"You want to do what?"
I wish I knew what font to use to demonstrate that the above was said with a mix of shock, surprise, curiosity and a pinch of "over my dead body." What caused such a response? I had just been told by my then Vice President of Operations that he wanted to allow all employees to work from home and pick their own working hours.
There I was, in the middle of a search for a permanent office space to call home and the guy responsible for making the workers "work" just told me that it wouldn't be needed. What? No hardwood floors? No Herman Miller chairs? Not even a ping-pong table? What kind of startup would we become?
As it turns out, a much better one.
One where we increased productivity, reduced overhead and were able to scale without having to find a larger office. Oh, and one where our employees actually enjoyed their work.
It worked out so well that when I launched Trackur, I made a conscious decision to not have any kind of company offices...at all! Nope! We went virtual from day one and I'm not sure if I'll ever look back. While virtual offices are not feasible for every company—I'm not driving to your house to buy a hamburger and fries–those that take the leap find some surprising benefits.
1. Less overhead
No leases to sign. No cleaning service to organize. No need to put a lockbox on the thermostat to save heating and cooling costs. Employees work from their own homes. They provide their own desks, chairs and often their own computers. Even if you do need a physical office, you can get by with less square feet—knowing that you'll rarely have all of your employees in attendance at one time.
2. Flexible hours
The sell to your employees is that they can now set their own working schedule. Sure, even Trackur expects employees to be reachable during normal business hours, but we don't insist they sit by their computers from nine until five. We provide so much flexibility that some employees start work around 11 a.m., take a nap in the afternoon, then work until 2 a.m. They love it!
And, as the CEO, I love it too. Not just because I personally like the flexibility, but because our entire company has the mindset that there are no set working hours. If I need to discuss a subject late in the evening, I can. If we have an issue that needs fixing on the weekend, people make themselves available. It's a win-win for me, our employees and even our customers.
3. Happier employees
Whether it's a young mom that's happy to stay at home with her young child and appreciates the flexible schedule, or the single guy that only sees the sunrise if he happens to have worked through the night. Everyone is much happier with the flexibility. While your company may have a free soda machine, a massage therapist who visits the office or a ping-pong table, those won't come even close to the amount of happiness that comes from flexibility in hours and location.
4. Lower payroll
Another benefit of a virtual office environment is a lower payroll. The amazing people that work for me do so at a lower rate than if they were forced to sit in an office all day. They don't have to buy gas for the commute. They can prepare their lunches at home. And they can take care of errands—or go see a movie—at times that avoid the crowds. Those are tangible, money-in-your-pocket benefits that result in us having a lower payroll each month.
5. Improved scalability
Lastly, it's much easier to scale your business when all—or most—of your employees work remotely. I can add 1, 2 or 20 employees in an instant and not worry about where they'll sit or who will set up their computer or telephone. I've been there when we thought surely 7,000 sq. ft. would last a few years, only to find we needed another 20,000 sq. ft, just a few months later. Not an issue when everyone works remotely!
So, there you go. Five great reasons why you should consider a virtual office environment for your business. Is it all positive though? Surely there are downsides to not having a physical presence with set office hours. Yes, there are some, and I will cover those drawbacks next time.