Eight things you need to know before you start talking about your workplace change

Your organisation is moving offices next year, you’re having a major refurb or introducing new ways of working or new technology. Or perhaps you’re planning the post-Covid return to work and you’ve been tasked with communicating the news to employees, customers and other stakeholders. But where do you start? Sign up to our next webinar on workplace change taking place at 1pm on Thursday 11th March and find out more.

Before you begin any communication, it’s essential to know as much as possible about the planned change. Not all the information may be available at the outset so make a note of what’s missing and follow up later. 

The information you need falls into eight distinct areas:

What’s going to happen?

Is it a straightforward relocation from A to B, a consolidation of several buildings into one location, merging one building into another or churn within a campus or building? Is one move planned or several? If it’s the post-Covid return to work, how many people will be affected?

Why are we doing this?

Understanding the aims of the project will help you to draft the appropriate messaging even if you don’t mention all the reasons. It could be to bring people together to improve collaboration; save money by reducing real estate footprint; create a better facility for client/employee recruitment and retention and satisfaction; improve sustainability/ energy reduction; or to improve space utilisation. There could be a lease event, such as a break clause or lease end; the business may want to be closer to customers; it may be merging, acquiring a business, being acquired or downsizing. The workplace change may be part of a wider cultural change, or in response to external factors such as Covid. Usually it’s a combination of many of these things.

When’s it going to happen?

You’ll need to build your communication strategy around the key dates of the change. The project could revolve around a lease break, for example, and then there’s the fit-out start and completion. You may have a set date for 100% of people being back in the office post-pandemic.

Work backwards from these points to create your plan. Moves usually happen at weekends, for example – often subsequent weekends for significant relocations – so plan that into your deliverables. You may start with a pilot programme of 10% of people at work post-Covid and move gradually up to 100%. There may be set timescales to work to. For example, some organisations target their relocation project teams to have people up and working in the new environment within 15 minutes on their first day. There may also be key internal dates you need to be aware of, such as year ends, product launches, etc. Make sure you’re aware of all the timescales.

Where is the new facility?

If the change is a relocation, you’ll need to know the location of the new premises even if it hasn’t been built yet. It’s useful to understand why the building/area was chosen so that you can include the information in the messaging. Every area has its pros and cons and you’ll need to be aware of these when communicating with stakeholders. You’ll also need to do research into the new district to include in moving packs and Welcome To… guides.

Who will be affected?

Usually a major relocation involves everyone in a building, but sometimes only groups of people will be moving. That will certainly be the case with the post-Covid return to work which will happen gradually. Knowing exactly who will be affected ensures you communicate with the right people. Find out if there are teams which need to be treated differently, such as trading floors, legal/ finance departments with confidential material,  teams with specialist equipment such as designers or more vulnerable people. But don’t forget, even those who aren’t affected, or perhaps will be affected later down the line, will need to know what’s going on.

How will the change happen?

Relocation companies have set ways of moving people. If it’s a significant move, then it will be done in stages with several hundred people moving at any one time into the new building. By knowing the moving plan, you can tailor the communication appropriately. When it comes to a post-Covid return, this may happen in stages, with staggered start/ finish times or shift patterns.

What’s going to change?

Relocations and refurbishments often involve changes in the new space which people need to be aware of. This could include new ways of working such as agile working or hot-desking; different furniture; new IT systems and processes; change in storage practices (such as removing pedestals and introducing lockers); the introduction of new facilities, such as gyms, staff restaurants, occupational health facilities, shops (or the removal of these facilities). The return to the office will see changes in the way people communicate and collaborate and what technology they use. Ensuring you have a full as possible picture of the changes – both pros and cons – will help with messaging.

Be legal.

Don’t start communicating anything until you are certain that you have adhered to all the necessary legal requirements. Moves often involve changes to employees’ contracts and this must be handled carefully. It can involve compensation in some cases and unions may need to be consulted before any formal announcement to staff is made. Similarly the post-Covid return to work has to be handled carefully as not everyone will Make sure this has all been investigated and resolved fully before embarking on a comms programme.

Need more support? For best practice advice and guidance on communicating your workplace change project, download the free and comprehensive Magenta guide to communicating workplace change, join one of our upcoming webinars or talk to us about supporting your project. Contact me on cathy@magentaassociates.co or call +44 (0)20 3773 3622.

Cathy Hayward