Relocation without Dislocation

Moving offices is not only a signal to distributors and customers that you are moving up, it is also an opportunity for you to remind them how efficient your firm is. The implication is that the major transformations you can reap for yourself, you can reap for them as well.

However well you plan a move, it is by nature disruptive. The best tactic is to set up a small working party to shepherd everything along, usually with a jolly sergeant major as the moving marshal, and a practical, do-it-yourself programmer to take care of the mechanical contingencies. The prime objective is to interrupt normal business as little as possible. Inevitably you will incur a double set of costs during the changeover for items such as office rents, utilities, insurance, and telephone lines, not to mention business fees to the government.

Part of the trick is obviously to switch premises in as short a time as possible. Be sure to schedule the move for the absolute end of your rent cycle. Your best bet may be to move over a Saturday or over a long weekend. The office can then close down fairly normally on Friday, with as much as possible boxed beforehand. By the time your staff hit their new offices at the start of the week, their equipment is set up in its prearranged space and already working.

The devil is in the preparation. Get the boxes from your movers in advance so that you can pack up in an orderly and non-time-consuming manner. Work need not get behind if things are gradually packed into boxes in order of priority. Then if there is a panic late on Friday, everyone knows where to unearth that crucial item.

It also helps if you can take groups of staff over to the new place before you move in. They can then figure out how they will travel to work and decide how they want to arrange their office space, producing a small sketch outlining where everything is to go for your movers. This isn't, you will no doubt point out, an invitation for everyone to become an interior designer or Feng Shui consultant. It is an exercise in making the new place functional.

Be warned that telephone providers rarely work over weekends or holidays so it is important that switching the old numbers to the new ones is booked and confirmed in good time. Make sure, also, that the Internet connection is live before you move in. This gives you a means of communication should the telephone system not be connected as promised. If you are hosting servers in your offices and the IP numbers change, propagate the change with sufficient time. Check, to the best of your ability, that as many of the internal systems are working as possible before people arrive to work.

Last but not least, advise clients and suppliers of when and where you are moving. Back up change of address cards with "Hi, I'm here," phone calls. People are usually sympathetic. Everyone moves from time to time.

The ideal is that people come to the new offices as if they had been working there for years. In practice people like to sniff out their new environment, work out where everything is and who is where and generally exercise their nesting and maze-learning instincts. To avoid losing focus completely, provide for an exploration period but don't let it drag on. Make sure everyone arrives on time (or half an hour early and you supply breakfast). Set aside a specific period so everyone can explore the new offices. If you've employed a designer to lay out the new office, get him or her to give everyone a short, practical explanation of how things are laid out. Formally show everyone where restrooms, kitchen facilities, fire exits, and so on are located. At the end of 30 minutes, ring a bell and everyone can get back to work as normal.

Your moving checklist should include the following:

♦ Change of address cards printed and dispatched (alternatively, use e-mail)

♦ Stationery reprinted with new address, phone/fax numbers

♦ Answering machine or voicemail messages updated with new numbers

♦ Fax machine reprogrammed with new fax number

♦ Telephone directories given new details

♦ Mail forwarding order for sufficient period

♦ Tax, post office, and any other authorities notified of your change of address

♦ New office signage ordered

♦ Internet connection working (for Web, e-mail, and so on)

♦ IP numbers propagated (if necessary—remember HTPPS)

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