Ask yourself this question: Why does our organization have an office?
When I left an executive position at one of the largest media companies in North America to start a business, the first to-do item on my list was to find an office. And why not? I thought, like many others, that to be seen as a “real” company we needed to have an actual office location. Those employees wouldn’t want to work for a virtual company. That we wouldn’t find the best talent. That we wouldn’t be as productive.
Boy, was I wrong. Our decision NOT to set up a traditional office location was, perhaps, the best decision we’ve made as an organization.
As you make your rationalizations for why an office works for you (and it may), I can tell you right now that the office environment could be killing your organization. Here’s why:
Jason Fried, founder of 37signals, outlines in his book Rework that meetings are toxic to an organization. The majority of meetings are not only unnecessary, but can kill the entire culture of the organization’s focus on the customer. According to a Salary.com survey, almost 50% of employees say that meetings are the #1 time-waster while at work.
I know a number of my friends who are executives in large enterprises that literally have meetings ALL DAY LONG (the average is 4 hours of meetings per week). Those organizations are getting their butts kicked by smaller competitors who are not bound by meetings (for the sake of meetings). While you are in your meetings, your competition is focused on the needs of the customer, and getting more done. Period.
Sure, I love looking at pictures from the offices of Google or Foursquare and how cool their offices are. But I’d love to take a poll of those employees and see if they would prefer to work at home (coffee shop?) or in the office. Do you think most of those people enjoy their commute into work?
Unhappy employees are costing organizations billions in productivity. In addition, a Gallup study found that employees’ feelings about the organization has an impact on sales and profits.
Do your employees want more quality time at home? Do they want more flexibility in their job? Do they want to feel more trusted by the organization? It’s your responsibility to find out what will make them happier, if for no other reason than it can make a direct impact on your bottom line. And yes, getting employees together is important for the culture of the organization…but you don’t need an office to do that.
Access to Better Talent
Although the majority of our team is based in Cleveland, Ohio, we have employees in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Boston as well as parts of Europe and Australia. We have a competitive advantage when we look for talent because the prospective employee doesn’t have to be located in a certain place. If your staff is made up of knowledge workers, they can use that knowledge on behalf of the organization anywhere in the world.
Lack of Overhead
Our virtual organization doesn’t have the overhead of our competitors. This gives us the opportunity to invest in other things that make more impact on the business. We can move faster and be more adaptive to change.
Having a virtual organization means a whole new level of trust. The executive team must trust the employee base with every fiber of their being to make this work. Let’s face it…some employees are just not cut out for this kind of opportunity (frankly, neither are some owners). Organizations that want to go this direction have to put total focus into their hiring and training.
Get Out of the Past
Most organizations are set up for how we communicated decades (or more) ago. The reason we had to go into the city is because communication was impossible without face-to-face interaction. For the majority of non-manufacturing or non-retail organizations, this is not the case any longer.
For most of us, we can get our job done with as much as a smartphone, with access to email, social media and office interaction.
Need to have a meeting? Skype or GoToMeeting are at our disposal in two seconds if a meeting is absolutely necessary. How about Google Hangouts? Instant messaging is at our fingertips. Our IT services are in the cloud.
There was a time we needed the office, but for most of us, that time is over. Here’s the main question: could you provide a better customer experience and better products and services with you NOT in an office environment? Is your organization ready to trust your employees to take this step?
Founder at Content Marketing Institute, Author of Epic Content Marketing, Speaker & Entrepreneur
Culled from Linkedin.com