12 Practical Tips for a Smooth Office Move

Relocating your office to a new location offers several benefits. You can choose an area that’s more convenient and accessible for your employees; you’ll have a blank palette on which to design the layout; it improves employee morale; and you may even save money on your lease and utility bills.

But let’s face it: moving isn’t always easy, nor is it fun. Whether you’re moving across state lines or down the street, it will probably disrupt your business’s normal operations. You may have to postpone certain tasks or turn away customers until you’ve relocated. This, of course, is a major issue considering that downtime costs small businesses up to $8,600 an hour. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to streamline your business’s relocation process and eliminate the headaches that go along with it.

#1) Stock Up on Moving Supplies

It’s never too early stock up moving supplies. Even if you’re planning to move several months from now, you can get a head start on the process by stockpiling supplies.

Here’s a short list of supplies that you’ll need for a smooth office relocation:

  • Cardboard boxes (variety of sizes)
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing peanuts
  • Packing paper
  • Tape and tape dispenser/roller
  • Zip ties
  • Moving blankets
  • Markers
  • Boxcutters

If you’re on a budget, check with local businesses to see if they have any extra boxes. Liquor stores, furniture stores and grocery stores often give away their used boxes for free. It only takes a minute to call and ask, but doing so could save you big bucks on your moving supplies.

#2) Take Personal Items Home

You should advise employees to take their personal items home so they don’t get lost or damaged during the move. This includes framed photos, plants, coffee mugs, decorations and other personal effects. Even if these items are small or otherwise easy to transport, they should be moved separately and by the employee who owns them. When you are finished moving all the major items – furniture, information technology (IT) equipment, documents, etc. – employees can bring their personal items to the new office.

#3) Let Go of Old Furniture

Many business owners are torn between keeping or getting rid of their old furniture when moving to a new office. Keeping used furniture allows them to get a little more use out of it, but it also means additional work disassembling and reassembling the furniture. Therefore, it’s a good idea to purge your business of old furniture that’s reached the end of its lifespan.

If you have office chairs with torn upholstery, desks with broken legs or other damaged furniture, you should get rid of them before the move. Moving office furniture is difficult enough. It’s even more difficult, however, when the furniture is broken. An easier and more sensible solution is to simply replace your old and/or damaged office furniture with new furniture. You can order your new furniture so it’s delivered to your new office location, allowing you to focus your time and labor elsewhere.

You don’t have to necessarily throw your old office furniture away at the dump. There are other solutions available, such as selling it to the new tenant who takes over your old office, liquidating it, donating it to charity or recycling it. If you choose to donate it, remember to keep your receipt so you can write it off as a charitable donation on your business’s taxes. Check out this article by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to learn more about donation-based write-offs.

#4) Schedule Activation of Utilities

There’s nothing worse than moving to a new office, only to discover the electricity or water hasn’t been turned on yet. Without electricity, for instance, you and your moving crew may have trouble seeing due to lack of light. Not only is this a nuisance, but it’s also a serious safety hazard. If you can’t see – or see well – you may trip and fall.

Furthermore, heating, ventilation and cooling is essential for protecting office furniture from damage. If there’s no heating or air conditioning, temperature and humidity levels in your new office may fluctuate; thus, increasing the risk of damage to wood furniture (as well as computers and other electronic devices). Rather than waiting until you’ve already moved, contact the utility companies servicing your new office beforehand. Ideally, the utilities should be activated the day prior to your move.

#5) Limit Boxes to 25 Pounds

Don’t make the mistake of overloading cardboard boxes with too much stuff. Just because you can squeeze 30 pounds worth of stuff into a single box doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Heavy boxes are more difficult to lift and manipulate than lighter boxes, increasing the risk of injury. And if someone injures themselves, they won’t be able to help you move.

So, how much should your boxes weigh? According to the insurance provider Liberty Mutual, boxes should have a “reasonable” weight of approximately 20 to 25 pounds. This allows most individuals to easily transport them while minimizing the risk of injury. If you’re unable to guess a box’s weight by feeling it, bring a digital scale. If it exceeds 25 pounds, take out some of the contents and place it in a separate box.

#6) Plan the Timeline

You need to plan the timeline for your office relocation to ensure everything goes smoothly. Check with the landlord or property management of your current location to determine when everything must be moved out of your old office. If they require you to be out of by Friday but you have a moving company scheduled for Saturday, you may end up forfeiting your security deposit or paying other fees.

