Orchestrating an office move requires planning and the constant reminder that if a company is not up and running, it's not making any money.
When mulling a big office move, managers confront a flurry of considerations, including costs, convenience and visibility.
Sometimes lost in the shuffle is the largely behind-the-scenes minutiae that can have just as much impact on company performance and workplace morale: orchestrating the move itself.
Take the case of Peoples Natural Gas, a Pittsburgh-based gas utility whose move you could be forgiven to think has been relatively easy — most of its employees didn’t even have to cross the street.
Last year, Peoples decided to move its corporate headquarters to a neighboring building that formerly belonged to Equitable Gas Co. Upon acquiring Equitable in 2013, Peoples got the lease to the second and third floors of the building and spent most of 2014 deciding how best to fill it.
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Gary Wojcik, Peoples director of operations services, says it took far more preparation than the short distance implies. The move, which began this spring and should be completed in August, involved shuffling about 200 employees and making room for an additional 50 hires.
“We put a lot of planning in the beginning, and that was what made it go smoothly,” Wojcik says.
The new building now houses the company’s executive team, its human resources and accounting departments and its gas control and operations center, which is the 24/7 central hub that oversees its entire distribution system. Peoples has kept its original floor at its former home but reconfigured that space to accommodate an expanded call center.
In weekly meetings, and in close discussions with both the architect and general construction contractor, the Peoples facilities team monitored construction progress and coordinated the move in phases, Wojcik says.
“The toughest part of the project for us was the staging — that is, having your people being able to continue to work while you’re going through construction in the space,” he says.
That is the central challenge for any corporate move, wrote Michael Danzig, an expert with 123 Movers, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based online service that connects customers with moving companies. On his blog, Danzig suggested corporations spend at least three months planning. Among other things, he said they should make the new office’s floor plan available to employees well ahead of time so they know what to expect.
“If the company is not up and running, but instead moving, then the company is not making any money,” Danzig says. “One of the ways to obtain this goal is to be time-efficient. The less time you spend moving, the more cost-efficient you will be for your company.”
That means planning meticulously. A checklist — albeit a lengthy one — and adhering to a schedule could pay dividends toward ensuring nothing falls through the cracks and everything happens at the right time, experts recommend.
Bulldog Moving, an Atlanta-based moving service, compiled a 72-item checklist with subcategories such as communication, cleaning, labeling, physical moving and delegating a range of duties to teams led by employees.
Purge first, move last
Even smaller moves take months to be finished fast.
The Pittsburgh offices of BKD LLC, an accounting firm based in Springfield, Mo., finished moving about 30 employees in May.
Erika Daxdeck, BKD administrative manager and marketing coordinator, says she notified employees in February to “start purging” the clutter built up around work stations. “You know how you build up stuff that you keep but you don’t really need,” Daxdeck says.
She then developed a color-coding system with the movers, using a floor plan of the new space as a guide. Every office had a number and a color, and each box was labeled accordingly so the movers knew exactly where it was to go.
There was no limit to what employees could take to the new location, she said, though they were directed to move personal items such as plants, pens, photos and other decorations themselves.
The months of prep work paid off. The boxes were moved over a Thursday afternoon and evening. The next day, as phones and computers were still being set up, employees unpacked and set up at their new desks.
By the following Monday, everything was ready to go.
“It went really well,” Daxdeck reported.