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How to move offices without derailing your team

Small businesses often go through multiple office moves, as the business grows, or its needs change. Usually this is an exciting time – but also a stressful one, and one fraught with a variety of difficulties. To help you along, here’s a guide to making your move as stress-free and successful as possible.

When you’re choosing where to move

By far the most important part of this bit is to start early – six months before the moving date, if that’s possible.

A crucial challenge in selecting a new office is making sure it will have enough space for your business as it grows. Small businesses – especially startups – can go from a handful of employees to a sprawling team at an alarming pace. If you’re not careful, you might move somewhere with the space for your new, larger team – and then realise you’ve outgrown it in a matter of months.

This is never something you can fully predict, but you can reduce the risk. What does your plan for the coming years look like? What are your optimistic, pessimistic and realistic predictions for the size of the team? Will the place you’re looking at fit all of them? If it doesn’t, what will you do about it?

Beware of discounts. It is very, very hard to find a genuinely “great” deal on office space, especially in major cities. If somewhere is cheap, or offering you a discounted price, there is a reason. This place is going to be the base of operations for a group of people, for multiple hours a day, for months or years. Any problem or frustration will make itself known – so look for the reason that somewhere is being offered at a lower price.

Approaching the move

Nominate someone to fully own the process of moving offices. You don’t want various people responsible for different aspects of it – you need one person in charge, holding all the cards. This person needs to have both exceptional organisational and people skills. They’re going to be dealing with a large variety of people – while keeping the office as stress-free as possible.

It’s their job to make everyone aware of the move, and get everyone on board. Little things – like persuading everyone to take unnecessary items home, or throw them away, in the weeks leading up to the move will make everything much, much easier. A shared timetable counting down to the move, with what needs to be done and by when, will help streamline this process.

When you move

The key goal here is to create as little disruption as possible. It can be tempting to try and enlist a bunch of help from your team – it might feel like you’re saving money by getting people to move stuff, help set things up, help pack things – but remember that while they’re doing that, they’re not doing their jobs, which represents a potentially pretty massive loss for the business. Try and shift as much of the move to a time outside work hours, and it’s generally a good idea to hire a company to help with the move – unless you’re really strapped for cash.

Don’t do anything to make this move more difficult. Holding a party to say goodbye to the old office is not a good idea, especially not the night before you move. You’ll just end up making a huge amount of mess you have to clean up when you move.

Finally – something will slow you down. You can (and should) plan as much stuff as possible beforehand, so everyone is up and running with their desk, computer and internet ready to go in as little time as possible – but something will go wrong. Bake a bit of extra time into your plan to make room for this.

Settling in

There will be a culture shift in the new office. The buildings we work in have a pretty significant impact on how we work and interact with each other. Who’s sitting with who, where people gather and talk, who can see who – it all impacts your culture in both visible and invisible ways. Keep in mind the parts of your culture that you think are vital – and watch how they fare in the new office. If they’re slipping away, you’re going to need to take action.

Culture is a broad, vague topic – so here’s an example: Recently, we moved offices, and found that the layout of the new rooms meant certain teams didn’t socialise as much with each other. When we realised this was happening, we knew we had to do something – an anti-silo mentality being highly important to us. We started shifting desks around more regularly, and setting up more events which would bring teams together to socialise.

This article has focused on the problems you might face when moving offices – but we don’t want to give the impression that this is a fundamentally negative experience. Moving office is an opportunity. Often, it’s done as your business grows – which should be exciting for everyone – but it’s also an opportunity to embrace a “fresh start” mentality. Changing location can wake people up, and bring new energy to your team. It’s a good time to change things up – rethink your culture, your values and the way the business works – and move into your new office with a real plan for the coming years.