When the COVID-19 crisis made it necessary for our team to work from home, the transition was seamless. We began as a completely remote company six years ago. And when we did add an office two years ago, it was as a place for collaboration and communication. To this day, no one has a traditional office in that space.
We’re not alone in that.
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.
Some companies, like Buffer, which has fifty employees, closed their offices entirely even before this crisis.
I still think there are good reasons for office space. For some businesses it’s essential.
But if current circumstances have forced you or your team into working from home, you may actually benefit from the experience. Here are some advantages we’ve gained from remote work.
- 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.
When we had no fixed space, we used the resources we would have put toward an office to do other things that build our culture—such as go on company cruises when we hit major milestones. Trust me, no one complained.
I hope we’ll all be able to return to having face-to-face contact with our teams soon. But in the meantime, we can leverage the unique benefits that remote work offers. Who knows? Your team may wind up being more productive than ever.