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7 Best Practices for Managing Multiple Offices

employees in the office talking
Chuck Leddy
Published on

As every organization scales up in headcount and physical footprint, it faces new challenges. In the simplest possible example, when a family-run business hires its first employee from outside the family, it confronts challenges in maintaining its culture, communication (e.g., the outside employee may not initially understand the family’s dynamic and communication style), reporting structure, and more.

When an organization adds multiple business locations, the challenges become even harder to navigate. While geographic expansion via the opening of multiple offices may be part of the natural process of organizational growth, that expansion should be carefully planned for and implemented with a clear-eyed view of the challenges ahead. 

Before we move to challenges and solutions, let’s briefly consider the benefits of having multiple offices.

4 Reasons Organizations Might Open New Offices

There are some typical reasons a business might choose to have multiple offices. These reasons are almost always connected to the overall strategic goals and maturity of the organization, and may include:

Better Access to Talent: Opening offices in multiple locations can enable a business to pull in more talent from more diverse talent pools. It’s no mistake, for example, that many tech and biotech companies are located near major research universities like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford.

Market Expansion: Multiple office locations can enable a business to expand its market reach to embrace a broader base of customers and suppliers. Regional sales offices, for example, have traditionally enabled organizations to focus more attention on buyers within that region.

Better Customer Support Service: Having offices closer to customers enables more personalized interactions, customer satisfaction, faster service/support response times, and a deeper understanding of customer needs in the locality.

Potential Cost Savings: In certain situations, opening a new office gives an organization access to lower labor and/or real estate costs, which can contribute to overall cost savings for an expanding business.

Are you getting ready to open new office spaces?

6 Challenges of Managing Multiple Business Locations

Now that the opportunities and potential benefits of opening a new office/location are clear, what are the potential problems with when you manage multiple locations? While this list below isn’t comprehensive, here are the biggest challenges:

Challenge #1: Communication and Collaboration

Walking down the first-floor hallway to ask Chris in accounting a billing question may be easy when you’re in the same location, but it’s much harder to do when Chris and the entire accounting team is sitting in a suburban office park 30 miles away. 

Maintaining solid communication and collaboration when your people/teams are geographically dispersed across various locations can be a major challenge, especially in a scenario of hybrid work when you may not even know where people are working on any particular day. 

Challenge #2: Managing Logistics 

An organization’s everyday practices around mail/shipping, supply chain management, people’s commutes, and travel arrangements can be rendered more complicated by having multiple office locations. This can lead to increased costs, logistical snafus that impact operations, and negative impacts on people’s productivity.

Challenge #3: Aligning People and Goals 

Ensuring that everyone working in multiple offices is on the same page and working towards common business goals requires shared systems, practices, and a common language, not to mention solid communication. 

When people are distributed in multiple offices, it requires more work to coordinate meetings, conference calls, company events, and organizational objectives.

Dedicate time to exploring how you can better align people and goals regardless of location.

Challenge #4: Technology Concerns

Organizations with multiple office locations must ensure that all their people have access to the technology and infrastructure needed to do their work effectively. That can be a logistical challenge, especially when it comes to shared IT support, network connectivity, cloud based software and the standardization of tech tools across different locations.

An additional challenge arises when ensuring data security and consistent adherence to cybersecurity policies (e.g., don’t write your passwords on sticky notes and leave them on your desktop) across multiple offices. 

Challenge #5: Aligning Corporate Culture

There’s a risk that each new office may develop its own unique culture, work practices, and values. While some of those cultural differences are natural and even welcomed, it’s also true that managing diverse cultures can be challenging and potentially lead to misunderstandings among teams in other offices.

Building a cohesive, integrated company culture with high employee morale can thus become more challenging when people are distributed across multiple offices. 

Challenge #6: Bottom Line Costs 

Additional costs get incurred as your organization opens new offices, including rent, overhead/utilities, insurance, furniture, tech infrastructure, office maintenance, and more. Travel expenses for management and employees can also add to operational costs.

Best Practices for Managing Multiple Offices

Despite the many challenges described above, organizations can effectively manage multiple offices by: 

  • Defining and following effective communication strategies, 
  • Investing in and utilizing workplace technology solutions, and
  • Fostering a culture and practices that enable collaboration and inclusion.

While no single set of fixed rules exist for effectively managing multiple offices, here are some best practices you should carefully consider:

1. Define Clear Goals and Functions

What are the strategic business benefits you expect to drive from opening the new location? What work will happen in the new office and what people or departments will do that work? Finally, what must be brought in to support your strategic goals and your people?  

