It’s always something I personally find quite humorous when carrying out office moves or even an internal shuffle; that the business people comment on the Monday and say “it’s like magic, I leave Friday night and come in Monday morning and everything has moved yet is just as it was!” This of course is a compliment and sometimes a rare one but it does seem, to those not involved in an office move before, that it is “magic” and that with some sort of sorcery us office managers manage to conjure up these spell-binding moves that run, well, like magic.

But how exactly do we do it? Here’s my insight into just what makes a move magic and the things I have learnt to date in my career of over 100 office moves as a project manager.

It’s all in the planning

The most successful moves I have carried out have been when I’ve had time and support to plan effectively. This means getting the floor plans in place with from and to desk locations approved in advance, providing the opportunity for changes if required. It means making my exhaustive things to do list, taking into account the cleaning arrangements for pre-and-post move desk tops, IT equipment and the moved areas; the power and data requirements are crystal clear, and doing pre-move checks working with the IT team to ensure I’ve not missed any special requirements I was unaware of.

It also means ensuring that the team supporting the move both internally and externally are fully briefed on tasks and order of works and asking if there are any issues or concerns at that stage. For example, there is often a flow or chain to these things meaning that timing is crucial – there is no point IT coming in at 8am if the kit is not yet ready to go back on the desks because the desks aren’t in place yet (and so on). Work through your programme and share a draft with the key points of contact such as the IT manager and relocation manager, to get their thoughts and then share the final version with all parties. Perhaps take the opportunity to have a run through on a call the day before too and again ask if there are any concerns or issues.

There was once a move I didn’t plan as well as I should have, and a raised height adjustable desk was missed off. We hadn’t planned to move any furniture as part of the shuffle and only once the IT team had removed the kit did we realise it was there and at a slightly different height to the other standard desks. We had to quickly scramble to make arrangements to move this and disconnect a bank of matrix desks where his new position was going to be. Luckily, we had teams on hand that could do it but if I’d have done more thorough checks ahead of then, it would have been caught and we would have saved some panic and time!

Get stuck in

I expect there are a lot of office and facilities managers trained like this, and it really is all about getting your hands dirty when it comes to the move itself. In my experience it bodes exceptionally well with all the team if you are actively doing things like moving lighter items (with some manual handling training, of course!) and labelling items, checking desks, checking IT and helping to plug/unplug, moving chairs around etc. It keeps everyone motivated rather than only being the manager as such and dishing out tasks. It also means that the job will be done slightly faster and we all know weekend moves drain us so if we can get home sooner, why wouldn’t you!

It’s also really important to be on-site, if applicable before all contractors and staff arrive. The saying lead by example isn’t just that – it has meaning to it where things like this are concerned and if you are leading and managing the project being there to let people in, dish out tasks to keep up the productivity of your teams and show an equal if not higher level of commitment to the project will only influence everyone positively.

I remember once going in for 6:30am on a Friday to kick off fit-out works, working late that night until around 9pm when the move items were in a good state and then heading back in for 7am for the next round of works (and much the same on the Sunday AND the Monday to get in before the staff arrived at their new desks!) It was tough but my goodness it was worth it because it gave me a chance to plan just before anyone else arrived and set up the structure for the day, do any checks from the day before of things missed etc. and focus on the day’s key tasks. And don’t worry, I left as soon as I could that Monday and went straight to sleep!

Do your pre-and-post move checks

As above in the planning you’ll note the importance of the pre-move checks part. But what else do I mean by this, and what is a post-move check? Pre-move checks are going around at least a week if you can before finalising the move to check requirements, obscurities with anyone’s desk set-up that you may not already know about such as the height adjusted desk, or monitor arms that need to be relocated, extra power or data because they have another PC at their desk etc. Noting these down and arranging as necessary for these to be moved/replicated at their new location. This is a perfect office management skill to pick up!

When you do these pre-move checks, chat to the staff too if permissible and ask if they have any particular requirements. You may find out, for example that someone suffers from SAD in which they ideally need more natural light.

The checks should also then be done again once everyone has packed and labelled their items, around about the time they are getting ready to leave the office, say 4pm on the Friday of the move. Walk-around with your team if applicable, check they have labelled everything they should have and packed what they need to. This means that any items loose or hanging around you can ask if they belong to anyone and if not start to bin or collate them into a lost property section.

During these checks, use a sheet or virtual checklist for each individual and note down what they have e.g. 2 crates, 1 specialist chair, 1 foot rest etc. Meaning that when you do your post-move checks to ensure everything is at their desk as it should be you are the first to be alerted to any missing items. And… if you want to go the extra step and are permitted to, take photos of their desks a couple of days before the move and add these to each individual’s checklist. That way, again when doing post-move checks and to support IT you can ensure everything is just so (the mouse and phone is on the correct side, the screens are at the same angles and positions and so on.)

And that is how we perform our Magic Move! Curtain down.