Movin' On: Keep Employees Well Informed

Moving is widely considered one of life's most stressful events — and that's just going from one residence to another. Imagine moving an entire company! Yet, every so often, it must be done.

For both owners and employees, moving is difficult. There's packing and unpacking while your staff carries on with business as usual — all the while facing the prospect of losing work or documents if you aren't extremely careful  — and dealing with the almost inevitable lost time and productivity.

That's why it's important to prepare carefully and include your staff as much as possible in the process. When a company communicates with its employees about a move to a new location, workers are more apt to feel like they're part of the plans — and less likely to be resentful and feel that the move is an imposition.

Here are a few tips to help make the transition as stress-free as possible:

Plan far ahead. Involve your employees in making a list of the pros and cons to help everyone understand the need for the move and what it'll accomplish. Consider seasonal factors that may affect your business and the timing of the move.

Generally, the optimal time to move is over a weekend so you have time to install and troubleshoot the technology, and make sure essential equipment is in place and functioning properly, before your next business day. Any downtime would then occur over Saturday and Sunday and, thus, minimally affect employees, customers and vendors. (This is all assuming your business isn't typically operational on weekends, of course.)

Consider the expense of the move and whether employees will be involved in physically moving any equipment or documentation. Remember you may have to move various office equipment, as well as your company's computers and printers. Employees may be able to help with these items, thus lessening the expense of a moving company. However, you may not want to risk imposing on employees' schedules, not to mention the safety and injury concerns involved. Address these questions during the earliest planning phases.

Consider upgrades. Relocating is a good opportunity to upgrade equipment. If you're still using old monitors, for example, donate them and buy better screens. Consider the possibility of new or upgraded software. In some cases, you may want to rent some laptops while your new surroundings are renovated or setup.

Create move teams. Choose employees to lead teams to manage specific areas involved in the move, such as new office furniture and equipment, electronics and communication, color-coding boxes, plants, decorating, morale, employee relocation if required, and budget. Often several of these responsibilities can be given to one person, but make sure each of these areas is assigned to someone.

It's a good idea to make area managers responsible for their individual budgets, subsequently funneling their expenses through to the budget manager. However, you organize your move team, whether it consists of one person or 20, the issues and decisions are similar.

Schedule field trips. If your staff is small enough, take groups of employees to the new site so they have an idea of where they'll be located. You can do these in groups of five or six employees at a time so there's an opportunity for them to ask questions and get a feel for what the new place will be like. Everyone will want to know exactly where they'll be located and how their cubicles or offices will be connected to the company network and Internet.

Take photographs. If you're building or renovating the space, post pictures of the project on the company intranet and on bulletin boards around the office so employees can keep track of progress. If the facility has yet to be built, post an architectural rendering instead.

Start a countdown. As the project nears completion, give employees a firm idea of when the move is going to take place. Send weekly e-mails to let them know that moving day is coming. Let them know about any delays as soon as possible. Doing so helps employees prepare mentally, physically and professionally for the move. They can begin packing, sorting, finishing up projects and contacting clients in advance.

Anticipate downtime. Moving often involves an element of unpredictability; delays can happen and often do. Notify all the people you do business with, from customers and vendors to accountants and lawyers, of the possibility, however remote, that your business activity may be somewhat limited for a day or two.

With some solid planning and employee involvement, your move is likely to be as painless and productive as possible, and you and your employees will be prepared for the unexpected.

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