How to communicate office moves

Is an office move on the horizon for you?

If so, this article will help you navigate through it. It’s packed with idea and covers what you need to know, how to approach the move/s and what to watch out for.

You’re reading the first in my new #ICVoices series and I’m excited to share it with you. #ICVoices exists to amplify the voices of professional communicators from around the globe via the All Things IC blog to help everyone learn.

Thank you to the 75 professional communicators who responded to my plea via Twitter @AllthingsIC and LinkedIn asking you to complete a short survey to contribute quotes to future blog posts.

Countries represented include Australia, Canada, Germany, Nigeria, Switzerland, the UK, US and many more. I asked questions on nine different topics and practitioners could choose the ones they wanted to answer.

There are 52 different voices in this article. It’s a long read, but I know you’ll enjoy it.

Upcoming articles will include their views and advice on various topics including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), line manager comms and team briefs. I’ve created a Twitter list so you can follow them.

Further reading: How to communicate an office move effectively – featuring Abbie Sampson.

Jargon buster: New to internal communication? Check out my internal communication glossary.

It’s a pleasure to host your thoughts to help everyone learn and to amplify your voices via my blog.

Missed out on answering the questions? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC using #ICVoices to join the conversation.

Why #ICVoices? Well, as someone who practices Working Out Loud, it was only right to ask my network what to call the series. #ICVoices was the winner:

Why office moves?

I’ve communicated various office moves and new site openings over the years including closing factories, opening headquarters and overseeing relocations both here in the UK and globally. This article refers to office moves, but means all of the above scenarios.

Every week I keep an eye on what’s being searched for on the All Things IC blog to ensure I’m creating content to answer your queries and help you succeed. I noticed an increase in the number of people looking for office move advice.

I Tweeted @AllthingsIC to see if I should write this article. Based on your feedback, there’s clearly a gap.

I now include a session on office moves in my Change Communication Masterclass. The next one is on 20 June 2018. See the website to find out more. You can also book me for 1-2-1 consultancy if you need tailored advice.

The question I asked professional communicators was:

I’ve collated their advice into sections:

  • Involve employees – including champions
  • Think about the business impact
  • Face-fo-face comms
  • Keep employees updated
  • Be honest and respect emotions
  • Have a vision and build excitement
  • Help employees visualise the move.

How to communicate office moves: involve employees, including champions

What’s worked well for me? Keeping employees informed on all steps of the journeyJenny Insley, Internal Communications Manager, @JennyIN5.

Starting really early and making each piece of comms directly relevant to the audienceRachel Bowyer, Transformation Communications Lead, @Rachel_Bowyer1.

Start communicating as early as possible. If possible, involve and engage people and ask for their opinions/thoughts/input –  Bob Lawrence, International Operations Communication and Engagement Lead, @BobLHOC.

Getting mid-manager and early adopter buy-in firstVija Valentukonyte-Urbanaviciene, Acting head of Communications, @vijaval.

Have only been involved with one, gamifying the pre-move clean-up process worked well. Awarding prizes to teams that got rid of the most excess paper/old furniture etc. fostered competition and got people thinking about how much they actually needed to take – Craig Major, Senior Internal Communications Advisor, Auckland University of Technology, @craig_comms.

Giving as much information as possible and providing the chance to ask questionsCathryn King, Strategic Communications Consultant, @CathrynKingIOC.

A good champions networkJustine Stevenson, @jusstevenson.

Use employee champions to get involved in developing the move and if possible the layout/facilities/colours used in the new office – Jack Winters, HR Change Manager, @jacklhr.

Help colleagues really feel part of the move: being part of a consultation working group on the move, regular opportunities to undertake field trips to the new offices (H&S permitting) – Adam Morris, communications and change consultant.

Very regular comms. Staff involved in process as champions communicating locally. Break it up into phases and get buy-in by allowing staff to influence the workplace vision – Caroline King, Group Head Brand and Communications, Torus, @Caroline_Torus.

Getting employees involved in making the new space their own goes a long way. From room naming contests to testing of office chair options, being a part of the process builds positive energy – Tammy L. Nienaber, SCMP, Independent Communicator, @tnienaber

Not done directly but the team I’m a part of took all their staff to the new building and let them chose swathes from mood boards in the building site and filmed it. Everyone loves that video – Keith Riley-Whittingham, Communications and Media Executive, @keithrileywhitt.

