Change is constant, and never is this adage truer than for facility managers facing down the realities of the modern office environment. Whether a company is embarking on a completely new build, growing rapidly, merging with another organization or simply shuffling internal seating arrangements, move management has become a core function of the facilities management team.
Even a small move can consist of many connected parts that need to be synchronized, and it’s the job of FMs to make sure that the day-to-day operations of a company aren’t too heavily impacted in the process. This demand for efficiency places a heavy burden on facilities management teams: a successful move requires the careful consideration of countless factors. And if all the stakeholders aren’t properly looped in and all the variables aren’t considered, a move can quickly end up costing more and taking much longer than anticipated.
So how do you make sure that an office move takes place as expected? Managing a move successfully demands strategic planning, effective communication, collaboration, a workable strategy for moving teams and proactive steps that protect against disrupting business operations for a significant amount of time. If this sounds like a tall order, it is: but with the right preparation and tools, a streamlined office move is within your reach.
The definition of move management is simple—it involves relocating staff members and support materials from one space to another—but the planning and responsibilities that come with it can be complex. The process traditionally sees an organization leave their current premises for a new office, although intra-office and departmental moves are also becoming the norm.
Another important aspect of move management that is often overlooked is the ad hoc movement of employees within an office, often referred to by facilities management teams as churn. In some offices, moves need to be authorized by managers, but in others, employees are allowed to decide for themselves if they want to move to another desk. Regardless of who needs to sign off on a request, though, keeping close track of these moves is important. FM teams need to facilitate and schedule changes, and also keep HR, IT and other departments fully informed of who sits where.
Whether it’s a simple desk reshuffle or moving an entire office to a new location, these tasks all fall under the move management umbrella. And they all require careful preparation, strategic thinking and empathy towards employees in order to be successful.
With this in mind, a successful office move means looking at the best possible sequence of events, while also considering the business realities that factor into the move. When dealing with an office move, actions can be separated into five broad categories:
Planning and strategizing ahead of a move
Budgeting for a move and looking at the overall cost
Communicating clearly with all stakeholders
Managing move requests and dealing with roles and permissions
Analyzing data and reporting on the efficacy of a move
In the sections below we’ll take a closer look at these specific elements of move management and dig deeper into the details. You can also have a look at the resources listed here if you’d like to get more hints and tips ahead of a move.
Like any departmental process, the best way to approach move management is by getting your ducks in a row. In most cases, this would mean getting C-suite executives, HR representatives, IT teams and other key stakeholders involved as well, as all these teams need to answer some baseline questions before the process begins. These can include:
Is there a clear business reason for undertaking this move?
What are the potential benefits and repercussions of a move?
What are the company’s immediate priorities in the next quarter?
What are the long-term goals of the organization?
Does this move align with company objectives?
Once everyone agrees on the larger purpose and objectives of a move, it’s also important to look at the finer details. Some questions to ask are:
How will employees be impacted by the move?
How easy will it be to get employee buy-in?
What factors will be used to determine who sits where?
Is this a good opportunity to perhaps revisit your seating philosophy?
How (and for how long) will the move impact employees’ ongoing projects and daily work?
What does “success” look like? What metric will the organization be looking at to decide whether or not the move was successful?
There are countless elements to an office move that requires careful deliberation and planning, but as an initial step, facility managers and workplace directors should prioritize clear and open communication with other departments and staff. It’s crucial to make sure that the majority agrees that the move aligns with the larger goals and direction of the company, and that it will have a positive impact over the long term. While FMs might not be the ultimate decision makers, they can help drive decisions and conversations by listening to different employees and departments, and making sure that all concerns are flagged.
Once you’ve received sign-off that an office move should indeed take place, you’ll need to create a detailed timeline and action plan ahead of the move date. Such a plan involves negotiating with stakeholders to ensure the proposed move is structured in a way that best suits all teams.After the facilities team has finalized the timeline and action plan, the next step is to examine the granular details. It’s important to consider all the minutiae that comes with an office move: facility managers need to look at the number and locations of electric plugs, the sizes and positions of desks and the ratio of employees to bathroom and kitchen facilities. Again, it’s crucial to communicate with other departments—especially IT and HR teams—to make sure that no small detail is left unexamined. The more planning and preparation that is done ahead of the actual move date, the easier the execution will be.
