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Our office lease is up, how can I gather employee input on a possible move?

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Question:  “Our office lease is ending in a year and we are considering moving. We want to get input from all employees on what they would want in a new office.  Do you have any suggestions on the best way to gather information on wants and needs for a new office? If I design a survey, what sort of questions should I ask?” —Cathy

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan March 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Interesting Mark… I heard that the next big bubble is going to be in commercial real estate (Did I read that in Michael Lewis’ The Big Short?) but t apparently if/when it comes to pass, there are going to be deals to be had in office space…as well as foreclosures. But businesses hoping to economize w/ new space should calculate all those moving costs/man hours etc. Done right, it could be great opportunity to get better space…admins can be the heroes that make all the employees office dreams come true….or not!

btw, 15 years ago, I hated it when my association I worked for moved offices–no one asked me for my input and my office space got cut in half… when that happens it would be nice if management would at least tell staff, “we know it’s not the best space, but it’s so good for the company (AND your job security) that we now pay half as much in rent, etc etc. my point is, I think people WANT to be team players, not whiners, but. you just have to let them in on how it benefits them, directly or indirectly for the organization to save money….(i.e., I worked for a different company that sprung for interior decorators, new wall paper , etc but gave out paltry salaries … that can hurt morale. But I digress. Good luck w/ your move!

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Mark March 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm

What a difference a week makes. When I read this last week, I didn’t really have anything to say. But over the weekend, we had an annual planning session, and the topic of furniture & facilities came up. What we are doing is having each employee make a list of their needs and a list of their wants, with them prioritizing their lists. We explained the difference between needs and wants, so people did not put everything as a need. These are being sent to a furniture & facilities committee, who will then take these individually prioritized lists, and compile an organization-wide priority list. We are going to work on needs first. If there is money, and space, remaining for wants, we will work on those after all needs are taken care of. The big key, though, is properly separating differentiating needs from wants.

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Lisa March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

One more comment to add, based on my personal experience. We had a major office move about three years ago. My desk is not a standard “cubicle,” but was a custom-built desk space. The people in charge DID ask me for my input about a couple of things, but not much. I ended up with a desk that’s barely 20 inches “deep” — too narrow for a comfortable work space. Once I added the phone, computer, calendar, etc., I have less than 12 inches of usable space for most of my desk. It would have been very easy to add more space (there’s plenty of room!) — what I wouldn’t give for an additional 6 inches of desk space! So I think it’s reasonable to ask for REASONABLE feedback and suggestions. I understand that you’ll always have complainers, but when requests are reasonable, it’s great to get feedback.

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Sara March 28, 2012 at 9:45 am

I think your employees would be glad to have input, but be sure to give them ample time to give it some thought. When planning our office move a few years back, my boss asked me for my input about my office area about a half hour before the architect showed up. I suspect the designers (we’re an engineering firm) got the same “heads up” I got because their work areas were designed as if they were a bunch of paper pushers; no room for the big 24 x 36 drawings they need to spread out, etc.

Anyway, if you want to avoid a “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if…” response, I would suggest limiting your request to input with regard to function that goes along with their duties. For example, “What inefficiencies are you experiencing in your current work space that we could work on to make you more productive?”

The best of luck to you!

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Jo Barnard March 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm

We recently moved to a new building on campus and prior to the move a survey was sent out asking our group what we needed to function as a group, size of area needed (# of people in our group), allowing for growth (if there will be any), filing cabinets, storage room for supplies and place to keep old files. We were not given any input on the design, size or location of cubes. Offices for manager were all one size, cubes for staff all one size and directors’ offices another size. We all have uniform designed cubes and chairs. If there are any medically related needs (special chairs, etc for individuals with medical problems), that is another question. Everyone has the same phone and equipment at their desk. If new location means new phone system, etc, that should not be left up to input from the group. That decision should be made by management or a committee selected to oversee the major design and function of the office. If these items are going to be part of your survey, then very few choices should be given from which to choose. A move does not have to be traumatic. I have been with several offices that have moved buildings and it always went fairly smoothly. There will always be a complainer and whiner, because you can’t please everyone, but if everyone has some input about what their needs are to function productively, it should work well.

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Katy March 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm

We are moving in less than two months. While our office is large (~100pp), and the company larger, we asked staff to put up a ‘wish’ list – things they would like, but would not necessarily get. Most of the suggestions were well received and accomodated, especially things like child care, public transport, nearby schools, parking options, amenities etc. Some couldn’t be accomodated, but the reasons why were given, and most people were happy.

You can’t make everyone happy and there will always be someone that will whinge about the move – the building, the location, the fact they didn’t get the one thing they wanted. Our last move was 7 years ago, and we STILL have a person that whinges about the location. We’re moving again, and he’s now whinging about the new location. Some people you can’t please.

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Anonymous March 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I agree with the two people above. We are moving into a new campus soon – we have been preparing for about 2 years. Luckily we were not given much choice by our facilities manager. If you do give choices I would recommend only offering one or two choices I would not leave it to everyone’s imagination or you will have chaos and lots of upset people. We have a group of project managers who are managing this move of approx 100 people. There is a lot to take into consideration the tear down of the current office, the build out of the new office, mail, phone setup, desk size, parking and much more. Best of luck to you.

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Jacki March 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Cathy, I cringed when I read your question! When our office moved it was a lot of work and a big headache. I wouldn’t ask for too many opinions. People will keep coming to you to follow up on their idea and you will start to regret asking for input. If you don’t use their idea, they will complain about it for years to come (i.e. “Well, I told them not to move to this side of town because of the brighter sunlight, but no one ever listens to me. Why even ask us if they weren’t going to take our suggestions seriously…”). There are so many factors involved and decisions to be made. It is best to keep it simple.

This isn’t directly answering your question, but it is related to office relocation: If you do move, make sure you start notifying everyone of your new address well in advance. And don’t just rely on the Post Office. You need to tell the government, all your vendors, insurance carriers, subscriptions, etc. I didn’t do my homework and we waited much too long and our mail was a mess for a couple of years. Really. Years. Good luck with your survey and the move!

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Joyce March 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

If you’re asking for all staff input, I’m going to assume it is a small office. Instead of asking staff first, I’d do my homework to get information outside of the office — cost, availability, etc. Then offer up a list /survey to staff to have them rate importance of having something and any other comments. If you don’t have some sort of guide for staff to work with, you may end up with hurt feelings when their recommendations are not accepted. Usually with larger offices, you may ask the managers as to what they see is a need for their group/department in order to be able to function as a team. Importance is knowing the difference between “need” and “want.” What do you “need” to function and work. What do you “want” as a nice-to, IF reasonable and affordable.

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