What colour is the number 5?
What sound do you hear when you see a blue sky?
What shape forms the calendar in your mind?
One out of 23 people in the world associate two senses when experiencing one of them. This is called synesthesia. Some people can hear a specific sound for each colour. Others see numbers coloured the same way every single time.
What sound do you hear when you imagine the team after the office move now that it’s coming close? The steady sound of routine, the noise of protestations, or the silence of focused work? To make sure that you don’t lose your valued employees in the process, you need to audit your planned office move (and do it with discretion).
Here are three steps to help you make sure your employees follow you to the new office and stay motivated:
1. Prepare the office move, as small things can matter a lot
The first weeks after your last family move passed in a daze. Handling all the paperwork for utilities, electricity, water, Internet. Unpacking everything and setting up the rooms. THE KITCHEN. THE BATHROOM. You are exhausted, your partner is exhausted, and children are jumping on your head.
And then the tough part begins. Monday morning. New school hours. New neighbours. NEW BUS LINES for the kids. NEW COMMUTES for the parents.
As soon as your management decided the move and selects the office location you need to prepare the communication for the team:
– announcing the planned office move
– naming the key people for organizing the move
– giving regular news about the incoming move weeks in advance
– involving the whole team in the office installation
– discussing the move face to face
Forgetting to think about the daily bus to the high school will annoy your teenager (who is already a challenge). A long commute for your partner will tire them and make them regret the move. The home address, school and work commute options are part of the family contract.
We tend to focus too much on the new home and not enough on how the family members will “use” the new home as a base for going to work and school every day. In the same way, when planning for an office relocation we can focus too much on the office costs, space, and all the benefits, and forget about the most important asset: your team.
2. Audit the new office location before the announcement
Here are some examples of small things that can matter a lot for the team after the move:
– car access
– availability of parking lots
– public transportation
– commute duration
– restaurants around the office
– nearby parks and promenades
– the noise levels in and around the office
– air-conditioning (and noise made by the ventilators)
– natural light and office lights
And the list goes on. These are all things you can consider before moving in. Make a list with all the small things which are already annoying your team. Ask your colleagues to complete it, and use it to audit your new offices before the move.
You can split the list into three big groups:
– Lunch and breaks
– Office comfort
For many people, the daily commute related issues are make-or-break. Make sure the preferred transportation mode is available for most of your co-workers. It would be great if they could keep their usual working hours. The best is to also check the actual time it will take them to get to the office every day.
In big cities or dense areas such as Paris, New York, Los Angeles, London, the key is to compare the predicted commute duration to the new offices with the previous ones. Use a system of three lights to mark-up each person’s commute duration:
Pay attention to the red flags, especially when commute durations are more than the average in the area. At any rate, more than 60 minutes per day (morning + evening commute) should be considered a red flag. In the audit consider the situations that change the most to prevent and diminish their effects.
3. Use the audit to repair the worst effects of the relocation
Here are a couple of things you can do to improve the team situation after a move:
- Give priority for office access to people with special needs or longer commutes.
- Make an Excel table and sort people on their special needs and commute length. Assign parking lots using the Excel table.
- Propose full or partial work from home for people most affected by their new commute duration.
Let’s take a concrete example. Your chief sales manager is used to a 45-50 minutes commute per day. After the move, things get worse:
Old commute: 50 min of daily commute (4 hrs 10 min per week)
New commute: 80 min of daily commute (6 hrs 40 min per week)
Difference: 1 hour and 30 minutes more commute per week
In this case, one single day of working from home reduces the weekly commute to 5 hours and 20 minutes. This means 20% less time spent in traffic or crowded public transportation. This also means at least 20% more chances the person will follow you to the new office.
After the move, check every month how things are going, and adjust. Move to two remote workdays where needed. Rent a small co-working space for the three colleagues who live far from the office but close to each other. Keep your eyes open, as change tires people, and this can very easily impact your team.
Why should I use discretion while doing the audit? I am open about the move!
You cannot please everyone. Discretion helps you prepare the most affected people. Also, it allows you to plan remote work proposals where needed. This does not mean to keep things hidden until the move. Instead, it means to prepare the communication and the means necessary to a successful team relocation.
What common mistakes to avoid
The most obvious one is focusing too much on the office costs without considering the impact of the office location. Sometimes office location is crucial for customer access. The location is also important for activities around the office (lunch, coffee, air quality, noise level and comfort).
However, the office location is ALWAYS crucial for your employees because of their commute durations, which has a direct impact on their families.
Audit your future office location to be able to prepare the team
In summary, do not leave the audit until the move (or even worse, after it). Be prepared to take actions to smooth out the move. Use the audit to learn what to improve or change after the move. Check again one, then six months after the move. Ideally, this can become an annual occasion to improve the comfort of your employees.
Synesthesia, the association of two senses, comes the Greek words for “union” and “sensation”. Using more than one sense on your team means looking closely at team members life around the office to be able to improve it.