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How to Get Maximum Buy-In for Your Office Move

June 6, 2019 | by Jo Cipolla
Reviewed by real estate expert Jonathan Tootell

Rallying your colleagues to support an office move doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. Here are six smart strategies sure to get them on board.

Your business is expanding. Your office space, however, is not. All great news—you’re ready for bigger and better. Here’s the funny thing, though: even when the motivating factor is a positive one, the idea of pulling up stakes and moving to a new space can feel daunting to employees. For one thing, super-productive people might fear that a move might break their stride. Plus, when you consider that we spend a third of our lives at work, and that the office is a place we rely on for predictability, schedules and routines, making a move can seem to some like throwing a wrench into a well-oiled machine.

Still, “there are steps you can take to assure your team that the long-term benefits of an office move will outweigh any temporary upheaval,” says Phil Sofia, VP of Sales at SquareFoot. “and that the company culture is strong enough to survive it.” Here are a few tips to get the wheels turning.

Convince them there’s a problem:

When you’re building your case for the move, ditch the charts and bar graphs. “Don’t make it a dry business presentation,” writes author and Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.I’ve found that it’s far more effective to highlight the problem and the people affected by it in a way that makes the problem feel real.” In other words: Show, don’t tell. One of Kotter’s examples involves a mid-level exec who tried to convince his bosses that a particular purchasing practice—in this case, several factories negotiating separate prices for workers’ protective gloves—was wasting money. The higher-ups waved the exec away until he hit upon a way to make them “see” the problem: He collected 424 kinds of gloves, each tagged with a different price, and dumped them all on a boardroom table. That visual got their attention and inspired change. Such theatrics might not suit your specific argument, or your style, but search for a way to illustrate that staying put will hurt the company.

Recruit/Embrace the skeptics:

Inevitably, some colleagues will resist your pitch, but “don’t just write them off as dream-stompers who fear change,” says Amanda Berlin, a veteran of corporate comm who now blogs about workplace dynamics. “Use their objections to strengthen your idea. Their reservations may point to holes in your plan. Shore up the foundation, and then give them credit for contributing to the idea.”

Make it a top-down meets bottom-up change:

Your employees are probably already talking to one another about how your workspace could run more efficiently, or what features might make them more excited to come to work every day. Ask them to share those thoughts, even draft a wish list, then fold that feedback into your grand plan. Office moves are typically top-down decisions, but asking for input from the team shows you’re open to meeting in the middle. John Kotter, the Harvard prof who shared the avalanche-of-gloves idea, calls this collaborative approach “Dial-In.” “It involves having a crisp idea but holding it in draft form,” he writes in his book Buy-In. “Then before it’s confirmed in our minds, taking it out to others to invite discussion, acknowledge ideas, and leverage those ideas back into the whole.”

Identify Early Adopters:

Some employees will be on board with the move from the start. Recognize and engage with them. They can get the rest of the team on board and act as your eyes and ears on the ground.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:

Change is hard to implement because people resist it, right? Not really, says Daniel Lock, an author and change-management consultant. “The biggest and most obvious cause of resistance is ambiguity,” Lock says. “Ambiguity is unavoidable in projects, but it is controllable.” Anticipating questions about the move, and empowering the team with information, is key. Before the announcement, post an FAQ on a collaboration platform and make it an elastic document. When team members toss you unexpected questions, add those queries to the FAQ. Chances are, if one person has a particular question, others do, too. Keeping the document current signals that the move is a conversation, and also that it’s moving forward.

Focus on the destination, not the journey:

It might sound silly, but, when discussing the move, avoid using language that emphasizes “change,” “adjustment” or “transition.” Instead, focus on the company’s “evolution,” “phase two” or  “next chapter.” If you’ve already identified your new office space, or even just settled on a neighborhood, plan a site visit. Or, if the space isn’t quite ready to be seen, create a vision board in your existing space—photos of lunch spots, retail stores and public parks near the new office—that will help the team imagine themselves in the next location.

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