Fresh, new office space is all the rage in the tech scene right now. Everyone wants exposed brick, beer taps, dogs, a rock climbing wall – anything to make their work experience less like work.
Many tech startups hope that by turning the office into a tech man cave, morale, productivity and employee retention – and profit – will all increase. But at the end of the day, no matter how many Labradoodles and IPAs on tap, you’re still at an office, with coworkers whom you did not choose, for hours that are less than desirable.
Today, more than ever, American employees are working from home at least one day a week. More than 13 million U.S. workers (9.4 percent) worked at least one day at home per week in 2010, compared with 9.2 million people, or 7 percent of U.S. workers in 1997.
Despite the increase, many business owners are still leery of the idea. Yahoo! and Best Buy made headlines last year for the elimination of their respective work-from-home cultures. Many smaller companies associate the term with minimal work getting done, lack of culture and what some people predict as the demise of the company.
I, on the other hand, think there is no better way to run a business than completely distributed and telecommuted. It’s why I started my own company. I wanted to work from home and spend more time with my children.
A recent ZDNET study found that, since 2012, there has been a 20-percent increase in telecommuting in the US, and that 79 percent of employees want to work from home at least part-time. That same report revealed that 53 percent of telecommuters put in more than 40 hours per week.
So, other than avoiding television spoilers, why telecommute?
Distributed teams can grow faster than companies that are based in an office. We have a tiny office that can fit, at most, five people, but we were able to scale to 17 without moving because everyone we hired works remotely. Eliminating the need to rent bigger and more expensive real estate enables distributed teams to expand into markets much faster and more smoothly. There is also no need for seating rearrangements. You don’t want to have to pay for unnecessary overhead and none of your employees want to sit next to the new, overly-chatty co-worker with 10 cat photos on his desk.
Not having to provide a physical space for your team also enables a business owner to pour their resources back into bettering their product. A 2013 report by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.comfound that employers of telecommuters annually save roughly $11,000 per employee through the elimination of furnishings, maintenance, parking and phones.
Investors factor in the cost of an office when providing capital to a company. If those funds are spent improving their business offerings, enterprises are be able to stay afloat longer. If office space is necessary, companies such as PivotDesk enable your employees to take advantage of office space only when they need it.
A business that’s entirely telecommuted is forced to communicate more efficiently. Instead of one-off office chatter and mentioning projects in passing, tasks and updates are streamlined via professional chat platforms, conference calls and, when all else fails, email.
Chat platforms are able to supplement inter-office communication, providing real-time conversations and project updates to all team members, regardless of location. Now, instead of losing track of a project update that’s delivered in the middle of a 20-minute Walking Dead recap, you now have succinct, detailed updates that can be kept for record purposes. Team members are looped in simultaneously instead of the project update telephone game, where details can be left out through each channel.
Telecommuting teams aren’t confined to the traditional nine-to-five work schedule. While some business owners fear this will result in lazy employees only working enough to not get fired, the result is actually quite the opposite. A 2013 study by the University of Melbourne found that employees who work remotely find themselves more productive, with only 4 percent finding the process more difficult than a traditional office environment. Because your employees don’t have defined hours, they are expected to be reachable at any hour of any day without having it turn into an HR nightmare.
At the end of the day, whether or not a company has the capacity to run remotely is up to the business owner. Some people value water cooler talks and company happy hours. My team would rather work from a hammock on the beach of Phuket than have to commute to an enclosed rock wall. And this way, nobody spoils the Walking Dead for you while you’re walking past the break room.
Author: Andrei Soroker