You’re pretty comfortable in your office. You know where everything is, your desk is set up just the way you like it, and you finally got maintenance to fix your chair. Then your executive issues an extremely disturbing decree: “We’re moving, and I want you to oversee everything.”
Whether you’re just going up or down a floor in your current building, or transitioning to a new building entirely, moving an office can be stressful, especially when you’re the one in charge. Over the course of my career, I’ve coordinated multiple office moves. And I’ve had the pleasure of working with some exceptionally talented assistants who made office moves look easy despite the chaos involved. Here are some of my favorite tips for getting a professional office move done – without losing your sanity!
1. Own Your Role as Project Manager. Whether it’s your official title or not, you become the project manager when your executive asks you to oversee an office move. So treat the move like a project from the start and setup your system for mapping out the plan, identifying deliverables, tracking progress, and providing status updates. Whether you choose to use a project management tool, Outlook Tasks, spreadsheets, documents, or digital notebooks, you’ll want all of your details in one place so it’s easy to access when you need it.
2. Get Everyone on the Same Page. Whether you’re moving in two months or two weeks, it’s important to set a realistic timeline and then communicate it to the rest of your office. My friend Penny Sailer, the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of ImOn Communications, shared this: “Send a weekly status to the group to keep everyone updated on construction. We sent ours on Friday afternoons and did a week-by-week countdown to the move, adding photos for everyone to see the progress that was made. It made for less questions.”
Another way to communicate expectations, deadlines, and progress would be to set up a shared OneNote notebook. OneNote is a great place to store checklists, information, and photos of the move!
3. Make New Friends. Get to know the contractors, designers, movers, vendors, and construction crew. When treated well, these people can provide invaluable inside information that will help you determine your timelines. Be friendly, communicate well and often, and stay on good terms with them. (Coffee, donuts, and other treats work wonders!) When you treat them like a valued member of the support team, they’ll go above and beyond for you!
4. Become a Shutterbug. That fancy camera on your smartphone is going to get a workout during your move. Take pictures of everything, at every stage, so you can track and share progress and have photos to refer to later. (This is also helpful in the rare case of a dispute with one of your new contractor or vendor friends.)
When all is said and done, don’t forget to include these photos in your professional portfolio. Overseeing an office move is a huge accomplishment that you’ll definitely want to share!
5. Purge as You Go. Most of us have more than a bit of “junk” in the back of a seldom-used desk drawer, and there is no better time to get rid of it than during a move. The beauty (or beast, if you prefer) of packing is that you physically have to hold everything in your hand to put it in a box. If it’s something you don’t need, toss it! There’s no sense in packing nearly empty tape rolls, broken staplers, or a Post-It notepad with two sheets left.
Penny shared a couple of excellent tips here:
- “Make an adoption station for supplies that need a new home. There are always things that employees don’t need once they move – inboxes, extra staplers, binders, clips, and a variety of other office supplies that can be reused. Employees went ‘shopping’ often and we ended up throwing away very little once everyone went through and cleaned their desks.”
- “Order extra shredding bins for the weeks before the move and remind the employees of the retention policy so they are sure to keep the documents that they should be keeping based on the policy. We sent out the policy again just to refresh everyone’s memory as well.
6. Label, Label, Label! Packing is only half the battle. You still need to unpack in your new location, and that job will be a whole lot easier if you label! Mark each box with its contents, and be specific! Instead of writing “files,” label the box with “client files A-D.” Not only does this make unpacking simple, it allows you to find what you need in a pinch, even if you haven’t had time to unpack yet.
Color-coding your boxes and labels according to their contents or according to specific departments (for larger group moves) can also be helpful. One color for files, one color for supplies, one color for computer components. Or one color for accounting, one color for customer service, one color for legal, etc.
Penny says: “Create a work station with labels, boxes, tape, markers and a map of the floor with cube numbers in one place. It will give everyone the chance to work on their boxes whenever they get time and less interruptions for the administrative assistant.”
She also adds: “See if you can borrow boxes from the mover instead of buying them. We were able to save a lot of money this way, and it also made the employees empty them promptly since we had to return them all and they were counted. Otherwise employees would just take their time in emptying them.”
7. Make Moving Day as Easy as Possible. Whether you hire professional movers or you’re counting on your team to do the heavy lifting, there are a few things you can do to make moving day a bit easier.
Check with maintenance to see if you can reserve a certain elevator (or the freight elevator, if available) on the big day.
Warn neighboring offices and businesses of your move ahead of time so they can plan accordingly. It’s no fun having people traipsing through the hallways while you’re trying to work, but a heads up can prevent some less-than-happy ex-neighbors. And if you need to block off parking lots or sidewalks for moving trucks, be sure you aren’t violating any laws.
Try to schedule your move at a time when the building isn’t too busy. Penny suggests “late in the day on Fridays, since many people are on vacation or have already cleaned up their work for the week.”
8. Welcome Your Team “Home”. After a stressful move, it’s nice to come in Monday morning to a little pick-me-up. Penny’s company gave their employees coffee mugs or water jugs filled with treats, along with “welcome to your new home” signs placed on everyone’s desk. Gift certificates to a local coffee shop or juice bar, or an office-wide luncheon once everyone has settled in are also some good ideas.
After the move completed, Penny’s company also did ergonomic reviews for everyone to make sure that their new work station was adjusted to the proper height for keyboards, monitor stands, chairs, etc. She said it made it easy to make a list for things to be ordered at one time, if needed.
9. Get Back to Work! After a move, it’s normal for people to have a tough time getting back into the groove of things. After all, now not only are they responsible for their regular work, they have to unpack, as well. To combat the overwhelm, Penny suggests asking the team to come in for one hour on the weekend immediately following the move to unpack their things and tour their new surroundings. Bagels, juice, and coffee, plus an hour’s overtime or vacation pay, goes a long way to silence the Saturday morning grumbles!
Once everyone is settled, send out an email reminding everyone where the supplies are kept to cut down on frantic “I-can’t-find-the-copier-paper!” frustrations.
While office moves aren’t typically viewed as the most desirable projects, they can be an excellent opportunity for you to develop your project management skills, expand your network, and build rapport with employees you may not normally interact with. Make the most of the experience and document all of the things that work well or could have worked better so you can use it to improve future move experiences. No two moves will be the same, but when you approach it logically, communicate regularly, and follow some of these tips and tricks, you can get through any office move with your sanity intact!
© 2016 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.