Another important part of planning is looking at current data and figuring out how it can be used to inform and improve the way office space is utilized. Your IWMS can provide great insights into inefficiencies that currently exist and help your teams overcome these challenges in the new office environment. For example, space utilization reports can give a clear idea of areas that aren’t currently being used to their full potential. Sensor technology can even be used to understand exactly how employees are using various office areas. Why are a relatively small number of desks occupying a large open area? Does the company really need such a large boardroom on the second floor? Why are employees avoiding certain areas or desks? By answering these questions, FMs not only increase the chances of an upcoming move being a success, but they also ensure that past mistakes aren’t repeated. A large-scale move is a massive undertaking, so it’s important to make the most of it and leave nothing to chance.
Sensors, AR and VR can all be used to help plan a move, but scenario-based strategizing through a comprehensive move management solution is the single best way to remove assumptions from the equation. Sophisticated software allows the facility manager or workplace director to create hypothetical floor plans based on existing data, which can be shared with IT, HR and other teams to create a floor plan that works best.
Any proposed office move takes time and effort, and can have a significant impact on productivity. In short, a big move costs money, and a crucial part of effective move management is reducing the economic impact.
Certain costs are inevitable when moving, and these should be taken into consideration when planning. From the very start of the process, it’s important to establish a budget and share it with other stakeholders. FMs also have to be sure to include absolutely everything they can think of in the budget. Some costs are immediately obvious (like buying cardboard boxes), but others aren’t as instantly apparent (like buying everyone lunch on the day of move or paying for transport), so it’s important for FMs to crunch the numbers and plan ahead.
Once hard costs have been established, you can turn your focus to the “hidden costs” of an office move. No matter how carefully an office move is planned, it will have an impact on productivity. At best, employees will be unable to do their work for a couple of hours while their desks and computers are relocated, and even that can result in hundreds of lost work hours across a large organization. In reality, though, the impact on productivity will be much greater—moves often take longer than anticipated, it also takes time for employees to settle into a new environment and technical hiccups are common when moving into a new building. For facilities management teams, it’s important to both try and reduce the impact of these hidden costs through careful planning, and to factor them into the overall cost of the move. Be transparent and realistic when it comes to a large-scale office move: it’s unlikely that employees will be working as usual mere hours after being uprooted and placed in a new working environment.
Needless to say, a big part of budgeting for a move involves the hiring of a corporate moving company. While it can be tempting to go with whoever provides the lowest estimate, it’s important to consider the hidden costs mentioned above. The moving company that’s willing to do it for the lowest rate is not necessarily the one that will help an organization reduce downtime to the absolute minimum. It’s worth paying more for a company that has the experience to help make the move as quick and painless as possible.
Developing a detailed communication plan should be one of the earliest steps FM teams take before announcing any office move, as it’s important for facility managers to plot out exactly how and when they’ll be communicating move information to stakeholders. A plan for sending move information to employees should also be shared and coordinated with key teams like C-suite executives, HR and IT at a very early stage, since this will give them enough time to consider your recommendations and provide feedback.
FMs should not only communicate regularly with key stakeholders, but should also provide as much information—as succinctly—as possible. While it’s great to meet with other teams on a regular basis, communication is only productive when everyone is on the same page and has access to relevant data. You can help other teams get a better understanding of a proposed move and its implications by leveraging your company’s IWMS to share reports and analytics around the current setup, as well as potential scenarios for the proposed move.
A good software solution can also help streamline communication and planning by keeping conversations visible and centralized, and organizing requests in an efficient manner. OfficeSpace, for example, integrates with popular business communication apps like Slack and Skype, and with popular directories (Microsoft Active Directory, ADP, LDAP, Oracle, SAP) to ensure that departments like IT and HR are always aware of changes to employee seating. This is also useful when it comes to those small but regular office moves that lack the visibility of large-scale changes.
