Us IT guys are no strangers to moving offices. We have moved so many clients that we lost count. We recently relocated our office after spending 10 years in our previous space. We have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugliest moves, and we’ve taken a few notes.
This is how you coordinate an efficient office move:
Phase 1: Planning
12 – 6 months before the move
1. Organize & Digitize.
First, figure out where and how to record and organize all notes, documents, to-do lists, and other move-related items. Centralizing information will keep you from pulling out your hair later. Smartsheet is a great project management tool that is user friendly and cost effective. Don’t rely on sticky notes and paper. Remember that digital files are waaay easier to move.
2. Announce the move.
The announcement should be comprehensive, regardless of the format you select. The communication needs to tell employees everything they need to know. In fact, the more detail you put into the communication, the easier it will be to wrap your head around all the steps of your office move.
As you create the announcement, be sure to translate any applicable items to your master to-do list. For example, if your announcement reassures employees they will have a complete “office move checklist for employees” of to-dos before moving day, then you need to include “making and distributing checklist” as an action item in your timeline.
Here are some items to include in your announcement:
- New office name and address
- Moving date/dates
- Key features of the new office
- Justification for the move (A quote from the CEO or other key decision maker is the perfect way to explain the decision to move—and even get them excited for the transition.)
- What employees need to do right now, if anything
- What future moving information employees should expect to receive
3. Survey your staff.
After the announcement has a few weeks to set in, talk to employees to get their feedback. Seek feedback on aspects of the move or the new office that you can reasonably control and work into your planning process, including:
- Changing work space needs (Some employees may want to request standing desks, lamps, privacy screens, etc.)
- Equipment needs (Replace broken keyboards, cracked screens, etc.)
- Seating changes (Some employees may need or want to change what teams and people they sit near.)
- Work style preferences, especially if your new space will include elements of both open and private floor plans.
- Design wish items or recommendations
- Any issues that restrict people from carrying heavy boxes and helping with moving work
You can deliver this communication in multiple ways:
- Communicate via department/division managers
- Send out a survey
- Host one-on-one meetings if your company is small
- Use your company’s email delivery tool
4. Establish your budget and purchasing process.
Get a budget (preferably on paper) from your company leaders and establish guidelines for completing all move-related purchases. Will you be able to use a company card? Will you have to submit invoices? Who (if anyone) will need to approve your purchases or vendor contracts?
This step will help you envision the moving process. For example, if you need a three-person team to sign off on all purchases and contracts, then you’ll be able to plan extra time for all to-dos involving purchases.
5. Establish and record key details.
Confirm and record key details that could affect the move. These include:
- Employee headcount
- Size of current office
- Size of new office
6. Make lists of what you have and lists of what you need.
Now it’s time to make inventory lists of all things big and small. Make two lists:
- Things you’re taking
- Things you’re leaving behind
The lists should highlight some needs you might otherwise overlook, especially if you cross-reference them with your new office’s floor plan.
- If the office move involves a complete design overhaul, and you’ll be leaving behind all trash cans and whiteboards, you might need to purchase new versions of those necessities to match the new look.
- If you’re pulling off a move on a tight budget, making an inventory list will remind you that you do in fact need to pack everything lurking in that old supply closet.
- If your new kitchen is twice the size of your old one, but your “taking” list only has a few basics, then you might need to get a bunch of new kitchen stuff.
7. Talk to managers to establish move-related workflow strategies.
Moving is hard. Juggling work while moving is super hard. Encourage managers to develop comprehensive plans for managing workflows throughout the moving process, especially if they have any critical deadlines that fall within the moving time frame. Remind them to keep the move in mind as they take on and plan new projects.
8. Create a separate email address for move-related questions.
People will have questions—lots of questions—about the office move. Try to separate the office move from your regular duties by creating an email address just for move-related questions and correspondence.
Phase 2: Packing and Preparing
6-3 months before the move
1. Source resources.
What vendors and services do you even need? Here are some things almost any office move requires:
- Movers/moving crew
- Clean-up crew and cleaning service
- IT Technicians
2. Lock down movers and loading/unloading locations.
Once you have movers lined up, it’s time to coordinate arrivals and departures. Work with your current and new building managers to find ideal loading and unloading times and spaces. The spaces need to accommodate your trucks without disrupting traffic. If either building has underground loading docks, then make sure your trucks will clear all entrances and exits.
3. Select a cleaning service and cleanup crew.
If your movers don’t clean up your old space, then you need to find someone to do that—unless your building will handle it. (Ask your building manager about this if you’re not sure. You don’t want to pay for unnecessary cleaning, and you also don’t want to get stuck with fees for not cleaning.)
Does your new building include an ongoing cleaning service? If not, then you will need to set that up. If you’re pleased with the service in your current building, then find out if that company can clean your new place and simply update the address on your existing service contract.
4. Walk-through & the walk-through again.
Even the most detail-oriented people can miss a few moving details. Do a few long, slow walks around the office and make notes, especially when you notice things that could:
Present moving obstacles
Require major preparation
Be easily forgotten
You might have a giant, permanently affixed company sign that will require major manpower for removal and re-installation. Or you might remember that hole in the wall that you covered with a picture when you moved in.
