10 key steps to a smooth federal agency relocation

Amidst the huge number of agency decisions required to plan and build out a new space, the logistics of the physical move can become a secondary concern.

Cybersecurity, operations disruption and delays are all potential risks during the relocation of a federal agency’s offices. And yet, amidst the huge number of agency decisions required to plan and build out a new space, the logistics of the physical move can become a secondary concern.

So how do you ensure that your office relocation is safe, secure and successful?

We’ve moved thousands of employees each year for civilian and defense agencies. Drawing from our experience, we’ve identified the following 10 key steps to reduce the risk and minimize disruption during your relocation.

10. Start planning early.

It’s common to postpone relocation planning until your move date is firmly set and it’s just around the corner. However, the inevitable delays can lead to costly “holdover” rents if your agency must remain in its space after the lease expires. It’s best to start a year or even two years in advance to allow for the extensive analysis and scheduling required for a seamless move.

9. Ensure mission-critical continuity by thinking ahead and coordinating workflows in detail.

A major relocation risk is the disruption of mission-critical, high-visibility activities. Since you’ll most likely need to move employees over multiple weekend phases a detailed move plan is necessary. It’s also critical to precisely understand your agency’s day-to-day operations to map critical business processes, workflow dependencies, and to develop a move plan accordingly.

8. Integrate the moving parts and timetables.

As you work on your plans, your facility, space planning, IT, legal and HR departments will be making plans of their own—and their move timetables may not be aligned. You’ll need to integrate all activities into a single, comprehensive plan that follows all key construction and design milestones.

7. Document your documents. Do you need all those hard-copy files?

Depending on your document retention policies, your agency may house large repositories of paper files. Do you really need to move all your files? We recommended taking inventory of every file drawer. Then, you’ll not only meet your document retention requirements, but you might also be able to significantly reduce your volume of paper files.

6. Plan to protect data and assets that require high security.

Consider this: do all your relocation vendors have proper security clearances? When a branch of the Justice Department relocated some of its field offices, strict security protocols—including properly cleared escorts and confidential move manifests—were required to securely transport thousands of weapons. Classified or highly sensitive documents and data also require high security. You’ll need to not only follow federal agency security transport processes, but also make sure that all move vendor employees undergo proper background checks and are eligible for temporary badging.

5. Secure appropriate staffing.

Relocating several thousand employees can require upwards of 1,200 hours of staff time. Does your team have the capacity to maintain normal operations while select employees take on the significant added burden of planning and executing a move?

One solution is to partner with a relocation project management company with a proven track record in working with federal agencies. A relocation project manager can reduce the headaches and risks, free your team to focus on its day-to-day work and also reduce costs through smart RFPs, volume purchasing and preferred vendor relationships.

4. Hire specialists for unusual or sensitive equipment.

Many agencies have unique move requirements that may involve relocation-sensitive or hard-to-ship physical assets, such as a 20,000-pound MRI machine (NIH) or a 50-foot-tall satellite dish (NOAA). If you don’t have previous experience in procuring specialty vendors, you’ll need to allow plenty of time to identify and schedule qualified providers to safely relocate large, heavy or highly sensitive equipment.

3. Collaborate with your current and future landlords.

As you plan your relocation, your current and future landlords will be essential partners. You’ll need a clear understanding of whether and when you’ll have access to loading docks and elevators, for example, along with details about noise restrictions, parking, required permits and a myriad of other issues. You’ll also need to keep building security teams aware of your timetable and ensure that you’ll have access to your facilities when you need it.

2. Change is a challenge: don’t overlook thoughtful communications and change management.

Despite the potentially positive impacts of gaining new office space—including reduced occupancy costs and a modern workplace—employees may not embrace the change. Post-move productivity may suffer. A comprehensive change management and communications program can go a long way toward minimizing the “disruption dip.” Communicating before, during and after the relocation will help keep the move on track toward your larger goals long after the physical relocation.

1. Make a clean exit: properly decommission your old space.

Lease agreements often require departing tenants to restore their space to its original condition. If you’ve been in a space for years and customized it for your agency’s particular needs, restoration could be a lengthy process. In addition to physical repairs, fixtures and furnishings must go—and disposition must carefully follow the GSA surplus asset disposition process.

Smooth moves require time, effort and resources

For most federal agencies, relocation is a rare event. Rarer still are staff members who have managed a major relocation. Understanding best practices for planning—and when to seek outside assistance—can help reduce the risk and the stress while ensuring the seamless and smooth move you envision.

Like what you read?