The stresses that the moving process creates, whether for personal or business purposes, are well documented. In 2015, British energy company E.ON UK surveyed 2,000 adults who moved houses in 2011-2014, and 62% of them said it was one of the most stressful events of their lives, beating out all other choices including divorcing or breaking up and starting a new job.
How different is moving with your business? There is no quick and sure answer, but an office move isn’t something that most people take lightly. A botched move can damage all-important company morale, but a well-executed move can increase morale.
After talking to a number of people who have moved with their business into a new office, it’s easy to notice the process can weigh on some people, especially when heightened responsibility falls on their shoulders. But these people have learned something about the process that has allowed them to inform the next wave of employees moving with their business to a new office how they can nail the transition.
The Biggest Worries
When talking to people who went through the experience of moving offices, the discussion of initial concerns prior to the move can raise several different subjects. Many people are concerned about their commute. John Toral of Red Olive Digital Agency told us finding parking was part of his company’s move he prepared most for. To Nick Galov of Review 42, knowing all the commuting and lunch options in the surrounding area was a priority.
As many as 76% of Great Britain residents reported going out to lunch daily as recently as 2017. Lengthening your commute as a result of moving to a new office can weigh heavily on some employees, as it did for Caitlin Svahn of Pearl. “I thought that I was most prepared for the longer commute, but… It took a lot out of me the first few months and I’m finally getting used to it.” A commuting routine becomes regular; snapping out of it into a new routine can seem stressful at first.
Other concerns heard from employees prior to their move are related to the actual working environment but remain within the theme of changing routines. Typically, the layout of the office changes from building to building, so employees are adjusting inside to new surroundings all the same.
Jessica Lee, Marketing Director of Direction Inc., said her team completed “several walkthroughs” of their new office to ensure they were familiar with the layout of their new office, where everything belonged, and who they would be seated near.
“Knowing how big the shift in the work environment was going to be, we wanted to make sure everyone felt they had a voice in the process.” Eileen Minnick of Situation Interactive told us. “Before the build, we created a survey for our staff to gain insight into what they most valued in a workspace.” Minnick was not alone in completing a survey related to their office move, as Melanie King of Lendio did the same. King mentioned she and her coworkers completed an anonymous survey which allowed them to express their opinion about how their company should handle their relocation.
As much as one can prepare for a move to a new office, there’s no way to anticipate every single aspect of how the change will affect them. Dan Figuero, who moved offices at Red Olive Digital Agency, felt “You cannot be over planned,” while moving offices, “Just under planned.” Dan is correct that there’s no way to be completely prepared, but it is impossible to know everything to prepare for without traveling through time beforehand.
Two of our respondents, despite being aware of the layout of their new office, were most caught off guard by their company’s transition to open space. Exposure to more people more often had its pros, but that kind of change of environment can be jarring.
“I tend to be quite anti-social first thing in the morning,” Richard Overmyer of Red Olive Digital Agency told us, “So it took me a while to get used to seeing so many people.”
Open offices are preferred by bosses and their employees alike for several reasons, and several respondents were transitioning into an open office during their move. Katie Demiranda of Velo IT Group praised her office’s new open layout as allowing her company to increase communication and collaboration when employees were working in conjunction with projects.
Any layout change can lead to confusion.
Employees who moved offices often told us the simple matter of difference, rather than any layer of magnitude, often confused them.
Kris Hughes of ProjectManager.com felt “disoriented” in his new office in the first few days, though he claimed it had an “entirely different” seating arrangement which took getting used to. Igor Mitic, who co-founded Fortunly.com, simply had trouble finding items that were placed in a different arrangement from their old office when they arrived at a new office.
Internet service is pivotal to any business’s productivity, and any optimal move will disrupt business productivity to an absolute minimum. And yet a common thread we heard from employees who completed moves with their companies was frustration with uninstalled or disrupted internet services. Jessica Lee (mentioned above) lamented that her office didn’t have access to the internet for its first three days.
