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Janine Milne

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In a Nutshell: Five tips for a smooth office move

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Moving house is considered to be one of the most stressful things that we can put ourselves through.

Although moving office (hopefully) is not likely to be quite as fraught, it does require not only a huge amount of organisation, but also sensitivity in the way that the change is explained to employees.
 
The issue, according to Kevin Fisher, HR director at specialist lender, Blemain Group, is: “People’s working space becomes very, very personal so it’s always tricky moving offices.”
 
The 350-strong company, based in Manchester, is about to relocate itself. Its new site is just a short hop in geographic terms, but the move from a city centre location to a business park will be a much bigger psychological leap for some staff.
 
As a result, Fisher is putting plans in place to ensure that the relocation is as painless as possible, although he acknowledges that not everyone is going to like it. Here are his top five tips for ensuring that an office move goes smoothly:
 
1. Remember that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time
 
Ensure that you understand the issues for staff. How will it affect their journey time to work? Will they have to drive rather than take the bus or walk? What impact is it going to have on their lives?
 
Do the best you can to accommodate everyone’s requirements, but accept that you’re not going to manage to meet everyone’s wishes. And some people are going to unhappy no matter what you do.
 
2. Speak the same language as your audience
 
If you’re speaking to members of the finance department, then talk about the timings of the office move and whether it will affect month-end reporting. If it’s people in compliance, you will need to discuss regulatory issues.
 
While it’s easy to talk about everything in general terms and in the same mode, it is important to understand your audience and appreciate their problems to ensure that you get buy-in from them.
 
3. Keep on communicating
 
Engage with people about why you are making change. With our office move, we are going to alter a lot of our working practices, which will have an impact on people, and so we need to communicate those changes clearly.
 
4. Get the right people to handle the move
 
Appoint a project manager to oversee every aspect of the move and start planning months in advance. For our own situation, we have recruited a specialist project manager, created a programme board for quick decision-making and a project team that includes representatives from all areas of the business.
 
5. Bear in mind that the devil is in the detail
 
It’s always easy to have great ideas for change at the planning stage, but work through them logically as best you can to understand the implications.
 
We are moving from floor-based kitchens to a company dining room, which would seem simple but raises lots of questions. For example, employees currently eat at their desks, but will they be able to in the new set up?
 
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