Moving into new premises is usually a milestone - marking the growth of your business or a new strategy. But few people realise beforehand how disruptive and time-consuming moving is likely to be.
The key to success is meticulous planning and good communication with everyone involved.
1. Planning the move
For your move to be a success, start planning at least six months ahead if possible
- The top priorities are involving employees and keeping customers happy (see Maintaining relationships).
Draw up an outline programme
- Include a timetable for the main planning and implementation stages.
- Some tasks will have longer lead times than you might think. For example, altering directory entries, arranging leased phone lines and hiring a removal contractor.
- Plan to move during a quiet work period.
- Taking the proposed moving day as the deadline, give each task a completion date such as D-2 (two weeks before the move) or D+1 (a week after the move). The date for the move itself may change as time goes by.
Check that there are no legal problems
- These might prevent you either quitting your existing premises or moving into the new premises by a specific day.
- If your existing lease continues after the move, and your old building is empty, you may be eligible for rates relief.
Agree a preliminary budget for the move
- Property costs may include acquiring and fitting out the new premises, upgrading equipment and disposing of old premises.
- People costs may include relocation and redundancy expenses, recruitment costs, and the cost of working time lost during the move.
- Sales may suffer from the disruption, which may have repercussions for your forward pipeline for some time to come.
Put together a small move team, with one individual in charge
- This move co-ordinator can liaise with other employees, the removal company and any other subcontractors.
- The co-ordinator will delegate specific areas of responsibility to individual members of the team. For example, space planning and furniture arrangement; moving IT equipment; telecoms and data; regulations; and health and safety.
- Employees can draw up their own task lists, in date order, to meet the completion dates in the outline programme. Ensure each individual has enough time to carry out the tasks.
Timetable regular meetings to co-ordinate progress and keep the momentum going
- Plans and costs will need to be agreed.
- Take advantage of the help available from your removal company by bringing the contractors into planning meetings.
2. Involving employees in your move
Consult all your employees well in advance of the planned move
- Consult trade union representatives as well if you have them.
- Without adequate consultation, you risk breaching rules on the consultation of employees. You also risk employees resigning.
- Keep employees up to date with briefings or presentations as the move progresses.
Moving premises will cause more problems with employees if it involves relocation
- Relocating without employees' agreement could be a breach of their employment contracts, unless these include a suitable 'mobility clause'.
- Relocation is not an acceptable reason for redundancy, unless the new location is too far away for reasonable travelling. Even then, you should offer your employees the chance to relocate and may want to offer some payment for the expenses involved.
- If employees are unable to relocate, you may be required to offer a redundancy package.
- Recognise any hardship or expense that may result from the move, and agree any appropriate compensation. For example, employees may have to move house or change their children's schools.
3. Maintaining relationships when you move
Send a notice of change of address to your customers and suppliers well in advance
- Explain why you are moving and use it as a marketing opportunity. For example, explain you have outgrown the old place and invite them to a party to mark the opening of your new premises.
- Where appropriate, include a map of how to find your new premises.
- Key customers may merit a phone call or a visit to explain why you are moving.
Inform the authorities and other contacts
- Going through the files will reveal contacts that may not be on your database. For example, banks, credit card issuers, professional advisers, insurers and couriers.
Order stationery showing the new address
- For example, letterheads, envelopes, address labels, compliment slips and business cards.
- Get written confirmation of any new telephone and fax numbers, and your postcode, before going ahead.
Amend your website and promotional materials to show the new address
- Notify any databases and directories which have your old address.
- Amend any current advertising.
- If you are not printing new brochures with your new contact details, order change of address stickers to put on existing ones
Set up a 'business as usual' team
- Their specific task should be maintaining customer service levels throughout the move period.
4. Transferring services to your new premises
Redirect mail to the new address
- Submit a redirection application form by post or at your local Post Office at least five working days (ideally at least three weeks) before you move. The cost depends on how long the mail is redirected for.
- Re-register your franking equipment if you move to a new postal district.
Contact your telecoms provider
Ask how to move premises with the least inconvenience. Check the costs and minimum periods for services that let you:
- take your old number with you;
- leave your new number as a message recorded on your old number ('ceased number interception');
- divert telephone and fax calls to the new numbers ('remote call forwarding') - if the expense is justified.
At least 14 days beforehand, arrange for all utilities to be cut off
- Make sure all meters will be read at the end of the moving day.
- Read the meters yourself as well, and keep a written record.
In some cases, you may need to find new suppliers and end existing contracts
- For example, office and window cleaning, waste disposal and maintenance.
Notify your insurer of the move
- Arrange any new insurance or policy changes that are necessary.
5. Equipment and premises fit-out
If customers get poor service or cannot contact you during the move, your business will suffer.
