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Leadership Strategies for the “Unsure” in the New Normal

Posted June 19, 2020

What We Know About Re-Opening the Office

As this thought leadership piece was being created, a large portion of the workforce was in some stage of returning to the office.  The purpose of the information that we are delivering is to assist the leaders that are either, 1) in the midst of a return-to-the-office strategy but are “unsure” of the effectiveness of their plan or 2) those that have not started to return to the office because they are “unsure” on how to do so.  In either instance, we are certain that the content we are providing will propel you to take effective actions that enable your office staff to be more productive sooner.

Work-from-home is here to stay

One of the realizations for many businesses was that productivity remained unchanged or in some cases, even improved, for task-driven day-to-day responsibilities.  This awareness will bring on the new norm of creating flexibility with the choice to work from anywhere.  With more employees working remotely, combined with the need to de-densify the office setting, a change in the way office space is currently utilized will be the end result.

These changes, however, will not come without challenges.  The following challenges have been identified and need to be solved for:

Among the employee base, there is a lack of unity and a sense of belonging to company culture.  Furthermore, employees are reporting an inability to bond as a team.

Employee development is suffering.

    • The focus on training efforts has been limited
    • The virtual training environment does not feel like the training room of the past
    • Initiating mentor/mentee relationships has taken a back seat to other priorities and the virtual environment doesn’t have the same feel as an in-person meeting

Non-operations-based staff productivity has declined.

    • Creativity, innovation, and research & development is lacking due to poor collaborative environments
    • Sales teams that previously worked in the office are struggling with production in the work-from-home environment

With these shortcomings present, a focused effort within companies to overcome these employee development issues will be necessary.  The resulting effect of these challenges will be the creation of a company office ecosystem – this is likely to be the new normal.  This ecosystem will be a combination of home, office, and a third location.  I’ll refer to these third locations as satellite offices. These satellite offices will be utilized for a variety of purposes.

The first will be when the employees cannot connect at home or just cannot focus in their current work-from-home environment. Gen Z employees have reported the highest level of connectivity issues when working from home while millennials have reported the inability to focus, either due to the lack of a dedicated space to work from, or the distractions created by their children or other family members.  The second reason these satellite offices will become more prominent will be for the use of in-person department collaboration meetings, i.e. collaboration space for the marketing team or other research and development types of efforts.  A possible third reason satellite offices will be more incorporated into the office ecosystem will be for the virtual company meetings consisting of multiple satellite offices connected to the corporate headquarters where speakers, presenters, and/or leaders will be addressing the entire company.  With multiple office locations, there will also likely be a change in how companies will be hosting team building events.  Team building will be more intentional and likely take the form of a short company retreat.

How to Execute Re-Opening the Office

A lot has been published about the “what to do to re-open your workplace” but not much has been published about how to execute the effort.  As we all know, everything is easier said than done.

Here at Relocation Strategies, we focus on the “How To”, knowing that every company’s strategy will be unique.  So here are some key steps to consider.

Create an internal task force.

Depending on the size of your organization the task force could be 1-4 people or more. The task force should start with ensuring a thorough review of the CDC and OSHA Guidance that has been published and identify actions that are relevant for your organization to consider. The task force leader must have some decision-making authority and be able to implement change quickly.

As you most likely already experienced, there is a lot of information, even more opinions, and the directives are changing rapidly.  This fluid environment needs to be balanced with the ability to decide on changes and not being paralyzed by analysis or lack of a 100% consensus.

The task force leader must work with the C-suite to understand what the pre-COVID vision for the workplace was and then begin building the new vision.  The key considerations for the initial conversation between the task force leader and the C-suite should include:

    • What amount of term is remaining on the current lease?
    • How did the company perform in the work-from-home environment?
    • What was learned?
    • Who performed best?
    • Who performed poorly?
    • Are there departments that can work remotely 100% of the time?
    • What is the status of future business growth? Accelerated? Declining? Unchanged? Unknown?
    • What departments will be most affected by future changes in company growth?

