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An employee-centric approach to office relocation

Expansion, right-sizing, supply chain optimisation and embracing new ways of work are among some of the reasons an organisation may decide or need to relocate. While the financial impacts of office relocation are often well considered, as part of the decision-making process, impacts on employees are somewhat less understood. If an employee-centric approach to office relocation is not adequately implemented, resentment among staff can often result and consequently lower the company’s ability to retain talent. Thus, it is important for a company to understand and mitigate how a decision to relocate might affect its employees.

Impacts of office relocations on employees

An office relocation is not necessarily confined to a geographical shift. Relocation can also change an organisation’s cultural dynamic, especially when employees are required to move away from traditional working styles (i.e. the individual workstation with desk ownership) towards agile or activity-based working. Certain levels of resistance from employees can be expected in these instances, especially when we compare employee tenure. Generally, the longer the tenure, the more difficult a relocation can be. Conversely, office location is often a significant decision driver when it comes to choosing employers.

Proximity to work is often an important factor for employees when deciding where to live. It is not surprising then that companies usually find their employees are concentrated in suburbs close to the office or live in areas easily accessible to the workplace via public transport. An office relocation can negatively impact on the time and cost of an employee’s daily commute, quality of life and familial relations. In the medium to long term a relocation may even influence residential relocation, car ownership and other household expenditure and activity patterns.

To mitigate negative impacts on culture, a comprehensive change management strategy with employees placed at the very centre of planning should be implemented to ensure continued productivity, employee engagement and satisfaction. 

Best practice
Location, location, location

Careful consideration of a new office location is paramount. Prior to relocation, the organisation should endeavour to comprehensively understand the logistical requirements of both its employees, suppliers and clients. We advise companies to commission a thorough study of the potential new location’s infrastructure network, be it existing roads, highways and airports as well as future infrastructure plans or infrastructure investment proposed and committed by the government.

Other factors to be considered include: surrounding amenities such as public transport, parking, food and beverage outlets and green spaces, the composition of labour supply in the surrounding local area, location of competitors and supportiveness of local government to new businesses in the area.

Spatial planning considerations

When an organisation decides to relocate, we advise our clients to conduct a holistic spatial planning study which should incorporate the business’s needs (short and long term), taking into account future growth direction in addition to any other key business drivers.

Deciding on the design elements of the new space is also an important task. This step involves determining the optimal office layout as well as which technology solutions to incorporate. Organisations need to understand how spaces are being utilised in the current work environment and how best to alter new spaces to improve productivity and employee interaction.

A well-designed office space is a significant contributor to the well-being and productivity of employees. For this reason, organisations are increasingly incorporating natural lighting, air filtration systems, indoor plants, sleeping pods and standing desks into the modern office.

Communication and consultation 

Early communication and consultation about plans to relocate will provide employees with a sense of inclusiveness and ownership as part of the decision-making process. This will also give people sufficient time to plan for and organise their families prior to the move, reducing the risk of negative morale impacts which can result from sudden announcements.

Employees will need time to decide whether relocating with the company will work for them and their families. Early employee engagement in this case can also help the company to understand possible employee challenges to plan accordingly for better business continuity.

Ongoing communication with employees is crucial. Be open to receiving feedback from staff as valuable insights can be derived from consultation regarding the new office set up. This kind of collaboration will benefit the organisation in the long run and will help to minimise the financial burden of staff turnover and training.

Fine tuning the new workplace

Maintaining regular feedback from staff is important post-move to assist the organisation with understanding how employees are adjusting to the new environment and any aspects that require greater management. For example, introducing a flexible work policy after the move so that employees can work from home or job share while adjusting to the new environment. This can be rewarding for both the employee and the organisation in building trust and easing any negative effects from the relocation.

For more information on office relocation management, reviewing your current location strategy or to customise a tailored solution for your business feel free to get in contact with me.

Mai Trinh

Senior Consultant

Strategy Advisory