How to make your office move a success

The first and most common mistake with relocations is not involving HR from the outset

The average office move ticks all the boxes required to induce panic in employees. There’s the unfamiliarity of new surroundings, the potential for your place in the pecking order to be threatened and the sheer uncertainty about what’s going to happen next.

Throw in the fact that many office moves aren’t just about a change of venue – they’re likely to be aligned to changes in processes or IT systems too – and it’s vital to consider how you deal with the human factors involved.

The first and most common mistake with relocations is not involving HR from the outset. If a move is led by the facilities team or IT, it’s unlikely you will be considering some of the most important aspects early on – the impact of the move on wellbeing, the ability to optimise performance and opportunities for collaboration, for example.

It’s also unlikely enough thought will be given to communication: telling people what’s happening, when and why makes all the difference, as does actively listening to their concerns and suggestions.

Dr Christine Bruckner, Hong Kong based director of global design and architecture firm M Moser Associates, says HR has to communicate with employees from the outset. She advises identifying ‘champions’ within the business who can help deliver key messages and garner feedback from employees, as well as setting up a task force to run the project and taking note of issues such as staff concerns, practical coordination and scheduling as part of a broader risk assessment.

“It is always prudent to be prepared for more resistance to change than you initially imagined,” says Bruckner.

“Above all, the best advice, which we give ourselves as well, is to listen actively and respond effectively. It’s essential that the office is treated as an important business tool and that it is understood that investment in the office, if done correctly, has just as much impact as the right computer paired with the right software.”

This runs counter to the trend seen among many larger businesses for ‘showpiece’ offices that contain play areas, juice bars and even slides. While there might be value in incorporating elements of fun at work, and making employees feel more welcomed, comfortable and creative, there’s also considerable evidence that many ‘gimmick’ elements of office design are significantly underused.

And, of course, installing a fussball table is very little help if employees are stressed because of the working conditions, or feel they aren’t being listened to.

“People first, buildings second,” stresses Bruckner. “The focus of interior architectural workplace design is ultimately creating the right work environment in which people can reach and exceed their own potential, work optimally, experience overall health, comfort and wellbeing, and ensure the continued and future success of the business.”