An office relocation requires a lot of resources and investment, especially for work environment teams. But it is also a shake-up for all employees and service providers. According to some studies, the move is indeed the third cause of stress after mourning and dismissal. Stress occurs when there is an imbalance between a person’s perception of the constraints imposed by their environment and the perception they have of their own resources to cope with it. It is therefore eminently subjective and our ability to manage it depends on everyone. This is one of the reasons why we do not react the same way to an event.
But then, what makes this announcement of the relocation so disturbing for some of us?
A loss of structure
We “function” all with the same three basic needs: a need for stimulation, a need for recognition and a need for structure.
The need for stimulation comes at birth. Baby, we receive many stimulation: we are fed, manipulated, cradled, caressed … These sensations and the discovery of our senses allow us to evolve and develop throughout our lives.
The need for recognition is our common need to be accepted and recognized by others as being a singular person, specific, but also similar to others. Its satisfaction allows us to develop our image and our psyche. To meet this need, we will implement behaviors that allow us to relate to others. This need for relationship is so vital that we prefer to receive negative signs of recognition rather than having to endure the indifference that is experienced as unsustainable.
Finally, the need for structure: we have a vital need to position ourselves in time and space. This structuring reassures us. In the company, this structuring serves us to integrate, create the first contacts, stand back, stimulate, recognize others, produce, obtain information, take care, build, be sincere and authentic, etc. Without being aware of it, we will structure our relationships with others to obtain either stimulation or recognition.
“Shaking the structuring of time and space”
An office relocation is above all for the employee a shaking of this structuring of time and space to which is added sometimes the feeling of a loss of recognition. This is why the transfer can be so difficult for some of them. The employee will lose his spatial comfort, sometimes his office, his usual working tools, his organization of work (trip, lunch, place of printing, new planning, switch to coworking …). He will have to separate from his archives, sort and throw. Some colleagues will not be so close anymore.
Indeed, removing the workstation from an employee and putting it in an open space of 30 workstations without an assigned space is experienced as a loss of structuring, because it is not only a loss of marks, but also a loss of territoriality and intimacy. If this change is not shared, understood and accepted, it generates, in addition, a feeling of loss of recognition: “we do not care about my opinion”, “I do not count for the company”. From then on, you will see some employees express their anger at what seems like an injustice to them, their sadness at the feeling of permanent loss or their fear of a future danger.
The risk of rumor
Not to mention that some announcements can be amplified or misused. Indeed, the risk of a rumor is never far in the case of an office relocation. The initial message can be simplified, people can retain certain details or even add explanations to the story to strengthen consistency or impact.
The collaborators then appropriate the message of the rumor according to their beliefs. Deep-rooted personal, cultural, national or corporate beliefs that sometimes help us, sometimes hold us back. This phenomenon of selection is at the origin of the deformation of the rumor. Sometimes, the need to “go on a crusade” also leads some people to take hold of rumors and spread them in order to gain importance, a social role they would normally feel deprived of in the company. This can lead to scenes known to all or almost everyone … The Monday morning following the announcement of the office relocation decision of the general management, there is for example always someone in the cafeteria who knows more than the others : “We’re going to the other side of the city”, “We’ll all be in a shared office”, “They’re doing this so we do not follow”, etc.
What role for Human Resources Directors and Management?
If you are present that Monday, do not let the rumors go. Be factual, do not hesitate to say what you know and what you can say, take the time to reassure, listen to the questions of those present, be attentive to the physical reactions of employees present. Because the risk, at this moment of the announcement of the office Relocation, is that this rumor becomes unbearable to some employees already very stressed for multiple reasons, professional or personal. These employees will not dare to talk about it, but this added stress can severely damage their morale, or even make them switch to illness, burnout or depression. Be attentive to employees’ worries and reassess their questions and beliefs to effectively guide communication.
The director of human resources can also act on the need for recognition. This goes through a series of validations: Does communication really reach all employees? Have all the managers really presented the site plan to the teams, shared their motivations with them, raised doubts and questions?