I was really fortunate to work with a large financial services organisation over a 15 month period managing all of the internal communications around the build of the impressive new offices in Milton Keynes.

Not only was it an amazing company to work with and an exciting internal communications project to work on, it led to me working with my current client, a workspace design consultancy, and further explore the impact an office refurbishment or new building has on a company’s employees. It also let me to understand the importance of a well-planned internal communication strategy when moving or refurbishing an office space.

More often than not, a new or refurbished office space brings with it the opportunity to improve the physical working environment as well as the day-to-day working practices. Combined, these contribute towards improving collaboration, productivity, wellbeing and business efficiencies but can mean substantial changes too.
These changes need to be carefully managed and communicated and this is where an internal communications strategy is key.

To any company, its employees are its most valuable assets. Ensuring that a major milestone such as an office refurbishment or build is carefully communicated to your employees in a structured, engaging and consultative manor is essential. Not only is the full co-operation of the workforce required for the physical and functional aspects of the project but winning their hearts and minds is absolutely critical to the success of the project.

Whilst a brand new or fully refurbished office is exciting, the journey will, at times, be bumpy and so your employees need to understand why they are on the journey in the first place, what to expect and when, what they can to do to ease the bumps along the way and in what ways they can contribute to and feel a sense of ownership for their new office space – making sure it truly works for them.

The internal communications strategy needs to start early on in the overall process and should ensure that communications can go in any direction: top down, bottom up and side to side. The new work space and working practices will directly impact the workforce so it’s critical that they feel they have a say and can contribute.

By creating a detailed timing and action plan spanning the entire duration of the project, you can ensure that colleagues are informed and engaged at every step of the way. Ensure that a sound feedback mechanism is in place so people can ask questions, provide feedback and share ideas. You could set up an online employee engagement platform, so you can really get conversations going and ideas flowing or you can dedicate a section of your company intranet to the new build/refurbishment project, although a simple email address will also do the trick.

As the project progresses and the build or office refurbishment begins to take shape, you should think of ways that you can start to bring it to life for your colleagues. A photo and video diary, regular updates on progress, samples of the furniture, décor, meeting pods and kitchen spaces etc. can be shared and you can get employee feedback on which desks, chairs, fixtures and fittings would be most suitable.

The key to success is regular communication and variation in the type of communication method used so that colleagues are constantly involved, informed and inspired.

The closer you get to project completion, the communications can become more frequent; a weekly bulletin advising what actions need to be taken and when, site visits so employees can see where they will be sitting, having lunch and holding meetings.

At move in, you need to ensure that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and when. Working with the project team, you should create and issue pre-move instructions and follow that up with a welcome message and gift on move day. You might want to consider a welcoming committee and floor walkers representing key groups such as IT, facilities and moves so they are on hand to answer any immediate questions and deal with issues as they arise.

You can expect everyone to settle into their new home pretty quickly but the communications should continue, providing a summary of any issues and associated actions. You could make it fun by adding photos of people as they move in and settle into their new home. Ensure that if you have facilities on site such as a restaurant, medical centre, fitness or wellbeing centre etc. that launch plans are in place and communications are shared and special offers are promoted.

Keep your communications channels open for up to three months after the move to allow for anything changes, ideas or communications that are necessary once everyone is using the office space.

If it’s a new build, then there are key milestones such as breaking ground, topping out and getting the keys that you can celebrate with events, photography and by carrying out the traditional activities to mark the occasions. Once you’ve moved in you might consider holding a grand opening and inviting someone of stature to officially open the building. All of these activities will engage the work force.

By implementing a sound internal communications strategy, you are ensuring that your workforce come on the journey with you, they feel an affinity with the new or refurbished building, they understand and adopt changes in working practice and that the transition is a smooth one.

Jo Coxhill has experience in delivering effective internal communications strategies around office moves and refurbishments. Contact Jo for a free Discovery session.

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