Staying organized during an office move

In some ways, moving offices is more stressful than moving a home. Personal appointments can be scheduled around a home move, but work demands continue regardless of an office move. Some things need to be unpacked right away during a home move (toilet paper, bed sheets), but for the most part you can take a few days, weeks, or months to put your belongings in their new locations. With an office move, it all needs to be put away instantly or you could suffer negative repercussions, like losing productivity, clients, income, or even your job.

I’ve learned a great deal during this recent move about what works — and, more importantly, what doesn’t work — when moving offices. If you’re gearing up for an office move, the following tips can help you to stay organized and avoid a good amount of chaos:

  1. Before unpacking a single box, make sure your office furniture is in its best place for your work. If you’re in a cubical, this decision has usually been made for you. If you’re lucky enough to have furniture you can move around the room, adjust it to accommodate your needs. You’ll want a location for your desk that will avoid glare on your computer screen, allow for a quick and unobstructed exit in case of emergency, will make it easy to plug in your computer and peripherals, and best suits your ergonomic needs.
  2. Once your horizontal surfaces are in place, grab your computer keyboard and a chair and establish the best location for these two objects. You want to be able to work so that typing at your keyboard every day won’t create any pains in your neck, arms, or back. Most people also need a good amount of empty work surface to spread out with projects during work hours. Make sure your keyboard will be in a location to work with these needs, too.
  3. Set up all of your technical equipment — computer, monitor, keyboard, printer, telephone, back-up drives, scanner, speaker system, headset, etc. Put the devices you access multiple times a day in the most convenient locations and those pieces of equipment you access the least often further out of your reach. Remember to leave yourself open work surfaces as necessary.
  4. Manage your cables. If you didn’t do so before your move, label the device plug with the device name (a silver permanent marker or label maker work great for this) so you’ll never wonder what cable belongs to what device when you’re crouched under your desk. Group and shorten cables with velcro cable ties or turtles or whatever works best for you. As best as you can, keep your cables from becoming a mess of a nest.
  5. At this point, locate any work associated with your current projects and set it in your open work surface area. You’ll want this at your fingertips if needed.
  6. Continue on to setting up your desk drawers. Again, put most accessed items in the most convenient locations.
  7. Set up the very few desk supplies that will take up space on your work surface. I only keep a pen cup and a pad of sticky notes next to my phone, and a well-labeled inbox on my desk so co-workers will know where to put items for me when they come into my office. You may also want a tickler file/to-do list, a reference book or two, and a to-be filed bin on your work surface if they fit your work needs.
  8. Books, binders, and archived files are usually the last items that can be put away in your new office. When you pack these items before the move, keep like objects together and label each box so you know exactly what items are included — labels like “Archived files A-N” or “Conference binders 2009-2011″ will be more meaningful to you than “Files” or “Binders.”

Similar to a home move, unclutter as much as possible on both the packing and unpacking side of the move. You may also benefit from unpacking your office outside of regular business hours. You may not get paid for this time, but you will be rewarded for it in other ways during the work week — mostly with your sanity. Also, be prepared to be responsible for your most sensitive and current projects during the move. Many employers do not wish for these items to be moved by professional movers for security reasons.

What method do you use for unpacking your office during a move? Share your experiences in the comments.

7 Comments for “Staying organized during an office move”

  1. posted by Pam on

    This is an excellent post, and I had never even considered setting up a work space in such an organized manner. My children will both be in school full time next year, and I am hoping to go back to teaching in the fall. A similar post on an organized and efficient way to set up a classroom would be very helpful!

  2. posted by DawnF on

    Being an at-home medical transcriptionist, the most important thing that I did before a move was to call WELL IN ADVANCE to schedule DSL internet service to be installed the day after our 1st day in the new home.

    I needed to start working again right away so the day we moved in I set up the office space and got the computer and necessary technology components set up and running and then on Day 2 we had the DSL internet service up and running.

    Luckily, my entire business is paperless so I was blessed to not have to move papers, binders, files, folders, supplies, etc., but making sure my technology was fully functional within 36 hours was crucial.

  3. posted by Mickey on

    With 5 office moves under my belt this is a great post. I also wanted to add that you should be prepared to be without internet or things you take for granted longer than you think. I’ve always put needed files on a thumb drive, so when IT is delayed getting my network access working, I can pop somewhere else and access what I need. Also if you’re whole office is moving, be patient. Everyone feels out of sorts and is trying to get their phones working – if you get frustrated, it won’t help solve problems.

  4. posted by Puggle on

    Wow, thank you so much for this timely post…I will be moving to a different cubicle next month (in different buildings, non less), and I will reference this to help make it a smoother transition for me. I haven’t moved in several years, and this discussion will be very helpful! :)

  5. posted by spiffi on

    We just completed an office move 2 weeks ago – we moved our entire office from the main floor upstairs to the second floor of the same building.

    Our initial space was actually much too large for our small company, but was all that was available when we moved into it.

