help improve the efficiency and speed with which employees respond to customer requests and internal responsibilities – as well as the promise of something shiny and new upon moving (because who DOESN’T want a better/faster/smarter computer?!) Although it can be a large initial expense to most companies, considering the increases to employee efficiency and staff retention, new technology can often pay for itself within a year of its purchase.
A less costly, equally welcomed strategy is to look at whether you can operate new ways of working in the new environment such as dress down Fridays, summer working hours or free breakfasts. With an office move comes the chance to re-address your company benefits and see if the new space will allow for more socially-focused reward incentives to keep employees happy. Finally, have a little party. Make move-in day a fun and positive experience – a few balloons maybe, a senior management welcome and a company-sponsored lunch where everybody’s contribution to the relocation process is acknowledged and is a chance to build team enthusiasm and excitement for the new space and the future of the company.
No matter why your company is moving, whether it’s because of a downsize or an expansion, to save money or to be located closer to customers, it’s important to ensure that employees are taken into consideration, communicated with throughout, kept informed and feel part of the move and of the business.