A light-hearted mockumentary-style video was created showing what’s required of employees throughout the move. Employees were involved as ‘actors’ and a voiceover was added highlighting the dos and don’ts – Shaun Rogers, Strategic Communications Partner – Australian Red Cross Blood Service, @ShaunRRogers.

Keeping colleagues engaged and involved in the move is imperative. Sharing plans and showing them where they will be sitting in advance works wonders. We’ve held workshops where colleagues could choose the wall colour and furniture. Bringing them in early makes them feel part of the team. You have to remember most people spend almost a quarter of their time at work, so be considerate about that and make sure they are part of any plans as soon as you’re able to share – Advita Patel, Communications Specialist, @Advita_p.

Timely and clear messaging around the logistics of the move and reasons for the move. Take people along with you on journey: let them make some decisions, maybe in choosing visuals, the coffee that they will drink, decide on the type of chairs or desks that they will have. Also be clear on the non-negotiable things and on the rules of play. Create opportunities for dialogue. Make it fun – Cynthia Mouanda, Senior Communications Manager, @CynthiaMouanda.

Giving people the opportunity to influence how space is designed or used, according to what they need to work effectively – Kate Jones, head of communications and corporate affairs, @how_IC_it.

Creating champions among teams to help with the move and to share the message. They also can get real feedback and issues can be addressed more quickly. Sometimes something that may seem less important to you could be the main reason why employees are apprehensive about the move e.g. unisex toilets, fewer places to eat, not enough bike racks. If you can create a great champion network you can find out what’s really going on and often introduce simple fixes to alleviate fears – Pippa Van Praagh, Global Employee Communications Evangelist.

How to communicate office moves: Think about the business impact

One organisation I worked for moved to an entirely new business model that involved significantly reducing office space and introducing remote work options. An integrated change management and communications strategy was integral to this project’s success. Not just before and during the change, but after as well. We focused on face-to-face communication sessions where employees could provide their feedback/share concerns. This was all compiled as a Q&A that was included in site (office) specific guides for employees. This work actually won us an IABC Gold Quill Award:) – Laurette Sharpe, Owner and Principal Consultant, 50 Beats Communications.

Funny you should ask. I had a locker room chat with a fellow swimmer who is very senior in her organisation and she was struggling to explain to her staff how the new office would be set up because it was a more modern way of working. I suggested she explain different working styles and different types of work and how the new office would help accommodate this and she seemed to like this suggestion – Andrea Gregoire, Owner of Vision2Voice Communications Inc. @vision2voice

How to communicate office moves: be honest and respect emotions

Being completely honest, especially when the news isn’t good. Keeping ahead of the rumour mill. Senior people being vocal, visible and accessible. Never underestimating the small stuff that makes a huge difference to some people. Grant McDonald, Vice President Employee Communications, Barclays.

What works? Putting myself in the shoes of those movingTereza Urbankova, Head of Global Communication, @TerezaUrb

Small things matter to people, do not underestimate this. People find solace in their comfort zones and assuming that an all singing ‘n dancing campaign is all thats needed – ignoring the emotional effects – is a mistake. Recognise this – Misty Oosthuizen, @MistyJoy73.

Even positive change generates conflicting emotion, to underestimate the human aspect of move comms can undermine the best-planned moves. Find cultural symbols and recognise that Maslow’s hierarchy applies – Jonathan Champ, Chief Communicator, @meaningbusiness.

Be upfront about what employees can expect that is different and be honest about what things they can decide versus what has been decided for them – Shelley Rolland-Poruks, Manager Corporate & Digital Communications, @chatshell.

Transparency. Tell them what you know, even if it isn’t complete but commit to coming back as soon as you can – Elisabeth Wang, Executive Director Communications and PR at Piedmont Healthcare, @elisabeth_wang.

Allowing time for reaction, feedback and adjustments before it happens – Debbie Aurelius, Communications Consultant, @DebbieAurelius.

How to communicate office moves: face-to-face comms

Regular briefings and FAQs, face-to-face meetings! – Carrie-Ann Wade, Director of Comms, @CrayonCW.

Face-to-face meetings and getting employees involved in the move itself and not just as those being moved – Jason Anthoine, Founder, Audacity, @jasonanthoine.

