Don’t Shut Out Employees During New Office Planning.

Employees have feelings too, you know. Do these complaints sound familiar during move planning? “We don’t know what’s going on;  they don’t tell us anything.”  How about post move complaints? “Had they included us, this oversight never would have occurred.”

During the new office planning process, senior management often builds a wall not shown on any floor plan but physical nonetheless. It’s a barrier that shuns critical involvement by managers and staff.  While management believes that too much involvement will lead to an unproductive environment, often just the opposite is true. Excluding employees from the move process leads to poor planning decisions only realized after move in.

For a successful relocation plan, it is necessary to communicate with key leaders such as department heads from the beginning of space programming through physical relocation. A move committee should be assigned for the duration of the project and should include an outsourced project manager or move consultant who will manage, disseminate and coordinate the information as needed.  People like to know what to expect and department heads usually have good insight into how the changes can improve their workflow.

How many times have we heard that tenants often outgrow their new space before they ever move in due to poor internal communication that led to poor space selection and planning?  Space needs are more than the number of offices, conference rooms, cubicles, growth, loss factor and circulation. For an office to be sized and designed properly, it is important to consider the needs and working relationships of all internal departments BEFORE site selection. See Space and Adjacency- Maximizing the Efficiency and Layout of Office Interior Space.

The morale of the employees has to be kept high otherwise dissatisfaction leads to a disgruntled staff.  Most companies are so secretive that the first realization of problems occur when the employee’s first glance at a proposed seating chart. For many companies, this first encounter is not a pleasant experience. Employees should be encouraged to participate in the planning process so they get used to the new environment.

Critical information is not about move committee input but factual logistics such as “Our Sales Group cannot be separated from the Marketing Department” or maybe they cannot move on a particular date because it may disrupt a pending company-wide initiative.  A project manager collects, communicates and is responsible for coordinating these details that don’t really fall under any particular discipline on the team.

It is this kind of communication and education about the process that leads to a successful outcome. Even planning for simple issues like hanging pictures, certificates, bulletin boards, etc., help to make for a smooth transition.

Including the staff who will be moved reduces anxiety and allows for questions and concerns to be addressed in advance.

5 Comments on Don’t Shut Out Employees During New Office Planning.

  1. Laurie Smith // January 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm // Reply

    There is generally a secure print function on all multi-function copiers these days and if placed correctly with the proper user to unit ratio, desk top printers can and should be eliminated. Confidentiality is not limited to HR or Legal. Everyone cites that as a reason to have a desk top printer. These are expensive to maintain and toner cartridges are expensive to replace. It can be a painful experience to change a corporate culture but with lots of communication and training, it can be done. We did this during a major employee re-stack but felt it was best to just “rip off the band aid” while we were making numerous changes and just incorporated this change into the re-stack. The intent was communicated in move meetings and was met with a lot of resistance but when department managers were shown how much money can be saved, they were on board. It all comes down to over-communicating. Not everyone will be happy but at least they’ve been included.

  2. Absolutely true Brenda. And that’s when you see personal printers popping up in employee cubes during post move which compromises valuable work surface space and takes away one electrical and data receptacle. Then the employee complains they don’t have enough outlets or space all because IT wasn’t consulted on printer needs. Thanks for the input.

  3. Richard, Great article! Especially the part about involving an outside resource for Project Management/Move Management.

    We also find that when the employees are not involved, decisions get made that may miss critical departmental concerns and issues. Such as that new shared printer being setup by the IT Consultant. Without involving the key people in the HR department IT may not realize that due to confidential nature of the HR information they won’t be open to sharing the printer with the marketing department .

  4. Thank you Gerald. These are great points. One item you mentioned is so very true; employees often feel intimidated to speak up because they are ill-informed. We make an effort to develop a rapport with employees. Though they are not involved with planning, they feel more comfortable speaking with or dropping hints to us rather than management. Their input is most often valid and important to the planning process.

  5. In addition to face to face contact it is good to provide general updates via common communication devices such as newsletters, a corporate web link, as well as posting in common areas. Departmental coordinator contact information should be provided to address questions/issues people may have about their space. If resources allow it would also be good to have a comment and suggestion site for employees to leave comments or suggestions with the option to remain anonymous. Unhappy employees usually keep their thoughts to themselves out of fear or feeling non-compliant until it is too late. The site would be reviewed by planning committee staff. Flagged issues could be addressed at regularly scheduled committee meetings.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. He Smells, She Talks Too Loud – Woes of the New Office Seating Chart « The Owners Rep ~ Richard Neuman
  2. Great article about communication during an Office Move | BizRelo

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