I’ve moved a lot. I lived in about 15 different places before I was 25 years old. I’ve been in my current place longer than I have ever lived anywhere; I’ve called this house my home for just over six years.
I’m moving at the end of the month and this has me thinking about office moves. Throughout my HR career, I have been through about six “office moves” and to be honest, I hated them. Not because I didn’t want to move – I could have cared less – but because I had to listen to the griping and complaining from everyone else.
I didn’t get it. It was just an office, cubicle, or location in town…what was the big deal?
Today, as I look around my home, see my my half-filled boxes, stare at my soon to be empty walls, etc., I get it.
Today, I realize, with regretful certainty, that I failed to empathize with those who were depressed, scared, or otherwise disturbed because they were being separated from their surroundings.
Today, I realize the staff was feeling something that, at the time, was foreign to me:
They were attached.
- They probably found comfort in their environment.
- They probably grew accustomed to the heating/air conditioning “quirks.” Shoot, they may have developed certain habits because of them.
- They probably liked and/or depended on the idiosyncrasies of the sounds, the lighting, the physical walls/desks/etc.
- They probably relied upon their neighbors and appreciated their “commute” to the restroom, break room or conference room.
- They probably enjoyed the convenience of the printer being right next them or grew to depend on the silence of it being so far away.
- They probably were grateful for their storage or loved their view.
Regardless of how many times I, or some other schmuck, told them the new space would be “just as good” or “better”, the uncertainty of the inevitable change and the “detachment” from their surroundings negatively affected them.
Change is hard!
As an HR Professional, I should have known better! I should have been more patient. I should have shown some compassion when I couldn’t summon empathy. I should have recognized the reasons behind their gripes and complaints.
If I would have felt then what I feel now, I would have done these things:
- Hold a meeting – numerous meetings if necessary – about the move. I don’t want to leave employees in the dark about where they will be in the new space.
- Facilitate discussions about what they like about their current space, what they dislike about their current space, etc. I’d manage these discussions…we can’t all get what we want…but I think allowing people to talk about what is reasonable/unreasonable, what is probable/not probable, etc. would be helpful.
And, of course, I would share these concerns, requirements, and desires with whomever was in charge of the new space. I know I could use my rhetoric and persuasive communication skills to communicate the value of considering their requests!
- Help employees lighten their load. It’s overwhelming to think about packing when your stuff is piled everywhere and you don’t want to give it up. A quasi “buddy” system works well for these circumstances. I think of it like a hoarding intervention; one person is assigned to “reality check” the other as the packing occurs. (Make sure someone is available to offer good advice on records retention!)
- Actively listen to staff, which of course would involve keeping my own opinions to myself.
- Reinforce the positive characteristics of the new space while confirming all of the neutrals or downsides, if any. There is nothing worse than getting into a new space and realizing that no one told you there wouldn’t be as much storage, there were no bathrooms on that floor, the elevator was right outside your cubby walls, etc.
- Give the employees a choice, if possible, of anything new. Whether it be colors of the walls, types of chairs, or where storage cabinets will go, many of the staff will appreciate having a voice in these decisions.
- Refrain from telling anyone that the move is “no big deal” because the fact is, it is a very big deal to them.
Yuck, I hate it when I realize I failed someone.
Perhaps you can succeed where I did not.