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Give me five...questions to consider for workplace relocation

03 July 2019

Organisations are having to think deeper about the why and how of office relocation than ever before. The rising cost of prime office space and greater economic volatility in general are pushing them to pursue new workplace strategies. In many cases, this means adopting agile working practices that make more efficient use of real estate or even moving separate business functions into satellite offices.

Changes of this nature, however, must be guided by a thorough understanding of each organisation’s unique business pressures. There is no cookie-cutter approach to moving offices. So, what do the facilities and workplace managers who are largely responsible for this process need to consider before they move, and what kind of plan should they put in place? Andrew Mawson, founder of Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) and creator of Workplace Week, offers five questions to ask yourself if you’re planning to relocate to an agile workplace.

1) Do you have the right technology? A move to agile working is impossible without the right technology in place. Legacy IT systems and communications tools often can’t support the new way of working and increased mobility of staff. So, the first step is to appraise your organisation’s existing deployment of tech and then calculate which IT apps are necessary for the transition. Business messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams will help people to communicate with each other as they jump between different locations and workstations, from hot-desks to coffee shops.

2) Do your leaders care? Successfully relocating to an agile, digitally centred workplace takes more than just the right apps; it requires a change to the culture of the organisation, too. The open, flexible and collaborative nature of agile working often demands a flatter organisational structure, so you’re not going to get anywhere without buy-in from the senior leadership team. These leaders can then help to embed the new philosophy and make sure the entire organisation is ready for the changes ahead.

3) What will the new workplace look like? You’ll need to think about how the design of the new workplace will support the needs of your people. Ditching a rigid system of fixed desks for agile working requires a new mix of workspaces and workstyles, from areas that allow people to concentrate to collaborative zones that support team huddles. 

4) Have you appointed change champions? Don’t forget to manage your people through the change. Developing an effective communications strategy that forms a narrative and explains the reasons behind the move is just as important as designing the physical space. Hold meetings, run behavioural change workshops, and guide people through the new space while it’s under construction. Appoint ‘change champions’ to get the right messaging out to the rest of the workforce and don’t forget to consult with multiple departments. A creative team may need totally different things than the accounts team. Hearing your workforce’s concerns is crucial to the success of any relocation. 

5) What’s your plan after the relocation? Moving to the new office shouldn’t mark the end of the project. After the relocation, leaders and their teams will need training to help them develop new understandings, practices and behaviours so that relationships, productivity and performance stay intact and even improve. People need time to get familiar with the new technology, settle in their new surroundings, and adapt to the new way of working. Developing an agile working culture also leaves organisations better prepared for future change and threats. A workplace that was effective yesterday might be inadequate tomorrow. If designs or policies haven’t been thought through, they will soon lose their lustre. You’ll need to consult with strategic workplace partners and other specialists including designers and architects, property professionals, IT, furniture and fit-out people, and, crucially, the facilities manager. 

With the right strategy in place, a new workplace can be a tool for business transformation. Relocating, then, is the catalyst that brings this to life, giving your organisation the opportunity to think about its needs and how a new workplace can meet them. By not asking these simple yet effective questions, it’s all too tempting to revert back to how things have always been – and miss out an ideal opportunity to change your business for the better.