Here are some tips to follow when planning your timeline:

  • Begin planning early, preferably at least one month in advance.
  • Create a weekly “to do” list in the month leading up to your move.
  • Request a copy of the floor plan of your new office.
  • If the building of your new office has elevators, ask management if you can use them on your moving day.
  • Find out when you are required to be out of your old office and when you can move into your new office.
  • If you currently have any leased equipment in your office (e.g. servers or fax machines), ask the owner if they would like to move the equipment themselves.
  • Make a post-moving “to do” list of activities like updating your business’s website, letterheads and business cards with your office’s new address.

#7) Label Boxes

It only takes a few seconds to label your boxes, but doing so can make a world of difference in promoting a smooth, stress-free move. If your boxes aren’t labeled, they’ll probably end up being stacked in a corner. And when it’s time to unpack, you’ll have to open every box to determine where it belongs.

There are several ways to label your boxes, one of which is to write the contents and/or room in which the box goes on the outside with a marker. If a box contains files and furniture for the front desk, for instance, you can label it as “front desk.” This simple solution ensures that your moving crew knows exactly where to take your boxes.

Another idea is to color code your moving boxes with stickers. For example, you can label boxes that go to the front desk with a green sticker and boxes that go to the break room with a blue sticker. Color coding is a simple and effective labeling solution that doesn’t require the use of a marker. However, you’ll need to remember which color stickers are associated with which room or area in your new office.

Whether you label boxes with a marker or colored stickers, you should write “FRAGILE” on boxes containing fragile items. Don’t just write it once, though. Instead, write “FRAGILE” on all four sides of the box. This ensures that whoever picks up and moves it sees that it contains fragile items.

#8) Remove Contents of File Cabinets

If you plan on moving file cabinets, you’ll probably need to empty them first. Removing hundreds or even thousands of documents isn’t fun, but it can prevent serious heartache later down the road. Can you imagine all these documents falling out when you’re midway up a flight of stairs?

According to an article published by Harvard University, all horizontal file cabinets must be emptied, regardless of how many drawers they have, and all vertical file cabinets with five or more drawers must be emptied. Following this rule will prevent your documents from spilling onto the floor while also reducing the weight of your file cabinets.

If you have vertical file cabinets with four or fewer drawers, you can usually move them without emptying the contents. This is done by locking the file cabinets so the drawers cannot open and then wrapping it with tape as an extra measure. Even with these measures, however, you should still tilt the file cabinets with the drawers are facing up.

#9) Handle IT Equipment

One of the biggest challenges of moving to a new office is handling the IT equipment, including servers, computers, monitors, interactive whiteboards, fax machines, copiers, scanners, telephones, modems, routers, charging stations and all associated cables and wires. Because of the highly technical and complex nature of this equipment, you’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure it arrives at your new office destination intact and ready to set back up.

When moving IT equipment, keep all cords and wires with the equipment to which it belongs. A simple solution is to roll up cords, secure them with a zip tie, place them in a sealed plastic bag, and then tape the bag to the equipment. Desktop computers, laptops, tablets and similar electronic devices should be wrapped with anti-static bubble wrap to protect against electrostatic discharge. It’s a little-known fact that static electricity — even small amounts carried by the human body — can damage electrical devices like computers. Anti-static bubble wrap, however, protects against this phenomenon.

#10) Be Present on the Moving Day

Assuming you hire a moving company, which is recommended for businesses with large offices, you should still show up on your moving day to orchestrate the process. In fact, it’s best to have at least two managers present: one at your old office and another at your new office. This way, you can answer any questions the movers have, tell them which boxes go where, and offer your own labor to help.

Some commercial moving companies even require a manager or staff member to be present during the move. So, make sure you or someone else is there to facilitate the process.

#11) Take Pictures Before and After

It’s always a good idea to take pictures of your old office and new office both before and after you move. If you are leasing or renting the new office, there are probably some terms to which you must comply, such as not damaging the property. Taking pictures can prove useful if the landlord claims you damaged the property when you really didn’t. For example, if your new office has a large hole in the wall — and the landlord later claims you did it — you can show him or her a photo of the damage before you moved.

Taking pictures of your old office offers similar protection. If the landlord claims you damaged the property when you really didn’t, you can show proof. Pictures are far more valuable in pitching your defense against allegations of property damage than words alone.

#12) Choose the Right Moving Company

Perhaps the single most important tip for a smooth move is to choose the right moving company. Not all moving companies have the skills or expertise needed to move offices. On the contrary, most moving companies specialize in residential moving, not commercial/business moving — and there’s a big difference between the two. Moving a business’s office requires a deeper understanding of how to disassemble and reassemble office furniture, as well as the unique needs of each business.

Following these 12 tips will help you relocate your office to a new location without the stress and anxiety that typically comes with a major move.