What to consider when considering a workplace change

This content is provided by The Clearing.

Workplace changes such as moves and renovations are a frequent part of post-pandemic professional life. According to global commercial real estate leader CBRE, more than 90% of organizations intended to expand or contract office space in 2022. Whatever the reason for these changes, experts say, the leaders making the decisions behind them should be ready for scrutiny.

“Before committing to a workplace change, leaders must determine a clear why for the shift,” said Nick Srebrow, a workplace expert and director at management consulting firm The Clearing. “Whether you are considering renovating existing space or moving your organization locally or across the country, be ready to make your case.”

The Clearing’s Kelly Barlow, who has led multiple organizations through workplace change, said being clear on the why will help leaders stand up to the scrutiny this type of decision invites – be it from staff members or board members.

“Is it to cut down on expenses? For better access to talent? To accommodate company growth or institute a hybrid model?” Barlow asks. “All are good reasons, but each is potentially expensive and disruptive – which is why these decisions attract scrutiny.”

Srebrow said working with leaders up front to anticipate what scrutiny may center on can lead to a smoother overall process.

“We work with clients of all sizes to plan and execute workplace changes,” Srebrow told us. “We start by helping leaders determine the questions they need to ask themselves before others start asking questions.”

For leaders considering their own workplace change, Srebrow and Barlow recommend starting by asking yourself the following questions.

  • What’s your budget? The first question and the one that dictates the rest. Having a clear budget will allow you to set expectations with stakeholders at all levels.
  • Buy, lease, build, or renovate in place? This is the question most dictated by budget. In short, what is the level of commitment your organization wants to make? Leases and renovations are the least committed, build is the most extreme, and buy is in the middle. When you are presented with this decision, there is a whole other question set to consider. Here are just a few to get you started.
    • How much space do I have now – will I need more or less?
    • Is this area friendly to my type of business? Does it have long-term access to the talent I need?
    • Am I changing the way my people are grouped or positioned?
    • Do I need more or less collaboration space?
    • Do I need space for clients to visit?
    • What is my organization’s position on remote work?
  • How will it impact workplace culture? Think about your organization’s culture. Will the change reinforce the positive and help eliminate what’s below the culture line? What in your current space or location is inhibiting your desired culture and how will a change impact that?
  • Does the proposed change support your mission? Think about what your organization does and ensure the new space or location furthers that. For example, if you are in a non-collaborative organization, you don’t need a space that is set up for a lot of collaboration. If you are in defense, you have a secure location.
  • Will not changing the workplace disrupt the work? Can your organization continue meeting obligations in its current space or location? Do you have enough room for a growing workforce? Are you currently paying for more space than you need, limiting what you can spend on mission-supporting resources?
  • How will this impact employees and customers? What’s in it for them? What will change for employees and customers? Think about commutes, look and feel of the workspaces, building and location amenities, new types of spaces or technology, etc. As you think about what’s changing, think about what employees and customers will get excited about and what benefits they will get from the change. This will help foster buy-in and genuine excitement.

“This list isn’t exhaustive, as every organization has specific needs,” Barlow concluded. “However, it’s a great springboard to help leaders make the right decision and build the right case to prove it out.”

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