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Reducing Move Downtime, by Corinne Maddox, CCM, CFM

If productivity loss could be easily measured, management would probably quit moving people so often! Excessive downtime can be caused by the loss of critical elements for job functions - phone and data systems are by far the biggest culprit. In a pinch, most employees could function with only their phone and computer. While all move related activities must be precisely scheduled and adequately staffed, work with your IT department on this, don't just assume they will do it. Check the math! How many PC's? How many minutes per PC? How many technicians? Evaluate every step - cubicle decabling, cable routing paths, recabling, connections, system reprogramming and cutover, and system/equipment testing and troubleshooting. For a relocation to a new building, be sure to identify and order all phone and data lines months ahead of time, if possible, and arrange conference calls to facilitate communications between telecom service providers. Be sure to plan and reset PC's with new printer locations, and communicate it to employees. It is also a good idea to have employees backup critical active computer files to a disk or zip drive as a contingency, in the event data is lost in the move transition. If there is a new phone system, prepare an easy set up guide and plan training classes in advance.

Of lesser importance are other organizational issues such as preparing furniture and equipment layouts in advance, proper planning of outlet types and locations, and proper packing and tagging. All of these are important for a smooth and efficient move. Don't create downtime by shutting down systems and sending employees home sooner than absolutely necessary. A little extra overtime and larger move contractor teams may allow a move to be scheduled without loosing ANY office hours or costing any more. Employee files are another problem area. Emphasis on purging files prior to the move will result faster unpacking and reorganization of files in the new office. Employees can also get a quicker start after the move if you instruct them to pack essential work items in one box marked CRITICAL, including reference material, working files and some office supplies. Be sure to thoroughly plan the common file and storage rooms, so employees can easily find the reference materiel they need. Heavy purging, document sorting and labeling, dead storage transfer, file and shelving layouts, and posting a file room document location map are valuable.

The psychological effects of move stress result in significant productivity loss. This can be minimized by good employee orientation and good move communications. Provide detailed pre- move and post-move instructions to give employees an understanding and comfort level of their role in the move plan. Provide floor plans showing locations of departments and common spaces. If moving to a new building, provide a map to show traffic patterns and how to access the site. For a major move, it is very important to issue a regular newsletter or set up a website to allow employees to track the progress and decisions related to the move. Committees to involve employees in move activities, building tours, displays of floor plans and other information, packing parties, prizes and other employee relations events are a great way to improve moral and channel move stress into move excitement. And be sure not to forget donuts and coffee on welcoming day!

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