Answers to these questions will provide the foundation for meaningful conversations that establish your company’s priorities and enable decisive decision making.  Solving for every nuance will not be possible.  Developing a long-term strategy with short-term office space or real estate objectives should be the focus.  As I have previously mentioned, this is a fluid environment so tackling the immediate issues or taking advantage of the short-term opportunities should be the driving force behind the task force’s efforts.

Survey the employees about their concerns.

Every company’s survey will be unique to their organization and will be fundamentally driven by the C-suite and task forces findings from above.  But here is an example set of questions that could be included on the staff survey:

How would you rate your ability to be productive in a work-from-home environment?

What limiting factors or distractions exist in your work-from-home environment?

Would you prefer to work from home? If yes, how many days a week?

How concerned are you about your health and well-being as it relates to returning to the office?

    • Very concerned, I will not return until there is a vaccine.
    • Somewhat concerned, I will return if social distancing policies are enforced and proper PPE is provided by the company.
    • Concerned, but will exercise personal protections to overcome my concerns.
    • Not concerned and willing to come back to the office under existing conditions.

Utilizing the employee survey results in conjunction with the C-suites’ priorities will allow you to identify the appropriate changes to be made for a productive office space in the new normal.

The next step is to execute.

The key components to executing the changes will be to:

    • Develop a budget and schedule for the implementation of the changes.  Most changes will come with a cost.  Understanding these costs as it relates to the overall impact of the response to mitigating health concerns is essential for your business.
    • Select the vendor resources required to implement the changes.
    • Communicate the changes to the affected teams.
    • Be available to the affected team members that remain concerned or have questions.
    • Remain flexible and agile throughout the implementation.  This component will go a long way to ensuring approval and adherence from all stakeholders.
    • Ultimately, manage the implementation of changes and return to work in the new normal.

Additional Considerations

As changes are completed and the staff returns to the workplace, the task force must maintain constant communication with affected and affecting stakeholders i.e. other tenants, property managers, and local authorities.  It’s critical that new best practices or regulations are considered and adhered to if necessary.  A member of the task force also must be vigilantly monitoring the adherence to the guidelines imposed within your facility.  The unfortunate result of this pandemic is that the sensitivity to these matters could be exploited in the workplace, and therefore, require a constant focus on managing the implemented changes.  Employers that succeed in this regard will win, those who do not will be at risk of poor productivity, poor morale, or even worse – legal action.

At Relocation Strategies, we have the experience and expertise to guide or lead these types of initiatives.

Contact us today to learn more about the list of initiatives other companies are executing to return to the office.

How to Request and Receive a Competitive Move Quote

Posted October 7, 2019

In this commentary, I will share with you the best practices that will result in you realizing the lowest overall move cost for your corporate move.  Additionally, we will cover the consequences of not implementing the best practices, discuss the “why” behind the consequences, and guide you on what to do if you find yourself in a situation where the move is imminent and these best practices were not implemented during the planning phase.

Before we dive into the details, I’ll make some basic assumptions about the project.  Our project is going to take place in an office environment, a portion or all the systems furniture is moving, and the origin and destination location are within 20 miles of one another.

Accurate Furniture Plan

Best practice #1 is to ensure that you are working with an accurate furniture plan of the destination location.  It is critical that the furniture plan has been created by the authorized retailer of the furniture being broken down, relocated, re-configured, and re-set.  The consequence of not doing so will likely result in an unfinished installation at the destination after the move event takes place.  The reason this occurs is that the slightest changes in the furniture configuration will require new hardware to properly reset the furniture at the destination location.  If the furniture is not installed timely at the destination, the movers will be delayed in delivering the contents.  If the movers have also been hired to breakdown, relocate, reconfigure, and re-set the furniture they will not be able to complete the work during the move event and you will incur additional fees when they return to complete the installation.