Tiauna Jackson, who has moved with 3 different companies, told us she’s come to take losing productivity from lack of internet after an office move almost for granted. Though downtime can be used productively by some employees, vital company functions that use the internet may end up disrupted. A number of employees we heard from expressed wishes that their companies had spent time ensuring the internet at their new office was completely set up before they began moving belongings into it.
The most harshly felt transition in an office move amongst the workers we discussed moving offices with had nothing to do with what happened inside their office. The average American commute is already almost a half-hour one way (at about 27 minutes).
A manageable commute is a key to maintaining an optimal work-life balance, and a transition to a new office location can disrupt that balance. It can be a tremendous positive as it was for Marli Crowe, who reduced her commute by more than an hour when she moved offices while working at Nielsen.
Others weren’t so fortunate, as their commute was altered for the worse. A longer commute was a bridge too far for marketing pro-Kevin Hosey at one of his career stops. Hosey claims the longer commute ultimately became too much to bear, and he ended up leaving the role. Caitlin Svahn, working at Pearl Operations in Los Angeles, claimed her commute change in the notoriously traffic-cluttered city was felt more harshly. “I thought that I was most prepared for the longer commute,” Svahn said, “But I don’t think anyone can prepare for a longer commute in Los Angeles.”
Employers will be wise to take into account how their employees get to the office, and where they are coming from when they pick a location for their new office space.
What They Learned & Their Advice
“Change is hard, but just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.” Eileen Minnick’s advice after her transition into a new office with Situation serves as a motivational slogan that can help employees keep their heads up during the office moving process. The process undoubtedly takes a toll on employees, even if they’re not planning the move or packing the boxes themselves.
The actual moving logistics still add a layer of stress, and Caitlin Svahn from Pearl makes sure to emphasize she recommends hiring professional movers to make moving day as smooth and peaceful as possible.
Many employees spoke to us about their initial apprehension in a new office setting. Change is hard is a simple mantra that applies to so many situations, including office moves. This initial apprehension doesn’t mean this particular change will be a negative thing. For Marli Crowe, enhancements in the environment eventually became apparent to the whole company. “It takes time but when it happens, it’ll be better for everyone.”
For the actual move, no one ever feels adequately prepared. In hindsight, it is easy to point out the aspects that could have been covered in pre-move preparation. When reading through the notes on comments made by the employees we talked to, their emphasis on preparation resonates through. So many praised every effort they made to prepare more, and never did any regret any redundant preparation prior to moving day.
Kris Hughes’ company ProjectManager.com had their talent director handle all aspects of the move, a process he says took her 4 months. Sue Spiry of Market Mentors LLC advised office movers to “label everything”; in her move, “Every box and item was labeled with where it needed to go in the new space, so we didn’t have to rip open boxes to see where they should go.”
Adequate preparation helps ensure any business transitioning to a new office space also has to keep the continuity of their business operations in mind. Losing productivity adds a financial toll to the move beyond the normal moving expenses. Some employees said they anticipated losing days of productivity, but others were frustrated that they were not able to hit the ground running in their new office to the full extent of their ability.
Kate Hart, removals manager at Fantastic Services in the U.K., emphasized the importance of “ready to use” working spaces that would be available to the most pivotal employees as soon as immediately after the move. It is impossible to expect everything to be in its right place right on time, but the show must go on for every business, at least in certain departments.
For multiple employees we talked to, the most important logistic to have determined as early as possible was internet service. Access to the web is a universal key for productivity, and losing that would affect nearly every employee at every line of work in this world.
Katie Demiranda, surely taking expertise from her time managing operations at an IT company, advises companies “to make sure you have a new circuit order in with your ISP months before the move. We have found these can take months upon months to complete and you are really at the mercy of the ISP as there is no way you can be up and running without working internet.”
Whatever this means for your business, we cannot advise strongly enough that preparation is the key to a successful office move. As a moving company, we commonly notice that an overwhelming amount more of our customers are under-prepared for moving day than over-prepared.
The consequence of failing to prepare in the corporate world is felt exponentially, as a botched move can result in lost productivity, damaged items, and decreased employee morale. There is no right answer to how much every company needs to prepare, but the messages of these employees who moved with a company clearly show it pays in many ways to be prepared for the day the office address changes.