Moving locations is often cited as one of the most stressful life events for an individual. For a business, it can be even more nerve-racking, given that it will affect all your employees. We recently moved our Sharp corporate offices from Mahwah, NJ to Montvale, NJ. Along the way, through trial and error, we picked up some great insight into how to manage such a massive move and keep our employees happy and productive. Here are some tips we learned that can prove helpful for the next time you move your business:
- Bring out the maps. If you are staying within the same general area, it’s helpful to look at your entire employee base and where they live on a map. Plot their home addresses to get a better sense of where to move and how to help employees prepare for the change. When we were deciding to move our office to Montvale, we took into account everyone’s commute. Some commutes became longer and some shorter, but in the end, most employees saw only minor differences. This helped make the location change less impactful to their home life.
- Think outside of the cubicle. Not every business is ready for a completely open, shared space, or the costs that come with innovative office designs. But you should still take an extra step to look at several floor plans to determine which one is most beneficial to your business without bringing about a radical design change. In Sharp’s case, a semi-open office saved space and fell within a reasonable budget. We felt that in order to work more effectively we needed our departments to be less compartmentalized and more open. We created more “common” areas to meet and get out of the traditional office space. This is turning out to be a good choice for us, since it has already helped to improve communication across departments and business units.
- Internal communication is key. Ensure you’re keeping your employee base updated every step of the way. This can be through email, print newsletters and even employee town hall meetings. Communicate early and often about your plans to mitigate any issues they may have with the logistics of the move. We started an internal newsletter called Fresh Start, which we sent out every other week, and sometimes more often, while we were packing up. It included all of the pertinent information that employees needed for that period of time. Additionally, we used digital displays around the office to communicate other information such as what items to discard and which items to file, as well as to announce office-wide clean up days.
- Determine roadblocks. Find out the most immediate concerns and address them as quickly as possible. One, less obvious consequence of moving offices is that the shops and vendors that employees would normally frequent during lunch and to do errands are no longer available. This can include barbershops, doctors or restaurants: it is changing their support structure. To help employees get acclimated to services and shops in the new area, our HR team canvassed the new neighborhood for new stores that would fill those needs and be willing to give discounts to the company’s employees to help facilitate the transition. They managed to do a great job getting all sorts of discounts from area retailers and most importantly put together a map of the businesses surrounding our new location so that employees would be ready to explore the area when they got there.
- Make way for the tech. A move is a great time to upgrade your technology and find ways to help your employees to work effectively. As a technology provider it was important to have our partners and Sharp’s own, latest equipment available for to use throughout the building. Our product teams worked hard early on to ensure that our newest multifunction printer models would be set up with the latest software and that conference rooms would have the latest in wireless AQUOS BOARD® interactive display technology. Additionally, multiple training sessions for employees helped ensure that they were comfortable with the new equipment. We used the move as a reason to improve our work processes and find more efficient ways to run our business.
- Reflect your culture. Ensure your new space reflects your company culture and any change in thinking. We wanted to create a more relaxed atmosphere, so we created themed conference rooms with full-wall appliques of images that reflect our business and surrounding communities in which we live. My favorite “The Shore” with a wall-to-wall beach image, is certainly a more relaxing environment for a meeting. Other amenities such as a fitness center and couches for more relaxed discussions were a nice addition to help employees get away from their desks and gain a new perspective. We wanted a more open working environment where employees would feel comfortable brainstorming with each other to come up with ideas to make the business better. To do this, we provided a fantastic, open-aired atrium with large screen displays/TVs, Xbox games, foosball and pool tables. The atrium is conveniently located next to the employee cafeteria, so it is a great place to visit during lunch. One unanticipated result of the atrium is that it has been functioning as a comfortable, informal place to hold meetings. Our AQUOS BOARD interactive displays double as TVs, game consoles and interactive displays for meeting collaboration, and at any time you can see groups of people lounging on couches deep in discussion. In fact, I am writing this while sitting on a couch in our atrium.
- Keep listening throughout the process. Pay close attention to your employee’s concerns throughout the move and even after you’ve settled in. When you bring in new personnel, show them the space to get their thoughts and even suggestions for improvement. We did this at Sharp by conducting new employee roundtables to get their feedback. Many great ideas came about by bringing employees into the process and gaining their perspectives on how to make it the best possible environment. And now that we have moved in, the process does not end, we have conducted roundtables to get ideas on how to further improve our office environment as well as all the ways our employees interact and work. And, we continue to make changes in our building based on employee feedback of what is working and what is not.
While our move was not perfect, we do believe we gained some valuable insights as to what is important to our team members and how we can continuously improve our office environment. Hopefully, this information may be useful to you for your next move, or just to improve your current office environment. Let me know your thoughts on other ways to make an office move go smoothly.