Too scared to move? How to remove the fear from a relocation and build excitement for change

by | November 28, 2017 1 Ideas

Change can be hard. According to The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, moving is one of the most stressful life events we humans go through — up there with divorce, a new job and poor health. All of which share a common denominator: change.

Why is change so hard? The answer is fear. Fear of pain, fear of giving something up, fear of the unknown. Whatever the initial reason for considering a move, how you mitigate the impact of this change within your team can mean the difference between employees preparing to move with the company, or without it.

Where to start.

hire an expert, or two

Your broker is charged with finding you a space that will fit your needs, but how do you know what your needs are until you assess them? Your team’s productivity may be greatly increased if you consider adding spaces they don’t have today, or eliminating spaces they do not currently use. Hiring a change management expert to facilitate the process and leverage industry-wide benchmarks, research and best practices can help you to navigate what types of spaces you need, providing your broker with information they need to find you the best matches.

engage, engage, engage

Many managers want to keep a move secret from their team until the last possible moment, but that is not an effective change management strategy unless you are aiming to have your people leave en mass. See reason No. 1 (hint: FEAR). The goal is to eliminate fear, and build excitement. That can only be done if management encourages a transparent process that provides people with key information.

The information.

where, when, how

First, let them in on the good news: new office space! Create messaging around the move that is positive and focuses on the improvements they will get with a new space. Provide them with details on location, parking, amenities and how their commute will change. If you don’t have a specific site yet, review key criteria that the organization is using to conduct its search. Outline the steps of the process, and where they will be engaged for feedback.


Next, envision the possibilities… together. Invite everyone, if possible. And if that is not possible, invite a cross-department, cross-title, cross-tenured group to represent the full organization. Facilitated by a change management expert, discuss why the organization is considering a move (better teaming, better amenities, growing needs…). Educate the group on workplace trends, how workplace design can improve health, wellbeing, teaming, profitability and effective work flows. With a background of trends and research under their belt, ask the team to participate in an activity where they share their thoughts on the overall look and feel of the organization should be. Review any pain points — what doesn’t work about their existing space that they would love to see fixed in a future space?


While that meeting is fresh, and you have built excitement for the cause, set a meeting with each department head along with a representative from their ranks to dive into their exact program needs. It is critical that these are one-on-one meetings between the design team and the department team. The information discussed in these meetings will provide the basis for what types of spaces are needed, and equally as important, will provide staff with access to the design team in a safe, comfortable and approachable environment where they are free to share their ideas, anxieties and excitement.

engage again

Once a layout is complete and the design is in development, set a meeting to review the finish palette options. Allow staff to vote for their favorite — framed by asking them to choose what feels the most like the aesthetic of the organization. They will appreciate the choice, and be committed to the final decision since they played a role in it.

make it matter

During construction, it can feel like a lot of time goes by without any communication. Fill that void with trips to the jobsite, if possible, or set up a webcam to illustrate progress. Fun facts on the project can be curated into a bi-weekly email update. Many organizations will set up an intranet that offers a place for people to see live feed from the site, and view the design renderings. At this stage, if mock ups are being done, an intranet can be a great place for user feedback.

it’s time to move

Provide staff with a user guide to successfully understanding and using their new space. Are there new alternative work environments? Rooms they have not had before? Where are the restrooms? The water? The coat room? Empower people to understand their new office with tours, orientation and a tangible manual for where, what and why. Layer in useful information on wellness and sustainability measures that have been incorporated into the building. Also, swag: Everyone loves a tote bag or a travel mug.


Got an employee who is bent on not moving with the company? Address individual concerns one-on-one. If someone is nervous about a commute change, ride the commute with them one day. A couple of hours out of your day to turn a fearful employee into an engaged advocate will pay back more than free donuts and coffee. Combined.

The important thing to remember is that this change is good. The organization and the team supporting the move is motivated to create a high-performing workplace that will allow users to do their best work and live their most healthful lives. Now that’s a change for good!

As Senior Workplace Strategist, Brittney Herrera works with clients to realize their space goals, achieving the programmatic needs as well as expressing brand and cultural identity in the space, resulting in a design solution that inspires creativity, collaboration and efficiency. 

One Comment

  1. Shelby Schroeder says |

    First blog entry, and it’s a great one! Thanks, Brittney. In SERA’s quest for a new office, this info – and your expertise – will be tremendously useful!

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