You’ve been in business for a little while now. You’ve worked seriously hard to get to where you are.
You proudly remember the day that you put your name above the office door and you love that you have something tangible to show for your efforts. But this very office, this very physical evidence of your ‘success’ is exactly what could be killing it.
I had a buzzing office full of staff, fun and action for 10 years. But a few weeks ago, I sent every single one of my team members home and closed the office doors forever.
Financial crisis? No. Lack of business coming in? No.
I closed my office doors, and instead opened up my business to the world. It’s changed everything. It’s increased our efficiency, team work, collaboration, profits, exposure, leads, sales, happiness and every single staff member’s lifestyle – especially mine as the owner; and you can do it too.
So what happened?
We went ‘remote’. We moved the entire business onto ‘the cloud’ and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
I’d heard about ‘remote working’ many times before – many of my entrepreneurial friends have been doing it for years. But I had a whole bunch of preconceptions, fears and concerns (that I think are commonly shared among many business owners) about all of the different reasons why remote working ‘wouldn’t work for my business’.
Despite these, I trialed it for just 3 weeks before the benefits monumentally annihilated all of the reasons I’d imagined in my head that it wouldn’t work.
At the start of the fourth week, I let my staff chose what furniture and equipment they wanted to take from the office, and they now ALL work from home. (I don’t however, I’m currently working from a beach on the Gili Islands)…..
Sending my entire workforce ‘home’ is the best thing I’ve ever done (from my point of view and from theirs) – here are 7 reasons why:
1. Work Doesn’t Happen At Work
If I asked you, or any of your staff, ‘where and when are you most productive work wise?’, I’d put money on the answers NOT being ‘at the office’.
I’d be sure to get answers like:
- ‘Late at night/early in the mornings’
‘In the library’
‘On a plane’
‘In a café’
‘At the back of a boring conference’
‘On Sunday afternoons’…….
The fact is, that most people are more productive, more efficient and get more done when they’re NOT at the office, or at least not within the 9-5 office hours – especially business owners.
Offices are big fat distraction machines. From the chitter-chatter around the coffee machine, to a colleague asking a ‘quick question’, to the endless disruption of meetings and phone calls.
It’s hard to ‘get in the zone’ when there is some level of distraction every few minutes – real concentration requires solid, un-adultered focus and this happens less than we’d like to think in an office.
One of the fears many business owners have when ‘they can’t SEE their staff’, is that productivity and work output will drop, or that staff will ‘slack-off’ without being ‘supervised’. But this couldn’t be more the opposite in my experience.
Working remotely required us to set up a collaborative platform where EVERYONE’S tasks and to-do lists are shared and viewable by everyone in one single location.
Feedback from my team is that seeing each other’s workloads and progress has provided a heightened sense of respect for one another.
It helps them see where they can help each other out.
It also makes them feel like their efforts and contributions are being seen, recognised and noticed. There’s also a fun and motivating sense of competition between the team to ‘tick off’ their tasks first and to be seen as being efficient without being stood over by ‘the boss’.
Of course, having a platform like this can work in an office too – the whole premise of it is that you can have it ANYWHERE. But there are many more reasons why ‘doing it remote’ works best…
2. Nobody Likes Being A Prisoner
When I had a physical office, holidays and days off were very rare occurrence, yet ironically ‘freedom’ was one of the reasons I started a business in the first place. Sound familiar?
Now I know not all business owners are controlled by their businesses to this degree; but before I made the seismic change of going remote, I realised that I had in fact not created a ‘perfectly manufactured place of work that gave me the lifestyle I’d always wanted’; but instead had built myself a prison that I obsessively (yet unconsciously) chained myself to as if my life depended on it – and then employed ‘inmates’ to live in with me so that I didn’t feel so bad about being trapped. The need for physical presence enhanced the reality of my business controlling me, instead of me it, and I couldn’t escape.
When it feels like you ‘cant get away from something’, you’re trapped.
How many of your average office workers can pop out early, go and get their nails done on a Tuesday afternoon, or take that urgent doctors appointment without nervously seeking the bosses approval?
More often than not, it’s easier for them to ‘throw a sickie’ or construct some elaborate disaster involving their problematic washing machine or the mal-function of the entire train network. Why? Because it’s tough to get a day-release card out of prison.
