Back in the 50s, the traditional office made a whole lot of sense. Employees worked on typewriters, important documents were physically locked away and business was orchestrated in boardrooms by men in pinstripe suits smoking great big cigars. (I assume. I’m 25.)
Now, with the internet dominating our everyday lives, almost anywhere with wifi can become a workspace: email has revolutionized the way we communicate, Excel the way we configure data and the cloud the way we collaborate. You can even run an ecommerce store from anywhere in the world, easy. So, could an office-less business be good for your company? Read on to find out!
The office-less office
I work for a small company called Turbine HQ. We run an expense report and purchasing order tool, but that’s not what makes us unique. What makes Turbine different is that we have no office. Our entire team work remotely and we’re based all over the world — from Vienna, Austria to Sydney, Australia.
75 percent of workers believe working remotely has a positive impact on their productivity
But how do we ever get anything done? Quite easily, really. In fact, 75 percent of workers believe working remotely has a positive impact on their productivity.
Don’t you all get terribly lonely? Not at all. Remote working has been seen to reduce employee turnover by 25 percent.
Do we spend most of our time in pajamas? Yes, yes we do. But we’ll usually look respectable from the waist-up when we have conference calls.
Remote work initiatives are the future of the modern workplace. But it’s easy to get it wrong. In this blog, I’ll share three of the key ways we make a mobile workplace work for us and how we support our growing global team.
1. Hire the right people
The beauty of running a remote business is you automatically expand your hiring pool. You aren’t confined to your local area, meaning you can find the best global talent instead.
At Turbine, running an entirely remote, global team rests very much on the shoulders of the people we choose to employ. That’s why, when it’s recruitment season, we look for a few specific qualities:
It may seem hard to believe, but despite our physical distance Turbine HQ is a very sociable place to work. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for the personalities who will be a good fit for our culture.
When interviewing, pay close attention to a candidate’s communication skills — these will be invaluable when you’re collaborating miles apart.
When interviewing, pay close attention to a candidate’s communication skills — these will be invaluable when you’re collaborating miles apart. As well as the usual "where do you see yourself in five years" questions, throw them a hypothetical. Ask them who would win in a fight between Voldemort and Gandalf. You can tell a lot about a person by their taste in wizards.
An important trait to look for when building a remote team is a level of self-motivation. Without a manager physically around to breath down our necks, it's up to us as individuals to get things done.
A remote office only works if everyone is pulling their weight, so seek out the people you can trust to rise to the challenge without much encouragement.
2. Invest in the right tools
The remote work revolution is officially in full swing, with experts predicting half of the world’s workforce will be clocking-in from home by 2020. However, without proper support and infrastructure, remote work initiatives will fall flat and employees will fail to reach their full potential.
At Turbine, we swear by a few vital tools that help us communicate, collaborate and keep the business running seamlessly:
Good communication is a critical part of our remote workplace — we don’t take any chances with ambiguous emails. Video conferencing is the ideal way to chat about an upcoming project, hold weekly meetings or present to clients (it also gives us a reason to brush our hair once in a while).
The project management tool Basecamp is a godsend to remote teams. Its easily-accessible dashboard allows us to keep on top of our separate projects, assign out work and keep our documents organized.
Slack is the modern businesses’ answer to AOL Instant Messenger — minus all the preteen drama. The direct messaging service is commonly used in businesses and has improved productivity of its users by 20-40 percent.
Working at home can get lonely — 21 percent of remote workers say loneliness is their greatest professional struggle. At Turbine, Slack is our way to stay social. We use it constantly: sharing recipes, discussing politics and — above all — making each other laugh.
3. Hold monthly in-person meetings
Working remotely doesn’t mean we never see each other in the flesh. Even though some of us live thousands of miles apart, we have a company meeting in London every month.
While popping over from Sydney is not really worth the 24-hour flight, our European team, no matter if they’re in Bucharest or Glasgow, make the journey once a month. We use this time to communicate sales updates, hold internal presentations, train staff and socialize.
Having a remote, global company actually saves the business money.
While the expense of getting everyone in one place is not cheap, the price is relatively small compared to running an office year-round. With the cost of London’s office space at an all-time high, having a remote, global company actually saves the business money. As a result, we can afford to invest in our company meetings.
If you’re just starting your remote business, you may not have the means to fly out your team at the company’s expense. However, if you have the opportunity to see members of your team face-to-face occasionally, take it and use the time wisely.
The workplace of the future
With a reliable team, an assortment of tools and a strong focus on building working relationships, Turbine has been able to create a successful business — without the need for an office.
But it’s not just us making the leap. The TUC found that the amount of people remote working has increased by nearly quarter of a million over a decade.
So, as more and more businesses see the benefits of remote work, is it time to officially bid farewell to the traditional office? Do you think you could run your ecommerce store without having your employees all in one place? Let us know what you think in the comments!