When the lease for a major telecommunication company’s downtown office was up, executives were eager to move to an area with a lower crime rate. The CRE leaders found a new potential office in a suburb east of the city, but they overlooked the fact that the majority of their employees lived in the downtown area or to the west. Public transit options to the eastern suburbs were limited, and faced with hour-plus cross-town commutes, employees were incensed at the proposed move.
You’re not alone. Read on for some tips to avoid painful office relocation scenarios.
Plan Change Management and Communication Early
The above scenario could have been avoided entirely if leadership had considered the impact on employees’ commutes from the beginning. It’s all too easy for CRE teams to zoom in on numbers and forget the people—and emotions—involved in office relocations.
In a typical relocation timeline, you should start evaluating your current office and lease terms 18 months before your current lease terminates. That length of time is necessary to decide whether to stay in your current space as-is, negotiate different lease terms, adjust your footprint (adding or releasing square footage but staying in the same building), or move to a new location. If you decide to move, you would then start looking at the market and evaluating potential new locations and office buildings.
At this time, you should already have a change management plan for the office move ready to kick off, which should start “planting the seeds” to prepare people for a change and mitigate negative reactions.
Identify and Engage Your Key Stakeholders for the Office Relocation
A big part of your change management plan should detail who you’re going to closely work with and how. Determine who will be most impacted by the move and start communicating with them as soon as you can.
Of course, managers or department heads of the business groups that will be moved will need to be kept informed throughout the planning process—they’ll also want to share their departments’ needs as you plan the new build out or tenant improvements.
The key is to strike a balance between making sure people feel both informed and heard (they will have concerns and questions) and staying on schedule with the office relocation plans. You don’t need to invite every stakeholder to every planning meeting, but you’ll want to keep them involved during key milestones.
Work with the Nay-Sayers
Don’t just write off Bill in Accounting as a chronic complainer. The sooner you identify the people who are most likely to have the biggest gripes about the office relocation, the more time you have to win them over.
Invite the nay-sayers to private meetings so they can share their complaints. It’s really important to listen in these meetings—often simply showing empathy can go long way towards turning them into advocates. You may also be able to explain the benefits and reasoning behind the move and show how you plan to address their concerns.
And when you do that, you’ll find that the people you “convert” are likely to become your biggest champions for the office relocation, helping other reluctant employees to get on board.
Design the New Office for Your Employees’ Work Patterns
Dig into your current utilization data and let that inform things like how many conference rooms you need, soft seating, collaborative space, and co-locations. An office relocation presents a great blank canvas and a chance to address problems with your layout (like “there are never conference rooms available on the second floor”). Don’t just let designers come up with a trendy design that isn’t functional and expect your employees to conform to it. Work with your stakeholders to design a space that will facilitate productivity and engage employees.
When it comes to moves and relocations, having a comprehensive plan (and checklist) is critical. Even when you’re in early phases of evaluating your current lease or considering new locations, start looking at change management and communication. The earlier you start engaging with stakeholders and other key employees, the more time you have to answer questions, overcome objections, and win people over so they’re excited about the office relocation.