When I started out in business, the traditional 9-5 office was still very much the norm. It was very important that employees show up on time and work their full eight hours. What I realized when I started my business was that I spent a ridiculous amount of time policing the comings and going of my staff, focusing on attendance, rather than productivity. I knew there had to be a better way.
Several years back, Best Buy pioneered a concept called Results Oriented Workplace (ROW). ROW eliminated required hours and focused on results and productivity instead. Though the program eventually burned out, it altered the way we think of structuring workplaces. The modern iteration of the semi-virtual office is a hybrid, combining the best of the traditional office with the work-from-home model. My company Profit First Professionals has found the semi-virtual office to be the ideal solution for us.
A Look Inside Semi-Virtual Offices
Here’s how our setup works: We have a traditional, brick-and-mortar office. Everyone has their own space complete with computer, phone... all the tools they need to get things done. And every employee also has an identical setup at home. When their phone rings in the office, it also rings at home. We ask that employees check in for our morning huddle, either by phone or in person, and anyone who wants to work from home clears it ahead of time. As long as there aren’t any face-to-face meetings scheduled, we approve those requests.
The list of pros for our semi-virtual office is a long one. First, there’s no commute time for folks working from home. There’s no mad dash out the office in an attempt to beat rush hour. There’s no need to spend time getting ready in the morning. Our staff can roll out of bed, get a cup of coffee and get right to work. Especially in light of the fact that we’re really not designed to work a full eight hours without a break, we find our staff is much happier when they build their own workday to suit their needs.
One unanticipated benefit is that we’ve seen a reduction in vacation days. Since our employees can fit in errands, a trip to the mechanic for car repairs and even a stop in at the elementary school to see their kids’ Halloween parade, they don’t have to waste vacation days for personal needs.
Another huge pro is that we’ve expanded our reach for talent. Find a brilliant sales person who needs a flexible work schedule? No problem! Interview a real go-getter IT person who lives two hours away? Welcome aboard! A broader regional reach, combined with our ability to bring on employees with unique schedules means we get to hire the very best staff.
Semi-Virtual Offices Still Mean Business
The fact that we have a semi-virtual office means we get all the benefits of a traditional office too. We get the infusion of energy from our daily huddle—our rah-rah rundown of company goals and metrics. We get the instant communication when we’re all working in the building, shouting things down the hallway to one another. Yes, that kind of noise can be distracting, but on days when employees need to focus, they can work from home without all the racket. We have the camaraderie, the support and the celebrations for successful sales in the office. We even have cha-ching buttons to let everyone within earshot know when one of us has made another sale.
One of my favorite benefits of working in the office is the ability we have to provide our clients with the very best service. When you’re working with a customer who needs some special expertise, you can walk down the hall and find exactly the right person to solve your problem. When customers discover that their satisfaction is our ultimate goal and that a whole team is at their disposal, that’s a powerful reason to continue giving us their business.
There is one con of our semi-virtual office: It costs a little more. The initial setup—computers and phones both in the office and in employees’ homes—was a little steep, but what we’ve gained in terms of productivity is more than worth the cost.
Typically 60 percent of our company’s work is done in the office and 40 percent is done from home. That’s just the way it works out with employees choosing what environment suits their needs. When you factor in things like the reduction in vacation time and increased productivity, the semi-virtual office is absolutely the ideal solution for us.
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