Informing people face to face in the early stages throughout and the business reasons why decisions were made. Always promote two-way discussions with colleagues, particularly over areas the staff can have a say in eg. decoration, agile kit etc – Kerry Sheehan Associate Director Communication, @PRKezza.

What works? Face-to-face engagement with leaders, way ahead of any move – Andrew Martin, Senior HR Consultant @HRaardvark.

How to communicate office moves: keep employees updated

Regular regular regular updates – be clear what’s up for discussion and what’s not and keep any promises you make and be honest when you can’t and why – reassure and engage with a true heart – Lynda Thwaite, Head of Marketing and Communications, @LyndaTLive

Give loads of information – people want to know everything from where the nearest Costa is to where their new desk will be. If you can, let them go and visit the new office in advance – Joanna Freeman, Communications Executive, @joanna_r_f.

Communicate early and often. Once the rumour mill kicks in you’re fighting a losing battle – Rowena Kivell, Director, Internal Communications.

Focusing on the detail.…where are the local cafes, dry cleaners, shops etc – James Harkness, Partner, @james_melford.

Offering realistic timescales and keeping colleagues engaged – Jenny Hoolihan, Communications and Engagement Manager.

How to communicate office moves: have a vision and build excitement

Have a vision. Show how the move will link to future ways of working. Support employees involved in the move to take ownership. ‘Show rooms’, sharing success, family days when moving to new office – Louise Johnston. Head of internal communications. @orchardberry

Build excitement. I LOVE having fun with things like this. You can do teaser comms including eGraphics, videos, posters and more. You can do behind the scenes tours and use the move as an opportunity to reward high performers/stand-out employees by giving them special tasks (which also turns them into change agents). These kind of comms don’t have to be boring or blah…they can be jazzy and engaging and a great opportunity to make employees feel special – Heather Shaw, Senior Manager, Internal Communications.

Making it a positive and exciting venture with well-presented packs- Jen Robinson, Communications Manager, @JenBobaroo

Advanced communications with information on how this will impact the end-user. Make the process of moving fun with freebies, giveaways and competitions in the new office (budget pending) – Kieran Hughes, Communications and Engagement Manager, EY.

How to communicate office moves: help employees visualise it

Using plenty of visual layouts that people can view and ask around –  Dan Holden, Internal Comms & Engagement Manager @holddani

Take colleagues on the journey with you. If steel structures go up on the new building, tell them about it. Don’t hide the truth – if there will be less parking say up front, they will find out when they get there. Get people from across all teams involved – hear a cross-section of voices to gather concerns. Make sure people visit the new site before the big move – get people familiar with their new daytime home before they move in – Nicholas Wardle, Global Internal Communications Manager.

A comparison grid of what facilities and resources are available in the current vs. new location. Employees can see what the benefits (hopefully) are, at a glance – Ciara O’Keeffe, VP product and customer delivery, @CommsOKeeffe

Send a crew of employees with GoPros to the new office to generate video content that can be shared with colleagues in a non-polished, and very real/ raw way. This also worked well to show the new journey from various starting points – Luke Murdoch, Internal Communications Consultant, @lukemurdoch.

Events that allow employees to see new spacesMaureen Larkin, senior manager employee communications at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston @molarks.

Involving people right from the start and having accurate pictures and plans of the new space – some people really care about where they will sit and need to see it on paper – Sarah Bell, Communications Consultant, @sarahbell135

How to communicate office moves: don’t do this!

Our team is going through a mini one and it wasn’t done well – just dropped down on email. That’s how not to do it – Becky Wren, Marketing Manager, Communications @becky_wren

How to communicate office moves: dedicated move channels

Physical comms – posters, postcards, drop-in sessions, photo-boards of the new site development, floor layout, printed guide to the new area/facilities etc – Karen Nijjar, Owner and Director, @karen_nijjar.

Use a high-touch cascade that starts with most impacted employees first, then extends outwards from there. Customize and target as much as possible to drive relevance. The all-employee broad messages should be a complement to numerous other targeted, shared communication activities – Bernie Charland, Director, Employee Engagement and Communications, @mountainmagic

Covering the small stuff really thoroughly. People worry about what effects them more than the strategic stuff. How do I get a cuppa? Will my access card work? How do I book a meeting room? Do I have a parking space? – Ellie Buckingham, Freelance Comms Practitioner, @LilyRoseWrites

Big notice boards in internal walkways for news and questions. Low tech and effective. 24 hour turn around on questions back on the board and recorded on an online blog – Deb Ganderton Director Service and Engagement @DebGanderton

Communicating early and often, using a mix of traditional, web and social – Heather Neisworth, Internal Communications Strategist and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University (Internal Communications and Employee Engagement), @heathgirl

What do I think?

