If you are a small company of say perhaps less than 5-10 people, managing your employees during an office move can be relatively straightforward.
You probably know them all well and have good personal relationships.
Once you become a medium to larger size company though, that personal relationship can obviously become much more challenging or even impossible to maintain. That can lead to significant challenges at any time but particularly during a commercial relocation.
Not everyone will support you
If you’re relocating office to somewhere other than very close to your existing location, there is a strong probability that some of your employees are going to be personally inconvenienced as a result.
This factor is, sadly, often overlooked by many employers. For example, remember that even if your new location is only 10 or 15 minutes away from the original office, that might mean that some of your employees will be losing another 30 minutes out of their personal time each day in commuting.
Then there are all those issues associated with convenience.
Perhaps your existing location is close to shops and other town centre facilities whereas your new one is not within easy walking distance of them. It may be that some employees find the old location ideal for things such as dropping off kids in school but that may be something that is going to be much more difficult or even impossible when you move.
The point is that in any medium to larger organisation, it would be naïve to assume that some of your employees are going to do anything but resent the move about to take place.
Employees are key to a successful relocation
While most organisations are well aware of the need to take time and effort in selecting an appropriate moving company, employee management is often overlooked.
This is a pity because your employees can either make your relocation a pleasant and successful operation or a nightmare.
What enthusiastic and supportive employees can do for you is relatively clear. What is less clear is just how disruptive and difficult reluctant or recalcitrant employees can be in the same situation.
Those problems can be manifest in any one of a number of ways:
• Sotto Voce discontent expressed to your clients
• A reduction in performance levels
• The creation of unnecessary ‘issues’ in terms of day to day operations in the new premises
If this all the sounds rather childish, it is in fact a series of perfectly well-known syndromes that many organisations have experienced.
What you can do about it
Obviously, you cannot give any single employee or group of employees the right of veto over where you need to conduct your business.
Even so, doing nothing isn’t an option.
Post-mortem type analyses and recriminations after the event are sterile and pointless. What is necessary is to recognise these risks in advance and to try and deal with them before they become a challenge that could adversely affect your organisation.
Perhaps the first thing to do is to personally communicate with all of your employees, in advance, to see if the relocation is going to cause them any inconvenience. Showing that you are aware of the potential issue and are consulting them can often in itself address any possible discontent arising from the perception that they are simply pawns on the chessboard.
The second thing you need to do is to identify when those concerns are legitimate and something that is going to cause individuals real inconvenience or disruption.
Having identified them, it then becomes a ‘standard’ management challenge for you to decide how to deal with them. Sometimes things such as slightly more flexible working hours or relatively modest financial compensation, can work wonders and head off trouble before it arises.
The most important message though is to be aware of the risks here and to consult in advance. It is a lot more effective than berating people after the event in circumstances where their discontent has bubbled over.