To deal with a lease expiry, to bring down costs or accommodate increasing headcount. Are these the only reasons for relocation? How to set out strategic office relocation objectives?

Office relocation should be a well-thought out decision. It is not only an operational project, but a multiphase, lengthy transformation. The more time is given to planning, the more time there will be for a smooth transition. Otherwise, there’s a risk of project execution being disorganised and lacking a strategic concept to boost business competitiveness.
Office relocation decisions are taken for various reasons, including a lease expiry, a need to find a more prestigious location, to bring down costs, to accommodate a merger or increasing headcount. In a model approach, irrespective of relocation reasons, the first steps should be taken at least a year in advance although the whole project – from the decision to the actual move – may take up to two years to complete. This time should be used well, because office relocation is an exceptional and unique opportunity to improve business competitiveness through office space.
A client of mine has recently told me about his preparations for cross-selling within his organization because each team was focused on selling a different product. To facilitate this transition, they intend to create a space to support cross-selling. Although they do not know exactly how to go about it, this is indicative of strategic thinking – they realise that a workspace can also play a supporting role. In this case it is important for instance to identify places where company staff tend to gather within an office and how information is shared.
Why not think of office search as buying a house or a flat? Then, in addition to choosing the right size and location, we engage an architect to help us choose appropriate colours, furniture, types of finishes, and to design a bathroom and a kitchen. The architect will also assist us in selecting furniture for individual rooms. And when relocating to a new office, it will be good to hire a workplace manager who – instead of asking us about our favourite colours – will want to know intra-company activities: where staff meet, how they behave, work and communicate, what problems arise, and what we would like to transfer to our new office. The new space must be best tailored to business requirements. And it’s advisable to answer several key questions that could ultimately lead to a brand new approach to designing an office as a strategic asset. How to improve collaboration and communication? How to streamline business processes? What are our mission, vision and objectives for upcoming years? How do we want our staff and clients to see our brand? How could office space add to our competitive advantage? We could get a different take on the office once we have given thought to and answered the above or related questions.
When setting about office relocation it is also advisable to engage company staff in the process through meetings, discussions, workshops, surveys, discussion groups or other forms of personal involvement. The staff are the most familiar with their daily routines and best practices, and can help us transplant such practices to a new location. Without such employee engagement, the project manager is at risk of being blamed by all those dissatisfied with the relocation and the new office. That’s why we engage IT, HR, PR and marketing teams who have valuable insights to be used in new space arrangements. The IT team will be particularly crucial to implementation of mobile solutions, given the growing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. Decisions taken in this respect will determine the range of IT infrastructure required. Early engagement of HR and PR professionals will help substantially in communicating the new office design to the staff and introducing them to the new space. Marketing and sales teams could be instrumental in determining what is communicated to the staff and clients and how, and in selecting a communication method in the new location to attract new talent.
Research shows that employees are willing to trade other benefits for a better office workspace. This means that an attractive office space is hugely important to both current staff and job candidates. An office can be used in the war for talent, given the growing importance of fringe benefits. This should be borne in mind when starting the office relocation process and setting out its strategic objectives. Following the latest trends is not always the best option as they may be inappropriate for our organisation. Not all offices need to have a swing or hammock. It is more advisable to seek an office aligned with the company’s spirit. Each firm has a unique work and organisational culture and its own communication methods.
Warsaw, 18 June 2018