Not everyone needs a corner office with a view. But with at least 50% of all businesses being run from home, you’ve got to ask yourself: do I really need an office?
Benefits to a Virtual Office
Working from home with a virtual office definitely has its perks. First off, you cut out all of the overhead of having an office:
- Breakroom snacks
- Office furniture and equipment
And do I need to explain that wearing bunny slippers to work is a definite perk?
Working out of my home office, I find I’m more productive, because I don’t have the distraction of other employees wanting to gossip (and I can ignore my Twitter stream if I try really hard). I can get done in five hours what used to take me 8 or more.
You knock out that morning and evening commute, and you have a more flexible schedule. If you need to stay home with your sick daughter, you can do so without missing work.
The Downsides to a Virtual Office
I’m pretty pro virtual office, but there are a few things that take getting used to. If you’re a social person and like having others around, the quiet may drive you crazy. In that case, work at a coffee shop (something I can’t do). You may feel the pull of household chores, which can be hard to resist when you want to procrastinate getting a project done.
Your family may find it hard to respect that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can play. Talk to them about enforcing office hours when you can’t be available, then make sure you shut your office door as a reminder.
Many companies with virtual teams do well, despite the lack of face to face, but others may find it hard to thrive in this sort of environment. It’s important to look at each of your team members to determine whether going virtual is a good fit for them.
Tips for the Virtual Office
If you have a staff who will work virtually, use software like Oovoo or Skype that will let you hold video conference calls. It’s not face to face, but it’s a good runner up. Also you might hold one in-person meeting each week or month just to stay connected. Consider taking the team out for non-work related activities, like dinner, drinks or bowling, to create the connection that may be lacking for going virtual.
Separate work and life. When your work day is done, shut your computer down and close your office door. Be fully there for your family, just like you gave 100% to work during office hours.
Designate a room or space for your office in your home. Remember that this is where you run your company, so it deserves its own space. Include all the office equipment you need to operate efficiently. Invest in the office just like you would one outside of your home. If you can have an entire room dedicated to your office, you’ll be more productive than you would if you shoved a desk into a closet, but work with what you have.
Admit if it’s not working out. Your goal is productivity, so if you’re just not getting it by working virtually, go back to having an office. Some people need to get out of their homes to feel like they’re really getting work done.
I hope that in the future, all offices are virtual. I truly believe it gives you more autonomy and lets you be more productive than driving an hour to work in traffic and sitting underneath fluorescent lights all day!