An Office Move Doesn't Have to Mean Lost Productivity

Spring 2020 Issue
When moving an office, planning and organization are critical. Today, digital tracking tools are assisting in this difficult, disruptive process. Getty Images

Advanced planning, aided by technology, can ease the relocation process for tenants.

For building owners who hold leases that include relocation provisions, reducing costs related to a move is a critical consideration.

But beyond the costs, managing a relocation amid the ongoing needs of an active business often means disruptions and lost productivity. When envisioning a move, it’s ideal to develop a proactive plan to account for disruptions and limit planned downtime.

However, when changing locations, most lost employee productivity is due to unplanned disruptions that are usually a result of unorganized move managers. These problems often pop up after the move — missing items, disheveled workspaces, and computers and phones that aren’t hooked up.

According to a recent survey by Knotel, a company that helps businesses find, design and operate office spaces, about 93% of executives have moved while at their current company, and almost half were part of two or more moves. It’s no surprise that 95% of these executives said the move created some level of distraction, and 64% labeled the move as either a major or moderate distraction. They identified the cost of downtime as the No. 1 negative consequence of relocation.

That’s why intensive preplanning, along with recent technological strides in the commercial moving industry, can support companies as they work around these business disruptions.

Going Digital

Many moving companies are rethinking tedious and time-consuming manual processes and shifting them into digital (and paperless) applications.

“You can preheat your oven before you get home or adjust the house thermostat from 3,000 miles away, so why can’t you instantly check the status of your company’s move?” said Mark Scullion, president of Workplace and Commercial Services at The Suddath Companies, a commercial mover. “It’s an issue that has caused frustration and cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

For example, VyStar Credit Union, a large national financial institution, wanted to relocate more than 1,300 employees spread across four locations into a 23-story building in Jacksonville, Florida. The complex 12-phase process will take a year to complete.

Orchestrating a move this intricate requires precise planning. To avoid confusion and to make sure the business is prepared, planning must include proactive communication to business units and employees about what is happening, when it is happening, and what their role in the project will be. Many companies that try to do this on their own don’t understand the cost of having team members distracted from their core jobs. Professional move-planning assistance is affordable compared to the cost of disturbing core business operations. 

Once it’s time for the move, tracking the movement of items requires precise controls. This ensures that the pace of the relocation keeps up with planned milestones and that all items are delivered and set up accurately in the new space so employees can be productive immediately.  

To track assets during the move, computer-generated move labels with QR codes are customized for each employee. This allows the company to scan and digitally track inventory, records, furniture and equipment. The software enabled VyStar’s project manager to monitor progress throughout the move via a cloud-based dashboard visible on a laptop, tablet or mobile device.

“Tracker software was a key component and differentiator, “said Kyle Boden, VyStar’s Client Technology Services Manager. “It let us view how many things were collected (and) where they were. It made it easy for us to visualize the whole process.”

The tracking software addresses unplanned issues long before employees return to work after a move. Photo confirmation ensures that each employee’s work area and assets are delivered and set up. After that, specialists can check the service network of computer systems and test phone connections. Since their crews receive instant updates, they can resolve any issues long before employees are in the new building.

Tracking software applications also deliver substantial productivity savings, Scullion said, cutting move time and costs up to 30%. This reduces the likelihood of expensive downtime in the new space.

For tenants in sensitive industries — a medical center or a financial institution, for example — security is often an added consideration. Software can provide a full line of visibility and control over confidential files from origin to destination.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Keeping up with the rate of technological innovation is a significant and ongoing challenge in commercial real estate. The National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Profile of Real Estate Firms found that 44% of commercial real estate companies said keeping up with technology is one of the biggest challenges they will face in the next two years, according to an article in the Summer 2019 issue of Development magazine. Two-thirds of real estate decision-makers say they have not implemented a digital and technological innovation vision or strategy at their firms.

Every tenant has a move-in date, a move-out date and ongoing churn within a location. Digital tools to manage that activity are a key need in the marketplace. 

“Historically, the commercial moving industry has handled relocations with virtually no control over inventory, no digital visibility around progress reporting and no modern quality control processes,” Scullion said. “The days of walking office floors with notepads, manually jotting down every item, are ending. Now the process is streamlined from beginning to end. The ability to provide metrics enables commercial customers to clearly measure the cost and satisfaction drivers in their operation and hold vendors accountable for measured performance.”


Anatomy of a Workplace Move

Companies move for a lot of reasons. Some are growing rapidly and need more space; others are shrinking or outsourcing functions, so they need less space. And, of course, leases expire or properties are bought and sold, which often means tenants need to find new locations.

On its website, moving company Suddath has identified some steps that businesses should take when planning a relocation:

Identify Space Requirements

  • Count existing and expected employees
  • Audit departments and business units
  • Define space and amenity needs
  • Assess renovation/construction needs
  • Evaluate current and potential real estate

Select Location

  • Rework existing space
  • Lease new space
  • Develop/build new property

Space Programming and Occupancy Planning

  • Align business unit functions in space plan
  • Assign space to business units
  • Allocate space to people
  • Establish common areas

Furniture Management

  • Comprehensive inventory of current furnishings
  • Evaluate furniture options (reuse existing furniture or acquire new/used furniture)
  • Create detailed floor plans
  • Surplus asset planning
  • Select furniture vendors
  • Plan and manage furniture installation

Move Planning

  • Identify order of business unit moves
  • Evaluate and select move provider
  • Establish move contacts in each business unit
  • Document the to/from move list, also known as the move grid
  • Communicate move plan to business unit leaders and
  • Final move preparations

Relocate

  • Employees
  • Furniture
  • Technology

Post-Move Support

  • Unpacking
  • Repairs
  • Adjustments
  • Minor furniture and move changes
  • Settling-in support

Vacated-Space Management

  • Consider lease requirements and liability risks
  • Decommission furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E)
  • Liquidate, donate, recycle
  • Document shredding
  • Repairs