Wow. Thank you to all the communicators who generously shared their views with me so I could publish them. There’s so many good ideas in there! I love the mix of high and low-tech options and the focus on communicating early, communicating often and getting employees involved.

My top tip is around timing. As soon as you hear a move is likely to happen, start getting organised. As a professional communicator, you need to be where the decision-making is so you hear it first-hand and can help shape what happens.

Your actions include:

  • Establish or join a cross-functional group focused on the move
  • Appoint move champions
  • Create a dedicated channel to communicate the office move/s.

There should be a cross-functional Move Steering Committee (or whatever name suits your culture) in place. They’re typically made up of Facilities, IT, HR and Legal colleagues. You need to be on it.

If such a group doesn’t exist, create one. At the very least, this could be a virtual group – e.g. on Yammer/Office365 or Workplace. Consistency and clarity are essential during move times.

We know moving can be stressful, so this team needs to work together and retain a sense of humour to see the situation through.

How to start planning?

Map your stakeholders
Who is impacted by the move? How are you going to ensure everyone is kept informed and has ample opportunity to contribute and ask questions? Who needs to know? Consider third-parties e.g. catering and cleaning firms and your employee assistance programme provider.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to create, map and keep stakeholder relationships.

I recommend appointing ‘move champions’  at the start of the process. Don’t delay appointing them – they will be your eyes and ears throughout the process.

Role of move champions:
They should be a small group of people who represent a cross-section of your organisation, with every department/location represented. I would have a mixture of chosen employees and volunteers.

Tip: If you have an operational environment e.g. factory floor, station or retail, ensure that group includes frontline workers, not just head office. The champions’ role is to not only help colleagues settle once the move has happened, but to input ideas, questions and rumours during the whole process.

My experience
When I was at Visteon in 2003 I oversaw the internal communication for office moves in the UK and Germany alongside my peers in Kerpen. We closed existing sites and moved into purpose-built buildings in both in the UK and Germany.

I ran site visits with move champions to give them the first look at the new offices. They produced some excellent user-generated content in the form of articles and photographs. Now, 15 years on, I would plan additional ways to share that content such as using an Enterprise Social Network and having them creating their own content, perhaps audio guides/podcasts and vlogs, similar to Luke’s suggestion above.

News on the Move
Only a couple of weeks ago I was advising one of All Things IC’s clients to help her plan her office move communications.

I shared a dedicated channel I wrote during my time at Visteon. Called News on the Move, it was the place to discover what was happening throughout the lifespan of the moves. She has now introduced a dedicated campaign in her place of work and called it News on the Move.

I’ve even got some copies of News on the Move in my files – this is what it looked like (circa 2003!). Visteon was my first IC role and I learnt so much, looking back now, there is much I would change about this publication, but here’s a peek at the first issue:
How can you communicate office moves?
You could have dedicated channels or perhaps a regular column in an existing channel e.g. News on the Move section in your regular weekly email newsletter, or a group/hashtag in your enterprise social network.

Solving problems
Make sure your move communications allow employees to ask questions and seek clarity. I’ve found people want to know detailed answers to queries around travel options, car parking and local amenities alongside the typical questions of where teams will sit/what will open plan or hot desking mean.

At Visteon we published floor plans showing where teams would be located. We were moving to an open plan environment, which was a stark change from the fixed cubicles people had been used to. I quickly realised the questions being fed back via the move champions focused on concern around that new environment. Therefore, the content for my channels addressed those questions head-on.

Thank you again to the #ICVoices I’ve featured in this article. I’ve lots more to share with you over the coming weeks and months.

Missed out on answering the questions? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC using #ICVoices.

Thank you as ever for stopping by, it’s a pleasure to see you here and I hope you’ve found this article helpful.

Further reading: #ICVoices unite to share tips on GDPR.

P.s Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted new All Things IC branding being used in this post. I’m creating an article to share the thinking behind the new look and will publish it soon.


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 25 April 2018.

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