Compared to other types of projects an organization might tackle, office moves often appear relatively simple. Desk relocations are typically shorter in duration, less costly, and involve fewer functional areas than digital transformation initiatives or new product launches, for example. But that doesn’t mean they’re always easy or clear cut.
Has your project team been surprised by the complexity of an office relocation? Did you find the amount of effort that went into the planning and execution phases was far more than you estimated? If so, there could be several reasons why.
Consider these four elements that can make even a seemingly simple series of desk moves tougher than you expect.
1: Tight or inflexible scheduling
Relocation plans that include checkerboard moves—where one person or group moves out and others immediately backfill their location—often involve tight scheduling tolerances to minimize disruption and keep the timeline compact. Your team may have many of these carefully orchestrated relocations on the schedule over a weekend or even in a single evening. This leaves very little room for error or delay, since any glitch could throw a large portion of the project plan into disarray and cause a cascade of serious problems. You’ll want to build strong communication channels with end users to ensure that any issues can be quickly shared and resolved. In-depth risk assessments, well-developed contingency plans, rigorous controls, and continuous progress monitoring are also top priorities when carrying out time-sensitive checkerboard moves.
2: Spillover effects on non-desk work areas
Even when the project scope encompasses only employees’ desk locations, you should remain mindful of potential effects on other work areas. A manufacturing team member who can’t access documentation because it’s stuck in transit to a new office space, for example, may not be able to perform at full capacity during their time on the production line. If required items aren’t available when expected, then not only will the project hamper workers’ desk-based activities, it could potentially disrupt other operational areas, too. Be very specific when discussing timing with stakeholders—from end users to the moving company—and have controls in place to ensure everything remains on schedule.
3: Remote work
Office moves that involve employees with hybrid work arrangements can sometimes be more difficult to manage than those where workers’ job functions happen in a single physical spot. The reason? Ensuring people are in the right location at the right time is an increasingly frequent challenge. End users typically need to be onsite to pack their desk materials and prepare other items, such as securing shared file cabinets or shutting down computers, prior to their move. Coordinating those user-driven activities is more complicated when calendars are less traditional. In addition, employees whose schedules are built around personal obligations, such as caring for family members or volunteer work, may have less flexibility to visit the office for relocation-related tasks.
4: Reliance on fixed-location resources
Employees may become uncooperative if they discover their upcoming move will make it less convenient to access things like onsite daycare facilities, food services, or conference areas with specialty equipment. You can help keep everyone engaged and on schedule by taking these issues into account and discussing potential issues with end users. With some advanced planning, you can partner on workable strategies to deal with the upheaval. If HR’s existing meeting room is large enough to hold training sessions and close enough to an exterior door to tactfully conduct exit interviews, for example, then creating a similarly outfitted space near their new location will ensure they continue to have easy access to the resources they need.
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