How to Manage Change During an Office Move or Fit Out

An office move or fit-out brings huge change to your physical space, roles, and processes. Let's explore how to best manage this transformation from old workplace with embedded habits to an agile workspace with increased productivity, innovation, and employee engagement.

You are faced with change every day. To stay ahead of the curve — or at least keep up with the disruption in your industry — your organisation needs some form of strategy for change. If your business is facing an office relocation or workplace refit, and it doesn’t have a plan, now’s the time to adopt one. 

A change to your work environment will alter processes, workflow,s and perceptions. Sometimes that means making drastic changes you’re not comfortable with. But it’s worth it in the end. After all, as we’ve seen across so many industries recently, the only way to survive disruption is to adapt quickly.

According to change management consultant, Prosci, nine out of ten executives say organisational agility is “critical to business success.” More on that later. 

What changes during an office move or fit out?

This is a 'piece-of-string' question. Depending on how extensive your project is, you may be changing all these elements:

  • People: Roles, staff, teams, and workflow systems will change in a new workspace. Everyone will sit in a new seat, maybe in a different place, next to different people. The new space will also affect customers, partners, and other stakeholders. 
  • Place: New office design, work stations, furniture, zones, meeting rooms, kitchen, and possibly a new premises altogether. There may be changes to the back office, warehouse, and storage areas.
  • Process: Staff need to learn to use new technology, new processes, protocols; maybe even new team structures. This may include new brand messages if undergoing a re-brand at the same time.

Rhino tip: Map out every single change, who it will affect, and how.Explore all the key components of a successful office move in our ebook. 

Why staff resist change

Staff can be averse to organisational change for many reasons. It can bring unwanted shifts to their role, they may fear being made redundant as part of a workforce reshuffle, or perhaps they're just stuck in their ways.

Some of your team will have had the office, their role, their team, a certain way for a long time. They may just not like change, even if that only means a new desk in a new part of the office. That’s just the way some of us are.

You can avoid your team having these anxieties with a well-planned, open, and inclusive communication strategy.

Rhino tip: Expect resistance and use your communications strategy to change hearts, minds, and habits.

Keep your team in the loop

One of the most common pitfalls of an office move / fit-out is bad communication between managers, staff, and third parties.

You need to keep staff informed from the get-go about what's happening, why it’s happening, how it'll affect everyone, and when they can expect the changes to take place. If you don’t keep the comms clear throughout, you’re likely to run into problems.

Things that could suffer due to poor communication include staff-manager relationships, employee engagement, productivity, and even staff retention. To reduce the chances of negative fallout, keep everyone on-side with clear communication.

Rhino Tip: To quell rumours, tell everyone everything they need to know at the same time.

Consult people, audit space, champion change

To make sure you’re making the right changes, you need to record the occupancy rate for every desk and area in the premises. Asking everyone for their thoughts and recommendations via a survey is also a must. This monitoring and recording of the way things are with your existing work environment is known as workplace consultancy. 

Otherwise, without this information, how do you even know you need to move or refurbish? How will you know what to change? As we say in our Fit-out Guide, this isn’t just a box-ticking exercise. If employees feel like they have a say in what's happening, they’ll feel like they have some ownership over it. So, any consultation should start early and  be two-way process.

If done right, it'll prove more useful than laborious as you may gain some valuable insights — from the people that use the space every day — that will enhance the project and save you money. Furthermore, with buy-in early on, the changes you make will be accepted much easier.

To prepare for any resistance, queries and complaints, appoint a change champion — a dedicated person who staff can talk to before, during and after the move. This can solve lots of easy-to-solve niggles before they become larger human resources issues. The person in this independent role liaises with leaders and staff, passing on concerns from the workforce and updates from the management. 

Rhino tip > Conduct a workplace consultancy and appoint a change champion early in the process.

The benefits of managing change

Big changes need vision. They demand understanding. They’re challenging, and tiring.

Looking beyond this office move or fit-out, managing change is a vital skill for businesses in today’s era of disruption and the social, political and economic climate of uncertainty. As Charles Darwin is reported to have said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Change management should prepare, equip and support individuals through the changes in their job, whatever they are. Because the success of any change initiative depends entirely on how individual staff embrace and adopt these changes.

According to Prosci, in its e-guide, An Introduction to Change Management, for individual transitions, success depends on its ADKAR model, and no organisation cannot move forward until every employee reaches all of these stages.

  1. Awareness of the need for change
  2. Desire to take part and support it
  3. Knowledge for how they need to change
  4. Ability to demonstrate new skills and behaviours
  5. Reinforcement to sustain the change

According to Prosci research, three quarters (76%) of CEOs say their ability to adapt to change will be a “key competitive advantage”.

Change is inevitable. You can’t avoid it. To survive and thrive, you can’t continue as you are. As Henry Ford famously said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

For a step-by-step guide that takes you through the whole moving process and helps you avoid any pitfalls, download our free guide - The Ultimate Office Move Guide & Checklist.

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