Ensure that you can continue to operate
- Prepare a business continuity back-up plan in case the unexpected happens.
- To minimise downtime, consider using a specialist company to decommission and recommission your PCs, servers and office machines. Larger removal companies can provide IT relocation services.
- A separate move co-ordinator may be needed for IT, working alongside the main move team.
Draw up a detailed configuration plan for your phone and computer systems
- You may need to re-wire the new premises. Work out where you will need power outlets, telephone points and computer points (if your computers are networked).
- Avoid sunlight glare on computer screens. Visit the premises at different times of day to see where this will be a problem.
- Decide the optimum locations for printers, copiers and scanners.
Test any new equipment before you move
- Complete any necessary training.
Make necessary alterations to the new premises
- For example, painting or new carpets.
- You may need written permission from the landlord before making alterations.
6. Hiring a removal contractor
Unless you are a sole trader, you will need professional help for the move.
Draw up a detailed specification
- List what has to be moved, when, and the addresses of the old and new premises.
- Note any relevant factors such as access. For example restricted parking.
- Highlight any large or heavy items and any precious or fragile items.
Arrange joint visits with removal companies to the new and old premises
- Agree loading and offloading points, and the broad timing of the move.
- Confirm whether the movers will make the arrangements for parking removal vans.
- Confirm the number and type of boxes or crates required, when you need them, and when you want them collected after the move.
Get detailed quotes from reputable removal companies and ask for references
- Cost breakdowns let you compare quotes. They also help you decide how much to spend and how much to do yourself - for example, packing and unpacking.
Make sure your property is insured during the move
- The removal contractor will be able to offer several different levels of cover.
Devise an outline plan, with the removal company, including a contingency section
- This will form the working move document.
7. Move instructions
Spell out what each person must do, when, and how the move will be managed
- A good removal contractor can manage many aspects of the move and give informed advice on what tends to go wrong.
Emphasise the importance of labelling everything correctly
- Sorting it out later can be disastrous. Devise a clear and unambiguous marking arrangement.
- Floor plans of the new premises should be marked up to show where things go. Use codes to show floor positions. For example 2.11 P4 might mean second floor, room 11, position 4.
- Colour coding is simple and effective.
- Open plan offices can be divided into sectors. The 'sector map' is then displayed on the door, so the removers know where to place each item.
- Label large items at each end.
- When numbering items without an obvious top side, beware of confusion between 6 and 9. Underline the number (6 or 9) to avoid misunderstandings.
The most common removal container is a plastic crate with a hinged lid
- Attach coloured labels, which are supplied, at each end. Make it clear how packing is to be handled.
- State when the crates will be available for packing, when they will be moved, and when they must be ready to go back. Crates returned late may incur extra costs.
- Crates should not be over-filled (or they will not stack up and may be impossible to lift) and all old labels should be removed.
- Use sealable crates for confidential files.
Explain the plans for moving equipment, including phones, PCs and any machinery
- Wires and cables should be taped to items and marked to show what plugs in where.
Clear out old files and clutter in the month before the move
- Dedicate at least one day to this.
- Hire a shredder, or use a 'secure disposal' contractor, to deal with confidential data.
- Consider storing documents with a records management company.
- Arrange for the council, a house clearance company or a charity to remove everything (eg furniture, files) that you wish to dispose of.
Explain how to code the contents of filing cabinets, drawers and shelves
- Coding makes it easy to put everything back in the same order. For example, a container might read: "Cabinet 1, top shelf".
- Lockable filing cabinets can be moved full, depending on their size and weight.
- Secure empty rails or shelves.
Prepare a move schedule, which lists the sequence of what is moved when
- Decide what you will need last in the old premises and first at the new premises.
- Contractors generally prefer to fill the new premises from the top down.
- Include details of how everything is coded in the schedule.
8. Managing the move
Check that everyone is using the agreed labelling and packing procedures
- If the removal company is doing the packing, they will have their own procedures.
Decide a rota for who will be where, when
- Decide how your move co-ordinator will communicate with the removal company.
- Arrange when employees should arrive at the new premises to unpack.
Set up a helpdesk at the new premises
- Note problems as they occur. Then prioritise what to sort out first.
At the old premises, complete the handover arrangements
- This may include cleaning up, making good damage and handing over the keys.
- Leaving the premises in good condition may reduce your liability for repair and redecoration costs.
Make the move a team effort
- Keep up employee morale by showing your gratitude for their help and cooperation.
- A little generosity in overtime pay and providing a meal will boost morale.
"Even if your employment contracts include a mobility clause, you still have to be reasonable. To take an extreme example, you are not entitled to expect an employee to relocate from John O'Groats to Land's End over the weekend." - Amanda Galashan, EmployEase