    The move was scheduled for a Saturday, and the week before, I spent 3 days clearing out offices and cubicles and cupboards that had been accumulating “stuff” over the past 5 years.

    Our office building has 2 wheeled recycle bins that are outside where the garbage “area” is – I brought one into our office, and we filled it easily with paper from binders and old computer manuals and ancient technical books. Actually, I ended up filling up FOUR of them – filled two, waited till they were emptied and filled them up again.

    Each person was responsible for packing up their desk area, and actually they all moved their boxes and their computer equipment upstairs Friday afternoon before leaving for the day.

    Saturday morning, we hired some laborers to come in and move desks, chairs, tables, plants, and about 25 computers from our server room upstairs.

    I was in at 8am, and organized shutting down all our computers, unhooking everything, and directing the machines and racks to be moved upstairs.

    Once all the computers and batteries were upstairs, the movers worked on the furniture and boxes, while I and another co-worker started rebuilding our server room.

    The phone guys were working that morning to get all the cubicles and offices set up with the proper extensions.

    By lunchtime we had all the machines up and running and waiting on an internet connection. By 4pm we had moved the internet connection upstairs and run enough wires to get at least a temporary internet connection to all the servers.

    The office looked like a disaster area, as the last few loads of ‘stuff’ – office supplies, plants, kitchen things – had all basically been put in the front entrance area, since we had not yet figured out where it was all going (our kitchen upstairs is a quarter the size of the one downstairs).

    Sunday I went back in to set up my personal computer, unpack my “folder” of current projects and paperwork that I needed immediately, and get myself internet :D

    Monday morning, I got in early and worked with another earlybird to get all the cubicles and offices “lit up” with internet so as engineers came in, and set up their machines, they would have a live connection.

    By the end of the week, we had finished straightening out everything, finding homes for all the things, hanging white boards, getting a permanent wire for the servers to connect, and we’re now advertising on craigslist for the remaining cubes and furniture left downstairs.

    My goal in this move was to *get rid* of years of accumulated junk and paper – especially since we were moving into a smaller space!

  6. posted by marjoryt on

    Organizing the stuff of my world helps me focus on the task at hand.

    Files go basically into 3 sets: current student stuff (such as syllabii, student portfolios, rosters), admin stuff (such as calendars, employee guides, forms), and personal stuff (such as resume and travel data). These should NOT be mixed; in my world each has a separate drawer of the file cabinet. When each becomes 3/4 full, it’s time to purge! Keep gradebooks forever (mine is digital with backup paper). Keep mid-term/final exams/research papers for 1-2 years, then shred. Return everything else to the students promptly after grading.

    Like other posters, I’m working towards a paperless environment; that means using an online gradebook or classroom system. I use Blackboard software, which provides my students with an environment for their gradebook, my materials, links to the textbook website, online quizzes, and whatever else is appropriate, such as chatboards. My version of Bb is paired with TurnItIn, so it also keeps copies of the student papers; That means less in the files. I print out ONLY enough pages needed for the class; if a student loses that page, he/she goes to the Bb site for another copy.

    My real filing system is on my computer. There’s a folder for every semester (Sp2011, Su2011, F2011). I have folders through F2013 right now, as the college publishes calendars and my department copes with accreditation planning). Within the folder, I have general folder for the master calendar and odd bits (mostly my projects/conferences/speeches). There is another folder for each course (ENG 0113, ENG 1113, ENG 1123, ENG 2153, ENG 2233). Each of those folders is a collection of notes, materials, links, letters of reference, proof of plagiarism. Since I often teach multiple sections of a course, I can label specifically if necessary.

    As I create documents (power point, word processing, database, spreadsheet), I automatically add a header with the semester date and location. For example, my two online courses are in final exams right now; one has the label “Sp2011eng2233-VO1FEpg1of4″ (Spring 2011 American Lit. 2 online final exam, page numbers). Documents are built in MSWord and uploaded to Bb, so that I have a copy “off the grid” and “in the mix”. When I mentor new instructors (usually in the fall), I can simply upload a copy of a previous semester and a copy of the upcoming semester to their stick drive.

    A copy of my files is on the college server and my working copy is on a stick drive. When the college received a direct hit in Katrina, I simply moved across the state to internet access, logged into Bb, and was back in business. During the summer, I’ll be investigating other storage options such as google documents.

    The 4th drawer of my file cabinet holds textbooks not currently in use and a few office supplies. My L shaped desk has: lamp, phone, computer, printer, scanner, tape and stapler, postit notes, and pens/pencils. A side table holds an inbox and the course binders. Within a binder the front half holds my syllabus, notepad, and the 2 current handouts/assignments. The back half holds any papers ready to be returned and notes to students. Some students prefer an all-digital environment; others prefer a traditional essay with editorial comments format.

  7. posted by Patti on

    Thanks for this topic, very timely as I will be moving offices soon (and moving homes sooner than that)

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