Purge, Purge, Purge

Best practice #2 is to begin executing weekly purges of no longer needed files, furnishings, and wall hangings.  Be sure to fully purge the space being relocated prior to requesting a move quote. The results are two-fold.  Movers bill you for the time the laborers that are on the job, the packing materials required, and the truck space consumed by the contents moving. There is no reason to have someone pick up, take space up on a truck and unload the contents in a new location if the items are not needed.    Secondly, having an organized origin location prior to requesting a move quote will ensure the moving companies’ sales representative does not perceive an unorganized client.  If they do, they will simply ensure their fee accounts for the risk they perceive.

Inventory is Everything

Best practice #3 is to inventory everything being relocated before the mover arrives to perform the assessment.  It’s critical for you and your team to know exactly what is moving and what is to be left behind before the mover arrives to perform the assessment.  If it is unclear as to whether or not an item is to be relocated during the assessment, the mover sales rep will likely include that item to ensure that on move day he is being paid for everything that could be in scope to minimize their risk.  It is important to remember, that they are not doing this to be cruel, but rather to provide an excellent level of service by not having to say “no” to an extra item in the midst of a move event.

Proper Documentation

Best practice #4 is to properly document the plan for the move event.  Your plan needs to include all the following items:

  • Confirmation from origin and destination location property managers that the elevators and move path will be clear for the move event
  • The date and time in which you plan to begin executing the move event
  • A list of the various move groups that will be relocating with the sequence of each group shutting down their systems
  • The PC/Phone System Disconnect Resources
  • The electrician responsible for any hardwire system furniture disconnections
  • The PC/Phone System Reconnect Resources
  • The electrician responsible for any hardwire system furniture reconnections
  • The low voltage vendor responsible for pulling the low voltage cabling through the systems furniture
  • The technology resources assigned for confirming network and phone connectivity after the technology is reset

Having the plan in place prior to meeting with the move vendor sales rep will ensure you are prepared to answer all the questions needed that will result in an accurate move bid.

Bidding out the Move

Best practice #5 is to request three move bids to create a competitive bidding environment that will inherently drive down the cost of your move.  Furthermore, requesting bids in a format that enables you to receive apples to apples comparable bids is required to ensure you are not only evaluating the bid on cost but rather on the overall approach to the move event.  After you have provided the move vendor sales rep with the furniture plan, the inventory of items to be relocated, and the move plan it is now time to explain the format and the requirements that you would like to see in the final bid.  The format and requirements are as follows:

  • The bid should be a “not to exceed” price, rather than a time and material estimate
  • Line item cost for packing materials with a description of what is included
  • Line items cost for labor including the number of resources assigned to the project with an estimated duration of activity. It is important to note that movers typically start the clock from when they leave their warehouse and the clock runs until they return to their warehouse
  • Line item cost for trucks including the labor for the drivers. This line item needs to include the number of trucks to be used for the duration of the move event
  • Line item cost for the recommended insurance that covers the replacement of any damaged contents. It’s important to note that standard move insurance is $X.XX per pound.  If you start to do the quick math on a PC, monitor, piece of AV equipment, etc. you realize that you need more coverage than the “standard”

It is also worth noting that seeking multiple bids on the move (and any other relocation-related services) is not only a budgetary exercise, but also serves as a risk mitigation strategy.  Seeking multiple bids provides you with the opportunity to consult with experts that have seen many types of move projects.  Each vendor has different experiences and perspectives and therefore a different proposed method for accomplishing the task at hand.  These perspectives provide alternatives and considerations that should be evaluated.

If you find yourself in a situation where the move event is looming and you don’t feel adequately prepared to pull off the effort in a way that will ensure no downtime and won’t exceed budgeted costs, seek the help of an experienced professional.  Keep in mind that the move is just one piece of a corporate relocation.  The construction, technology, FF&E, office services, and decommissioning the origin site are all major scopes of work as part of most corporate relocations.  Be mindful that once the transaction is complete there is more to do than just calling a mover.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an organization relocating to underestimate the workload required to successfully complete a timely, on-budget corporate relocation.  If you or your team are considering a corporate relocation also consider seeking professional services from an experienced resource.