Relocation, the challenges and opportunities

By Peter Clucas
Clucas Communications

Relocating an office is a real challenge to any business. The systems within the business must keep functioning if it is going to survive, yet large parts of it will made dysfunctional during the move, and it may take a while to get them up and running again afterwards. The staff will be affected too, with a feeling of displacement because their home and working lives have changed beyond recognition. If the move involves any distance more than 30km it is likely that employees will have needed to move. At work they may be faced with an array of new ideas and working methods with which they are unfamiliar. How therefore can key staff be persuaded to move with the times and with the company?

Time was that with the exception of a few benevolent employers such as Cadbury or John Lewis Partnership, few companies gave much attention to giving staff information. Loyalty was expected of employees. Moreover they expected to give it, without question. Most corporate decisions would be accepted, and people would adapt to their new business environment, knowing that change would not happen very often. Jobs for life were real.

Now change has become the status quo. It seems to employees that there is a philosophy of “If it’s not broken, break it”. There are three kinds of change to which employees are now subjected.

The first is corporate change. Takeovers, mergers and Globalisation are prevalent as companies strive to secure position in competitive markets.

Second, there is locational change. Moving within the office can happen every six months, and most property deals reported in Estates Gazette mean that someone is moving to a new site. Locational change can be brought about by corporate change or just by expansion or reduction in the need for premises.

Third is change in working practices. Companies looking for better teamwork are moving away from closed offices to more flexible environments such as cafes, libraries, and touchdown areas. Companies looking to reduce overheads are encouraging home working and desk sharing.

In many cases all three of the above are happening simultaneously. A relocation is often triggered by a merger and this is often seen as a good opportunity to revise working practices at the same time.

These changes can lead to uncertainty and misunderstandings within the workforce. Chinese whispers can pass through a company, and morale can suffer as a result.

The economy is stable, with few clouds on the horizon. This means that jobs are plentiful and disenchanted employees can move on if they are unhappy about the way they are being treated. The costs of recruitment are high and staff retention in certain sectors, notably the IT industry is low. With no corporate glue to hold a workforce together, staff move to the highest bidder. The M4 corridor, for example is so well supplied with staff-hungry software companies that high salaries expensive cars are the only means that some have to retain their key staff.

Companies are fighting back by introducing communication programmes that seek to instil loyalty and a sense of belonging. But why the need to manage the communication?

The common factor is information technology, surprising since IT is all about communication. A free flow of information via Internet and Intranet would seem to be an advantage. E-mail and corporate Intranet sites are commonplace. The problem arises, however when the amount of information available becomes too much, and important messages become obscured by the superfluous, with the result that more information means less recognition.

E-mail has serious over-use problems. A recent survey of employees of one multinatio

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