Lots of companies have growing pains, but startups and tech companies tend to feel them more acutely because the growth is so fast. Going from 5 to 45 employees in just two years brings a unique set of challenges. One of the biggest headaches can be managing the space, and when a company (like Stack Exchange) is headquartered in a city where real estate is at a premium (like New York), space constraints become something you’ll have to deal with sooner rather than later. This leaves you with three options: cram more people into your space than you initially anticipated, plan out an expansion or build-out within your existing space, or move to a whole new space.
We chose option three. Two months ago, we moved to our NYC HQ into a brand-new, beautiful office. The plan for a new office was a year plus in the making, since we completely re-designed, gutted, and did construction of the space, but the actual moving preparations started happening around two months before the big weekend.
Moving offices involves most of the same logistics as moving houses… that is, if your house were a giant mansion with 50 people living in it and you were moving into a castle. Now that we’re on the other side of our big move (and can finally breathe a little), we wanted to pass on a few tips and tricks to make it as seamless as possible for your company—and as painless as possible for you.
Before the Move:
- Tell your coworkers what’s happening.
Our Office Operations team prepped everyone well in advance to explain the logistical elements of our move. We learned that people are much more accommodating and understanding of changes in the office (like why we don’t have their favorite kind of cereal anymore) when they understand the reasoning behind it. We gave updates at our company-wide Town Hall every two weeks (which included letting employees ask questions) so everyone was on the same page.
- Make lists.
We started a Trello board to keep track of everything related to the move—from the construction schedule and our punch list (of all those little to-do’s) to new office procedures and everything in between. We created a completely separate board just for items we needed to buy. (Remember: We moved from a mansion to a castle and had to furnish our new space accordingly!) This helped us keep track of everything and stay accountable to each other for the various tasks we volunteered to take on.
During the Move:
- Reward the people who help so they don’t burn out.
We scheduled the bulk of our move to occur during a weekend to make the transition as easy as possible for our employees. Since this meant some of us spent our weekend setting up the new space, we kept everyone sane by having plenty of snacks on-hand and ordering food to all eat together. (Just like during the week!) We also stocked the fridge with drinks and water to keep everyone hydrated, and more importantly…caffeinated.
- Make it fun, even when it’s not.
During the marathon weekend of setting up and unpacking, we played the alt-90s Pandora radio station over our brand-new office speakers nonstop. There’s nothing that gets everyone in a good mood quite like an impromptu sing-along to Green Day or Third Eye Blind while unpacking the millionth box of mugs for the kitchen. (Pro tip: All that stuff you bought isn’t going to unpack itself, so it’s okay to pace yourself and not buy absolutely everything beforehand.)
- Use good vendors.
This is another thing that’s similar to moving your house: Good movers can make your move a thousand times easier. We asked other startups that moved what companies they used and what their experience was with them. Doing that research helped us find spectacular movers so our move was that much more seamless.
After the Move:
- Make the little things count.
We knew that the office wouldn’t be fully set up on day one, but we still wanted to make sure it felt like home when everyone arrived for the first time. We filled our candy jars, brewed fresh coffee, and made welcome goodie bags for everyone, chock-full of new desk toys and a fun floor-plan. (This also meant that nobody cared that we had some furniture missing and hadn’t quite figured out how to use the new dishwasher.)
- Encourage people to explore the space.
In addition to handing out floor maps, we did a lot to help people settle in and start using our larger office. Rather than move with cardboard boxes, we rented plastic crates so everyone had to unpack their personal belongings within the first week. Since we added about 5 new conference rooms to our space, we asked managers to encourage their teams to use them for scheduled meetings and as breakout spaces. (We also hosted a office-warming party for friends and family so that everyone could show it off!)
As with any major change, a move is sure to affect your company dynamic, (we can’t all just shout across the hall to each other anymore!) but it doesn’t need to change the culture. With proper planning, communication, and showing off your true colors with little Easter Egg surprises around the offices, you’ll be able to transition to a new space with only a few papercuts and minimal sleep deprivation.
Looking for more tips on how to keep your employees happy? Check out our employer resources center at careers.stackoverflow.com/resources for best practices and other hiring advice.