By Sue Brady (back to marketing topics next week!)
I work in a virtual office environment. And I’m not the only one either. My whole company at RM Factory, all 25 of us, work from our homes. Our homes just happen to be in several states across the country. We have real jobs at a real marketing agency where we all work 50+ hours a week. We don’t have kids at our feet, do laundry in between conference calls, or coffee clutch with the neighbors every afternoon. We’re a motivated, hard-working and focused group of folks, and I’d argue that we are more productive than your typical office worker.
Don’t get me wrong. All of us have held jobs where we commuted to an office every day. So we know what that’s like. Some of us even worked for very large ad agencies on Madison Avenue.
This virtual arrangement has so many benefits, only one of which is increased productivity. How am I more productive at home, you might ask? Aren’t there too many distractions, like the refrigerator or kids? The answer is no. There are not too many distractions. In fact, a key driver of our productivity is that there are fewer distractions. In addition, there is less stress and less wasted time.
Here’s a typical day for when I used to work outside my home: I’d wake up, have a run, shower, dress and make myself presentable. I would drive an hour to get to my office. Once there, sometimes frazzled from the drive, I’d grab a cup of coffee and start my day. Any number of people would stop by my office in the morning to say hello, ask me a question about work, ask me a question about my kids, ask me if I had plans for lunch…you get the idea. I’d attend many meetings. At lunchtime I’d walk with everyone else to the cafeteria. Then I’d head back to my office, where inevitably, the parade of employees, coworkers and meetings would continue. And then I’d head back home, in my car for another hour, at the end of the day. I was exhausted by the time I made it back to my family!
My typical day as a remote employee is very different. I still get up, have a run, shower, dress and in general make myself presentable. But from then on, everything changes. I walk down the stairs to my office where I can close my door if needed, put on my fuzzy pink slippers (every new employee receives a pair) and get to work. My only distraction is an occasional visit from my cat. If I had young kids in the home like some of my coworkers do, I’d have to arrange for child care.
We occasionally do fun things too. We celebrate birthdays, but not in a conference room with cake. Rather, each employee receives an edible gift at their doorstep on their special day. And this year we even had a virtual holiday party. You can read about that here.
I stay connected with the outside world. I still have meetings and calls throughout the day with coworkers, employees and clients over Zoom, Skype or ooVoo, but they are concise meetings that cover the subject matter at hand, without a lot of wasted time. We use instant messaging to communicate as well, so easy questions are answered quickly and efficiently. If I don’t understand a response, a phone call can clear that up. And we use other productivity tools like Google Hangouts and Megameeting so that we can share our desktops or files as needed. And at the end of the day, I turn off my light and go upstairs and start my evening.
Joe Pulizzi, the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says: “Our decision NOT to set up a traditional office location was, perhaps, the best decision we’ve made as an organization.” You can read his virtual office story here. This life is not for everyone. It takes a disciplined, self-starter kind of person to make this type of arrangement work. Here’s another article from the examiner on the subject.
If I really analyzed my time, excluding my commute, I’d guess that I’m two hours more productive at work each day than I used to be. Two hours! Plus, I have two hours of commute time a day returned to me to use however I’d like.
What would you give to get two hours back every day?