When choosing a new office space, location isn't everything

To make the transition to a new office location as easy as possible, agencies must make sure to choose a space that fits in with the agency's cultural and physical needs.

To make the transition to a new office location as easy as possible, agencies must make sure to choose a space that fits in with the agency's cultural and physical needs.

There comes a time in almost every agency's life when it has to pack up and move. Maybe booming business swells your ranks beyond what your office can hold or sagging returns lead to a smaller staff. Or perhaps you simply want to move on up in the world. Whatever the case, choosing the right space and executing a seamless transition are arts unto themselves. And getting it wrong can be disastrous. After five years in its last office, Text 100 recently decided to move its San Francisco headquarters within the city. "There were millions of square feet available," says SVP Mark Hampton. "But when you get to all the criteria you want, not as much is available." The key was finding a space symbolic of Text 100's culture. Office space can have a major impact, positive or negative, on the culture and work of a firm. "At the end of the day, we're about pure service," says Hampton. "Our assets walk out the door at the end of the day, so we need to create an environment to foster the kind of culture we want. And that helps to attract and keep the right kind of people, which is priority number one." Doug Dome, president of Dome HK, agrees. Finding an office that nurtures creativity and culture is just as important as finding good value for your money. Dome's agency moved after its recent acquisition by Hill & Knowlton. The move was necessary to help create a new identity and brand for the agency, says Dome. And a physical space has a strong impact on an agency's psychology. Dome wanted an open space where employees weren't boxed into cubicles. "It's about creativity, and people can't collaborate when everyone is divided up into little cubicles," says Dome. "An open space allows spontaneous collaboration. You have to think of your space physically and psychologically." Text 100 also uses an open environment, much like a media newsroom, to encourage collaboration. That open space was a must-have for the new headquarters, as was having the 55-person office all on the same floor. Other things on Text 100's wish list, which it received, was an office with enough space to grow, plenty of natural light, and a location in San Francisco that generated excitement. "Location is also key," says Hampton. "If you're stuck in an office park, people aren't as enthusiastic about coming to work. We wanted a location where people could socialize after work, which was safe, inviting, and comfortable." But moving offices can also disrupt productivity. And just as important as finding a space that generates dazzling PR is also making sure employees' workflow isn't disrupted - and the move is as invisible to clients as possible. A major move can disrupt all technology, particularly internet access and phones. Cell phones and BlackBerry devices can only do so much. So agencies must be diligent about making sure all IT and phone systems are working in the new space before anyone sits down, and that the move happens quickly enough to make sure those systems can be tested. "You have to make sure the technology moves before the furniture does," says Weber Shandwick EVP Armando Azarloza, who recently oversaw the Los Angeles office's move. "You can't have phones and computers just sitting on desks. The communications tools have to be up and running. Dealing with a missing chair is a lot easier than a computer without internet access." Developing a contingency plan is important to head off any potential problems and will minimize any that come to pass, says Dome. "Something usually will fall through the cracks, so just anticipate where things can go wrong," adds Dome. "Just plan, plan, plan." "Be sensitive to clients, but also to employees' needs," says Azarloza. "A move uproots their work life and their productivity. You have to explain why the move is happening and why it's good for the agency. If employees embrace the move, then all the other issues can work out."

Keys to a smooth move

  • Find a space that reflects and nurtures the company's culture
  • Location is just as important as the environment inside the office
  • Make sure all technology is operational before moving offices
  • Anticipate possible problems and have plans to deal with any that arise
  • Keep employees and clients informed
  • Make sure employees support the move
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