Just like me, my staff are human too. Putting brick walls around them, with self-locking doors openable only by a swipe card and forcing them to sit under cameras for 8 hours a day, is in my eyes, not conducive of a professional, trusted work environment. It says nothing other than ‘you can’t be trusted’.
I hired my staff because they’re talented, autonomous professionals, not because I wanted good prisoners. I also started a business of my own, because when I was an employee I hated feeling like some CEO’s prisoner too.
Taking down the walls has created a much more enjoyable, open and honest workplace, where people feel trusted, important and empowered, not trapped and controlled.
It’s amazing how much loyalty and commitment increase when people feel like they’re free to come and go as they please.
Now I’m not saying we didn’t already have this, but having even more of it is far from an unwelcome result, don’t you think?
3. Collaboration & Communication Don’t Need A Board Room
Firstly, one of the things I loved most about having an office, and will always miss, is the feeling of ‘family’ it brings to a job. The fun, the frivolity, the office pranks, the cake on birthdays and the sound of the admin girls’ happy singing from their cubicles are all joyful pro’s of office life for me – and this was hard to let go of.
Secondly, when the utterings of going remote dangled upon me in the past, I’d think ‘But how will we communicate?’, ‘How will we all know what’s going on?’, ‘How will I know what’s going on?’, ‘How the hell will we get by without me answering the endless barrage of questions that come knocking on my door every day?’, It’s just not going to work…
Not being physically present made me feel a sense of anxiety. A nagging feeling that ‘I should be there supporting my team – they NEED me!’.
‘I should be there setting an example, answering their questions and ‘leading the way’ in my super-hero cape’.
I felt I HAD to be there to maintain control (or at least a sense of it), to make sure the right work was getting done, to put out fires and to make sure everyone felt like we were ‘a team’.
I was convinced that effective collaboration and communication required a board room, face-to-face meetings and constant question-throwing across desks. I have no idea why; for since going remote, I now see all of these as time-wasting distractions, not productive actions.
One of the many pieces of feedback I’m getting from my team, and feel myself, is that we’ve never felt more like a team than we do now. We are all literally singing off the same hymn sheet for the first time, instead of having our own versions of everything all over the place.
Instead of every individual (myself included) feeling like THEY are doing the most heavy lifting, everyone can now see each other’s contributions, progress and their unique, important place within the company.
People are sharing, helping and feeling much more included in all and every department as a result of having ONE platform that we all work from. A platform that can be accessed from any device, anywhere.
I look back and question how often we really did all get together to plan, discuss and collaborate when we had an office – it’s not as much as I thought.
When you go remote however, team meetings, either via video conference or at a posh local café are planned well in advance with a carefully pre-prepared agenda that is contributed to by all so as not to waste everyone’s time. Being remote seems to have put a much higher value on ‘getting together time’ and as a result are spectacularly more informative, practical, efficient and proactive.
I’ve also realised, that by being physically present in an office to answer every employees ‘quick questions’, that I was actually enabling a greater dependency on me, sucking away my team’s autonomy over their own work and stifling their perfectly capable ownership of their projects.
Instead of encouraging collaboration and communication with each other, I was in my very desire to help them, actually adding more bricks to the prison walls around us all and breeding isolation.
Remote working has made our collaboration and communication a thousand times more impactful, meaningful and beneficial for everyone.
4. Productivity Doesn’t Work 9-5
Employees are people, not machines. They don’t ‘switch on’ at 9am and ‘switch off’ at 5pm. Sometimes we’re ‘in the zone’, and sometimes we’re not. There’s no getting away from this fact no matter how ‘cool’ your office is, how much free fruit you leave on the bench or how many ‘toys’ you have in the break-out room.
To expect people to be working productively all day every day is as stupid as paying them when they’re not working – which is what most employers are doing under the 9-5 system.
I’m not saying staff are lazy. No. I’m saying that staff are people. Human people, with forever ebbing levels of motivation, emotions, outside-of-work issues and levels of energy.
Sometimes we just don’t feel like working, and I think it would be fair to say that most of us have had days when we’ve been present for 8 hours, but felt like we’ve achieved nothing as a result of just not being able to ‘get in the zone’.
