Tips for a smooth office relocation

At some point, your office will likely need to pull up stakes and head out to unexplored territory, moving the staff and everything else—whether it’s two doors down the same hallway, or across town in a shiny new complex with (finally!) sufficient parking. Your preparations will fall into two categories: (1) ticking off the absolutely-must-do’s and (2) solving the hidden issues that can trip up an otherwise orderly relocation.

First of all, make sure you’ve:

1. Determined the productivity damage. An all-hands-on-deck move in which everyone pitches in to get it done in one fell swoop can be a natural team-building morale booster, but unless you pay everyone overtime to make it happen on a weekend, are you prepared for everyone falling behind—not even including the residual lost time as people get acclimated to their new home? Sit down with managers and figure out how much it’s worth to the company not to miss a beat.

2. Dispatched IT out in front of the move. Even if you’re just headed up the stairs of your building to fabulous suite 500, IT needs to assure you that every single connection will be in place and working ASAP. An IT failure during an office move can be a critical hit to a business. If staff are moving their own office equipment, make sure they know how to hook it up on the other end; have them photograph their connections to make it go smoother.

3. Told everyone who’s in charge. Every aspect of the move should fall directly under the auspices of an assigned manager, and a list should be sent around before it. Lost your power strip? See Bethany. Need new business cards with an updated address? That’s Tom. Phone not working? Go see Daryl. You need to cut the number of unanswered staff questions down to almost nil to make the process tick along effectively.

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4. Planned for the “#$%&!” Injuries—hopefully just nicks and bruises—are going to happen. People will misjudge weights and sizes, and they’ll just plain not see where they’re going with that wobbly chair. Not only will you need a first aid kit handy, you’ll need a plan should an employee decide the company is at fault for his pulled muscles or pinched fingers. Get with HR on this one (even going over OSHA notification standards should the worst happen), put out a safety flier and make sure everyone understands the risks of pitching in.

Then there are less obvious issues that need to be addressed:

• Will customers and clients catch on to the fact that for at least one day, you’re just not prepared to put them first? You need to put on a confident face in the midst of the craziness; they don’t care that the office is a jumble. They want results. Find a way to produce them during the big day without excuses. This may mean putting together a small handpicked team to lag behind and ensure each department is held together until it’s safe for them to rejoin the herd.

• Will the marking of territory get disruptive? In the middle of a hectic displacement, the last thing you need is to be dealing with people who suddenly find it unfair that a co-worker gets to sit closer to the coffee pot than they do. Have the law laid down firmly before you get to your destination and impose a moratorium on such complaints until the workflow is back to normal.

• How do you appease the naysayers? From day one, there will be people who (sigh) perceive the new digs as insufficient somehow. Think of putting the new office’s finest feature to use immediately to win full buy-in, and as long as you’re spending so much money on the reshuffle, it’s inexcusable not to tack on the relatively modest cost of a pizza party. Everyone will work very hard during a move; they at least deserve plenty of pepperoni and Pepsi as a reward.