An office relocation may seem like a daunting prospect but with good communication, the right team and enough planning it does not have to be. Laura King outlines some key considerations and where to start.

Who do you need to involve?

From the outset, you should build a knowledgeable project management team. The lynchpin of this team will be a project manager who can either be appointed internally or externally depending on whether the organisation has internal personnel with experience in the area.

It is important for the project team to include everyone who might be affected by the move such as HR, staff representatives, members of the IT team and communications teams. Any externally-facing departments will also need to be represented to minimise disruption to clients and customers.

Consider how to choose a team that has as much experience as possible in relocating as this will help avoid costly mistakes. Where there are gaps in knowledge or experience these can be compensated for by talking through your move with other practitioners.

Avoid the common mistakes

Moving offices is a stressful time, and on top of ensuring that day-to-day functions carry on as normal, it can be a very busy period with unique challenges. Some common mistakes to avoid are:

  • not allowing enough time for planning

  • underestimating the complexity of the move and the different elements involved

  • poor communication with staff

  • not using the services of a specialist company for crucial elements of the move.

Questions to ask

One of the reasons for the move might be to help catalyse change in the organisation, but even if this is not the case, moving can help transform the organisation for the better. To get the most out of your move, ask the following questions.

  • Are there better ways of working in the new office, for example, are there opportunities to introduce agile working or more flexible modes of working?

  • Can the layout of the workplace be used in a more cost-effective and efficient way?

  • Can the building be run in a more efficient and cost-effective manner?

  • Can the new space be used to promote the brand or image of the organisation?

  • Does the move provide other opportunities, for example, to declutter or change the technology used?

Planning the process

Planning a move is a big task, but it is also essentially a list of logical steps and considerations. Planning these steps is like implementing any project plan. Each action will require a series of subactions and the plan will determine how much time is required, costs incurred and who is responsible for each action.

Like any project plan, it will also need key milestones and should be regularly reviewed. A risk, issues, dependencies and assumptions log should also be maintained to keep on top of any problems that arise.

The project plan will act as a roadmap through the process and will also be the project manager’s main document for communicating progress and keeping control.

Legalities

There will be legalities associated with the move and these will need to be considered, particularly with regard to timeframes and options for any new lease. It is advised that a property solicitor is used to best represent your commercial interests.

Before the move, ensure that you are upholding your current tenancy agreement and understand any options available to you to negotiate the termination of your contract, or options for subletting the old property. A new office lease is an incredibly important document and it is imperative that it meets the needs of the organisation. Allow plenty of time for negotiation and check that all details of the lease are understood and agreed.

Changing the location of a workplace might also involve changes to employment contracts. Review whether there is a mobility or flexibility clause in workers’ contracts that allows a change in the location of the workplace within a reasonable distance and with reasonable notice. If a mobility clause is not present, then advice should be sought on the appropriate course of action. In either event, professional advice should be sought to ensure that employers are not open to cases of unfair or constructive dismissal.

Change management

Any relocation will cause significant disruption to your workforce, and the personal effect on staff will be significant. This is particularly the case if the relocation results in staff resigning or there being changes to how people are expected to work.

While the relocation is taking place, staff will need to continue to work as usual and so it is paramount that the move causes minimal distraction and that any negativities surrounding the move are dealt with appropriately. Many staff will be positive about the move, but change is inevitably unsettling for some, so showing empathy and consideration throughout the process will be critical.

Communication is also paramount to keep everyone updated and to keep motivation levels high. Some aspects to consider are as follows.

  • Announce the move as soon as it is confirmed, to avoid any rumours and to show respect and consideration to your employees.

  • Provide clear reasons why the move is taking place.

  • Hold sessions for staff where they can ask questions and make suggestions. There may be questions around job security, parking arrangements, or getting to and from work. Make sure that the project team is able to answer these questions quickly, consistently and with transparency.

  • Speak regularly with staff and involve them wherever practical. If there are any aspects of the relocation that can be negotiated, make an effort to consult as widely as possible.

  • Highlight the benefits of the new office space and keep employees up to date with progress on the relocation work. Having a pictorial plan, showing pictures of the new office on the intranet, or inviting staff to visit the new premises will help get buy-in and generate enthusiasm for the move.

  • Be honest about any bad news, but have a solution so that staff know that any problems are being dealt with.

  • Make sure on the day of the move everyone knows the day-to-day practicalities of the new office, such as where they are sitting and how to book rooms or use facilities in the new space.

  • Do everything to help get staff “back to business” as soon as possible after the move, but be realistic about expectations.

  • Ask for feedback and deal with any remaining “niggles” quickly.

Remember the small things

From changing the address on corporate stationery, to getting milk delivered to the right place, the small things can make a big difference. Having the office cleaned before staff start at their new desk and having desks with full stationery stocks, a new business card and a relocation guide can create a “wow” factor, really helping staff to feel valued and much more settled on the first day at their new desk.

Last reviewed 14 December 2016