5. Downsize, consolidate, purge.
If you use your pre-move time wisely, you could actually reduce the items you even have to move. Take some time to carefully review inventory and tag items with throw-away stickers. You can do one purge a week so you don’t get overwhelmed. The long, slow effort will help you avoid packing and moving a bunch of junk you really don’t need.
6. Sell & donate unwanted items.
If you’re getting rid of big-ticket items, such as desks and chairs, plan an office moving sale so you can recoup some money to put toward new items (or a post-move party).
7. Start packing.
Start packing early to avoid an overwhelming move. Complete the process in short, manageable increments. Divide and delegate. Get going on “early bird” items and make a packing plan for the others.
Early birds. These are rarely used, but “keeper” items you can pack immediately and never miss.
Make-do items. These are items that are nice to have, but not crucial.
Absolute necessities. These are the items you’ll need to pack the day before, or even the day of, the move.
8. Talk to your team.
Continue your ongoing conversation with employees. They will have questions.
Here’s how to focus your communications in this phase:
As questions come in, post them into your communications in Q&A format. This will hopefully reduce the questions flooding your inbox.
Status updates. Everyone will want to know what’s going on. Tell employees what items you have completed and what you have yet to accomplish so everyone feels informed.
Changes in day-to-day life. Pinpoint how the move will affect employees’ day-to-day routines. Definitely cover parking in the new office space, especially if it’s a different structure than the one your old building uses. If there will be space assignments, passes, or fobs, then employees will want to know when they will receive those items.
New neighborhood information, especially if you’re planning a long-distance move. Tell employees about local emergency numbers, places to eat, amenities, transportation hubs, etc. If you have the time, turn this information into a dedicated web page or packet.
Reiterate vital information from the announcement email. This is not repetitive; it’s helpful. (In fact, this info is so crucial, you might want to print notices to post around the office to make sure everyone commits the new information to memory.)
- New office name and address
- Moving date/dates
- Key features of the new space
9. Create new seating arrangements.
For this step, you’ll want to get a detailed floor plan for the new office if you don’t already have one. Use the employee feedback you collected to draw up the new plan. Send it out for everyone to review so you have plenty of time to make any requested changes.
Set a cut-off date for changes; you will need a final seating chart to make the rest of your packing a success.
10. Design & Coordinate new office signage.
Make sure you consult your property building manager to ensure you follow the property signage guidelines for your new building. Your signage designer and installer will need specs of the building and a copy of the guidelines.
11. Inform your IT Service Provider.
The sooner we know of your move, the sooner we can order equipment and ensure we have enough man power. Office moves usually occur outside of regular business hours to get business running as usual come Monday morning. This requires sufficient notice and communication to mobilize teams accordingly.
Phase 3: Moving and Organizing
3 months before the move
1. Label strategy.
Properly labeling your boxes and new space will save you a lot of time. You can use any system you want—letters and numbers or colors and shapes—as long as the labels on the boxes correspond with the labels in the new office space. This will make it easy for movers to match.
For example, you can give every team a color, and every employee a number. Mark sections of the office with tape matching the team’s color, and mark each individual’s space with their number. Give employees labels with their color and number to put on their boxes.
2. Talk to your team, again.
Your last few moving communications should clear up any last-minute employees questions and concerns. Let everyone know:
- Where they need to be (Provide any necessary building access information. Before you relay this information, you’ll need to secure any necessary key fobs and codes to hand out.)
- What they need to do, especially packing and labeling instructions.
- Also, push out those key moving details just one more time:
- New office name and address
- Moving date/dates
- Key features of the new space
Connect the phone systems, electricity, internet, and water at the new office. Disconnect any service related to your old building, unless a building manager handles that. Arrange for security system setup.
4. Change your address on everything.
Don’t forget to change your address on:
- all stationary and business cards
- coordinate mail redirection
- update your location on your website, social media, and Google
5. Create an organizing and decorating plan.
Just as you planned to pack in phases, you can plan to unpack, organize. and decorate in phases. Your unpacking and organizing plan will likely mirror your packing plan in many ways.
Unpack absolute necessities. What items do you need to unpack and organize immediately to help employees do their best work?
Unpack make-do items. What items could wait a week or two?
Unpack out of sight, out of mind items.
Polish and spruce. Now that everything has a place, how can you tweak and improve the organization of your new office? What decorations and design work does the new space need?
6. Frequently check on the new building.
Check in with your new building manager often to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Plan a walk-through about two weeks prior to your move make sure everything is on schedule and ready for your team.
7. Consult your IT service provider once again.
Communicate any changes to the plan and make sure your IT service provider has access to disconnect your equipment in your old space and reconnect everything in the new space with minimal disruption to service.
9. Unpack the absolute necessities you established above.
10. Relax and enjoy your new space.
And stop by our new office to see how we’ve settled in! Word on the street is Mike keeps cold beers in his fridge for visitors…