Going ‘remote’ has allowed my staff with kids to fit in their work hours around school pick-ups and swimming clubs without distracting the others; has allowed my ‘night-owls’ and ‘early birds’ to be productive without having to pull 16 hour days; has allowed the ones who are ‘only in the zone when they’re in the zone’ to make the most of it when they’re on fire and without me having to pay them when they’re not; and has allowed me to work ‘on’ my business instead of ‘in’ my business from any time zone.
All of our tasks are internally ‘public’ with deadlines and dependencies clearly set. Allowing everyone to manage their workloads and complete their roles how and WHEN they want, has sky-rocketed our operations and productivity.
Stuff is getting done, there’s no more ‘chasing up’ and everyone feels empowered and responsible over their own workloads. Everyone wins.
5. Your Signature Stops Work
When we had a physical office and were not enjoying the benefits of a single collaborative working platform, I’d find myself chasing up tasks only to get the response ‘But I was waiting for your approval’, ‘I asked you if I should do X or Y but you never got back to me’, or ‘It’s been on your desk awaiting your signature for a week’.
I was, like many CEO’s, the bottleneck of my business. The very barrier causing a slowdown of productivity instead of the one speeding it up.
This realisation was a hard pill to swallow, as well as the cause of a lot of stress as more and more everyday business tasks that shouldn’t have occupied my time, demanded more and more of it.
Breaking free from a physical office has required me to take everything, and I mean everything, out of my brain and put it into a ‘system’ and ‘process’ that everyone can independently follow without having to ‘seek my guidance’.
The instructions to solve every imaginable scenario that could be faced, the steps to complete tasks I only considered myself capable of executing, the answer to every question a customer has ever asked, the guided template scripts to every email an employee might need to send, the templates for resources anyone might need to use, the style guides for public documents, essentially the ‘how to guide’ for anything and everything our company does or might need to do has gone onto our online working platform – and EVERYONE can add to it.
This has liberated me from being the bottleneck of the company, has liberated my staff from being dependant on me.
This might seem like ‘grade 1’ stuff to many people, but it’s amazing how many of us business owners are obliviously being information-police that consequently halts operations.
Try out writing down the ‘how-to’ of everything you do every single day – you’ll find there’s a ton you can delegate that you thought ‘only you can do’ and it will save you endless hours in the future as well as free you from needing to ‘always be around’ to provide the same guidance every single time it comes up.
6. Expenses Reduce Profits
How much do you pay for your office and all of the additional expenses that go with it?
Whether you are paying $200 a week, or $20,000 a week, I’d say from my experience of going remote that it’s money that could be saved as profit, or spent much more effectively elsewhere.
When I had an office, I have to admit that I liked the little kick of pride I got every time I invited a new client to ‘my’ place.
I liked looking around at all of my ‘stuff’ and thinking how clever I was to have attained such a pile of ‘assets’ – but the very space and assets I was looking at was part of the reason I felt the pressing need to always be ‘busy’ in order to pay for it all.
Remove the expenses, tasks and problems that come with having a physical space, and you’ll be amazed at what you have spare to grow your business.
7. Office Ceilings Block The Proactive ‘Birds-Eye-View’
Running a business AND an office put me in classic ‘reactor’ mode as I tried to be a ‘manager’ and the ‘owner’ all at once – which often threw my proactivity straight down the proverbial toilet.
Trying to keep our finger on everything everyone is doing in an office is not only tough, its time-consuming and counterproductive to what a business owner should be doing – seeing the bigger picture and driving our teams consistently towards achieving the company vision, mission, values and strategic objectives.
Instead of chasing my tail, and everyone else’s around the office to figure out where we are; dishing out ‘to-do’ lists and chasing up progress reports – going remote has provided a platform where I can see everything I need to see from a bird eye view – from up in the clouds so to speak.
This has allowed me to delegate much more effectively, to have an ‘at a glance’ snap shot of each team member’s current workload, and most importantly has enabled me to ‘lead’, not ‘manage’.
So there you have it – a real ‘old school’ business owners true reflection of why sending your workforce home works – for everyone.
I certainly won’t be looking back.