Regardless of the size of a move, when the time comes to discuss the change with the larger organization, the facility manager needs to practice active listening, with the understanding that employees will have concerns. While a lot of work will undoubtedly already have taken place behind the scenes, the move may come as a surprise to many. Create clear lines of communication and arrange meetings with different departments to talk about the ways in which the move will impact them. If these meetings are too difficult to arrange, FMs can also sit in on department meetings and give employees a chance to ask questions directly.
When managing a big move, the facility manager or workplace director should try to think like the organization's employees and anticipate their questions and concerns. A project framework like the ADKAR model has been developed with change management in mind, and can be a useful tool when it comes to a big office move that impacts most of an organization.
Move management is about more than large-scale, company-wide transitions. While sizeable moves can be stressful and require a lot of work, most FM teams actually spend more time dealing with ad hoc move requests that involve one or two employees. As you might expect, these also tend to see an uptick directly after a big move. No matter how much planning takes place, small changes within a work space are inevitable: employees come and go, people change departments and seating arrangements evolve.
The art of managing constant change is knowing the correct procedure for when these smaller moves take place. The following questions are important to consider:
How are seating arrangements decided?
How are move requests submitted?
Who has final say when it comes to a move request?
How and when are other departments informed of a move?
Having clear and transparent processes in place also allows for a more open and cooperative workspace. Once again, technology can help streamline and simplify your office’s desk swaps. No matter who has final say on employee seating, a good IWMS can ensure that other parties are alerted to every change, keeping everyone in the facilities management chain up-to-date. In the case of OfficeSpace’s software, our move request tool even offers an auto-decline feature that ensures you cut down on noise and spend your time on the requests that need your attention.
All of that said, it’s important not to lose focus of the bigger picture: the ultimate goal of every facility manager should be to make the workplace as pleasant and productive as possible for employees. So while putting effective systems and processes in place can help make move management easier, organizations should also be open to change. In fact, a large move can be an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate the status quo and look at other seating options. Perhaps it’s time the organization considered a hot desking strategy, or research how shuffling teams might increase communication across different departments.
As companies grow and evolve, layout and seating requirements will also change, so it’s best not to define move management in terms of specific moves that need to be completed by certain dates, but rather as an ongoing process influenced by both the short-term demands of the business and its long-term goals. The good news, though, is that software can help make the ongoing challenge of move management much easier.
Arguably the most important aspect of move management takes place after the actual move (although scenarios can also be reported on before the move is done). Once the dust has settled, FM teams need to look at the data and figure out if the new office layout is working. While careful scenario planning and strategizing can help reduce the odds of a completely unsuccessful move, it’s unlikely that the new arrangement will require absolutely no tweaks or adjustments, so its important to track changes and identify areas with room for improvement.
At a high level, FMs should consider three things in the weeks and months following a move:
Is the new layout working? Based on how employees actually use workspaces, meeting rooms and other communal areas, it might be necessary to tweak the layout.
Are resources being utilized in the best ways possible? As with layout, employees might not be utilizing resources in the ways predicted, necessitating a reshuffle.
How productive are employees? After an initial adjustment period, employees should at least be as productive as they were prior to the move. If productivity has taken a hit, the underlying cause needs to be found.
A comprehensive IWMS can help you identify the metrics that truly matter. Utilization reports can identify areas and resources that aren’t being properly utilized, and a request manager can give insight into the kinds of requests employees are submitting in the new office space. As before the move, this data can be used to optimize floor plans and balance occupancy ratios.
Just remember, although a quantitative approach is great, one of the best places to find useful insights and information is still from employees themselves. The same communication principles that applied before a move still apply after it, so give employees an opportunity to raise questions and concerns. Keep in mind that people, especially those who have been with the company for a long time, will not only need time to adjust the new layout, but may also raise valid issues.
While the literal and figurative heavy lifting might be over, move management continues long after the sun has set on moving day. FMs should continue to study data and solicit feedback to ensure that the office layout is optimized for the current demands of the organization.
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Lena Thompson American Psychological Association
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Adrian Grad International Rescue Committee
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