If, for example, your new offices are a hybrid work environment with hot desking, you’ll need to ensure that people have access to space booking software that allows them to reserve space. The office layout will depend upon the physical space and the requirements of your people. A warehouse, for instance, likely won’t need as much bookable office and meeting space as a global headquarters, but it would need much more storage space.

When you have multiple offices, it’s essential that everyone in each location understands their roles and how they fit into the bigger picture of what your organization is doing, why, when, and how. This requires leadership to define specific goals for each office, with specific timeframes for when each goal must be reached.

Like any important project, moving into a new office requires a well-considered action plan. 

With desk booking software, like Robin, your teams can take advantage of hot desking.

2. Standardize Processes Across Multiple Teams

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you move in order to create a roadmap for effective office management. Leverage the processes, systems, and workplace tech tools that work for your people in your existing offices to help you move into new offices. 

Of course you’ll need to work with the new physical space and its possibilities/limitations, but use your existing processes, systems, and tech as a starting point upon which you can customize as needed

3. Support People with Workplace Technology

Digital tools and applications, which should be integrated (not silo’d), can help manage multiple offices simultaneously. There are platforms and tools that can help with communication, collaboration, visitor management, and more. When moving into any new office, your organizations should provide people with: 

  • Space booking software/apps, which help employees manage when they come in and enable them to book meeting space as needed; 
  • A visitor management system that streamlines the check-in process, notifies hosts when a visitor has arrived, helps with wayfinding and office security, and enhances the overall experience of visitors to the new office.
  • Workplace analytics, which is data and insights taken from the workplace technologies described above and shared with your leadership team to inform better decision-making to optimize your physical spaces.

All of these workplace tech tools can support your organizational structure and productivity and enhance your space optimization efforts. They keep everyone organized and productive no matter the office people are working in.

4. Support Company Culture

Your company culture is what defines how your people do what they do – it isn’t something you can write on a wall poster or your company website. Culture isn’t what people say they do, it’s what they actually do. Fostering a strong company culture is essential for each of your offices, no matter where they’re located.

You can do this by policymaking, yes, but more importantly through clear, consistent communication (“here’s what we do around here and what we don’t do”), the stories leaders and employees tell each other, the example people set, who you hire (and fire), and more. Hosting events, whether for business or socializing, in each office can help build culture, as can training and incentives. 

Brainstorm new ways for your company to promote and support a more connected culture across offices.

5. Foster Collaboration

Superstar employees coming up with great ideas on their own remains a thing, but success in business generally involves a team – people with different skills, backgrounds, and areas of expertise coming together around a shared purpose. Teamwork is especially important, if challenging, when you have multiple offices. 

Build teamwork within your organization by having clearly-defined and well-supported teams. You’d obviously need to support teams with your physical space, offering meeting rooms of different sizes and purposes depending upon the size and purposes of your teams.

In addition, you’d support teams with the right collaboration and workplace technologies so they can reserve the space they need, communicate about meetings, manage teams, and support team members who might be connecting remotely.

6. Promote Communication

When you have multiple offices, good communication is mission-critical. Internal communication from leadership and team managers serves to keep everyone aligned around goals and plans. How should communication happen? Through multiple channels, which should ideally be integrated. Today’s teams use email, messaging applications, collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools, and more. 

Having consistent messaging is important for fostering a company culture, but having integrated communication channels ensures that messages don’t fall through the cracks. For example, if a manager books a conference room, but the new booking can’t be seen by others in real-time, then double bookings can and will happen, creating a tangled mess that leadership will have to untangle.

Silo’d systems that don’t share timely information are communication (and productivity) killers.

7. Keep Evolving

How can your organization prepare for the future and the uncertain challenges that are certain to arrive? You need to monitor and review data you collect in real-time about how your workplace is performing. What weekdays see the highest office utilization rates? What meeting rooms are the most popular, and when? What workplace problems are your people sharing with you and how consistently do you hear about those problems? 

The capacity to collect data/workplace analytics, measure success, review performance, and then act upon performance insights is the key to future-proofing your multiple office locations. You obviously need a workplace management plan and team in place, but you also need the ability to track performance data and a willingness to make changes (big and small) as needed to address the evolving needs of your people for office space.  

In Robin, you can see how your various offices are being used via workplace analytics.

Successful Management of Offices Starts with Robin

Running any successful business is largely about finding opportunities, addressing challenges along the way with practical, cost-efficient solutions, and evolving with market conditions. Managing multiple locations is no different. We hope we’ve helped you better understand the opportunities and challenges, as well as best practices for tackling the challenges and building value.

At Robin, we exist to help you and your people work better. If you have any questions or could use some help, reach out to us today!

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