Mastering the Office Move
Sarah Schraer, Former Office Manager
In less than a year at Viget, I organized and executed two office moves. The seven-year lease at our previous office ended right around the time I started; but, our new space wasn’t going to be ready until months later. So, we packed our things and moved to a temporary space. Nine unexpected months later, we moved into our brand new office! Below are a few of the lessons I learned along the way.
Finding the Right Movers:
When finding movers for your office, you should go with someone who is experienced and you should ask for references to back up their claims. While prepping for our move, we talked with a lot of moving companies and asked for quotes from three. We even had in-office “interviews” with the companies we looked into. By the end of the interviewing and reference checking, we had a clear gut feeling of which mover we should choose.
Several months out from our move we created a master timeline and shared it with all the people who would help with various parts of the move. Your timeline should include things like when to start packing, when you’ll go through storage closets and start purging things your office no longer needs, and even when to send emails to staff with move instructions. We also included details like “terminate Internet service” and “change address in contract template.” Thinking through all of these details ahead of time (and writing them down) will help keep you on task when things begin to feel overwhelming.
Another big aspect of our move prep was creating an office inventory and assigning each piece of furniture a home. We created floor plans for our new space and laid out each piece of furniture exactly where we wanted it to go.
Packing is probably the most daunting part of the whole move. Approximately 32 people work from our HQ location, we had about 7,000 SF in our last office, and we were there for 7 years! A lot of stuff gets acquired over 7 years! The best place to start with packing is to purge the things you no longer need. Things like old computers, books that are no longer relevant, and furniture that won’t work in your new space are all great things to get rid of 6-8 weeks before you even start packing. Craigslist, Goodwill, Freecycle, and other donation centers are great ways of purging things while benefiting others (and keeping trash out of the landfills).
When you finally get down to the business of packing:
- Make each person in charge of their own desk area. This will be a huge burden off your shoulders and ensure they protect their own stuff. Encourage your colleagues to take home anything fragile and to purge old junk too!
- Attack one room each day.
- Start early if you can. Up to four weeks ahead of time for less frequently-used items, artwork, and decor.
- Don’t overlook disassembly and removing items from the walls. We had teams of two take down whiteboards, TV’s, and mounted cabinets prior to our move.
The Big Day(s):
Give yourself time. For both phases, we planned to have the movers come a day or two before a three-day weekend. While the movers only took one day to move all of our furniture and boxes, we used the additional days to get things organized, unpack, and complete a variety of DIY projects (okay… a lot of DIY projects) before everyone showed up to the new space.
Print out copies of the floor plans (discussed in the prep section) and make sure you have a number of them posted in your new space. Our movers used these to position the furniture exactly how we wanted -- and the best part: they didn’t have to chase someone down every time they brought in a new piece.
Delegate. Put someone in charge of transporting important things like special paintings, petty cash, and anything the movers won’t move (most won’t move chemicals or alcohol). We also designated a person to stay at our old space until the end and one person to direct at the new space. Most importantly -- don’t forget to take care of your office helpers. Moves take a long time -- provide dinner or lunch (and snacks) to your core move team.
After a move weekend, there’s usually still a lot left to do. Try to make the first day special for those seeing the new space for the first time. For our first day in the new office, we had a special breakfast and all spent time sitting at our handcrafted “eatin’ tables.” It really made the first day feel like a special, celebratory occasion.
I recommend creating a to-do list of projects you need to finish up post-move. Whether it’s wrapping things up at your old space or organizing a storage closet, having a list always helps … and crossing things off is so satisfying!
Making It Fun:
Some companies want the move process to be invisible, but that’s a pretty difficult task. No matter what, the move is going to have a big impact on the rest of the company. We found lots of opportunities to make our move more fun (and tolerable) for everyone.
- As we sold furniture on craigslist, we used the money to build our “Milkshake Fund”, a pot of money we use to do spontaneous fun things, like buying milkshakes for the whole office.
- We opened up opportunities for people to explore hobby woodworking, name our new conference rooms, and test out furniture ideas ahead of time.
- We also hung a move countdown at the front of the office which got people excited and kept them informed about how far off the move was.