I almost took a strategic misstep a few months back. Ever since I started my company, our team has worked remotely. We have twenty people in several different cities producing unparalleled results. But I wanted an office.
With the help of a great agent, we narrowed the search to 10,000 square feet in the perfect building. But everything comes down to tradeoffs. When I weighed the cost of the space against the benefits of working remotely, it didn’t add up.
In 1980 only about 2 percent of U.S. employees telecommuted. Now at least a quarter of workers do so at least some of the time. And according to Global Workplace Analytics half of U.S. jobs could be done remotely.
Because of the work we do, all the jobs in our business can be done remotely. Buffer, which has fifty employees, is in the same boat and recently closed its office entirely.
I still think there are good reasons for office space. For some businesses it’s essential. And I can see several scenarios where we’d want to revisit the idea down the road. But for right now, there are at least seven strategic advantages for my team to stay virtual when it comes to office space.
- Freedom. In the old days work was often rote and repeatable. But today’s work is more novel and creative. That means there’s a strategic advantage in giving employees the autonomy that comes from choosing how, where, and even when they work.
Focus. This kind of creative work also requires focus, but it’s hard to come by in traditional workspaces. Why? As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson say in Remote, offices are “interruption factories.” Remote work allows us to avoid the interruptions and make progress on projects that matter.
Margin. Another value for our team is margin. Killing the commute that goes with a centralized office means our team members get more time with their families, and less with their cars.
Health. This is more important than you might think because commutes literally take years off our lives. Research shows they up our cortisol, blood pressure, cholesterol, even our weight. (See here, here, and here.)
Well being. And commuting also has a direct impact on our personal well-being. Commutes cut into our time for sleep, exercise, and shared meal times. They leave us lonely, bored, agitated, and even more likely to divorce. Working remotely has some challenges, but it eliminates several major problems.
Morale. Marked improvements in freedom, focus, margin, health, and well being mean we have incredible team morale. I’m honestly stunned by the level of infectious enthusiasm and initiative our team demonstrates. And the benefits of remote work play a big part.
Savings. Last but not least, there’s money. You can’t run an effective business with tight margins. Working remotely lets us invest our resources in our people, not their surroundings.
What about culture? I hear people say an office is important for organizational culture. It can be, but it’s not the only solution. Our culture is stellar, and we communicate through apps like Slack and Zoom.
We use the resources we would have put towards an office to do other things that build our culture—such as go on company cruises when we hit major milestones. So far no one has complained.
I wouldn’t close the door on central office space, but it would have to fit the needs of our team better than it currently does.
Question: Have you had any experience with working remotely? What were the pros and cons?