Ditch The Office

Do you sometimes feel like you’re re-enacting a scene from the movie Office Space when dealing with the absurdities that come with working in an office? I’ve been there!

I just read a terrific Inc. article this morning about Zapier. The article describes how Zapier encourages their employees to work from anywhere. In fact, Zapier’s CEO, Wade Foster, is willing to reimburse up to $10,000 of moving costs incurred within the first three months of employment. Foster sees this as a key advantage when it comes to hiring and retention. If you are not familiar with Zapier, they are an 80-person startup, whose product helps more than one million users automate workflows across disparate apps.

Now that’s a refreshing approach! So why don’t we see more companies following suit? It’s difficult to say. In most cases, I think you have companies that either still subscribe to the traditional view of an office environment and/or perhaps they haven’t fully embraced technology as a vehicle to collaborate remotely.

For me, I made up my mind after reading Jason Fried’s a book, Remote: Office Not Required. Fried is the the Co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, a company located here in Chicago. Basecamp is a web-based project management tool that helps companies with online collaboration. Besides running Basecamp, you can often find Fried writing and blogging about his simple and practical approach to business.

My views on working remotely have been largely shaped by Fried’s writing as well has my own personal experience. Here are a few important takeaways I learned along the way:

Talent - When you’re no longer limited to a particular market, it opens the door to a larger and more talented pool of candidates. This becomes the biggest game-changer as indicated in the Zapier story. If you’re wondering what to do with all of that money you’re saving by not renting the under-utilized office, how about reinvesting in your people?

Tools - You can no longer use the excuse that it isn’t feasible to work remotely due to cost or technology limitations. There are so many tools available today that arguably allow greater ease to work remotely than being co-located in an office together. Consider Google’s G Suite. If you are a follower of the blog, you know the value for these inexpensive yet scalable products like Hangouts and Jamboard.

Time - Ah… last but not least, the single biggest benefit for any business and individual contributor. Go ahead and quantify the amount of time that it takes a typical employee to commute roundtrip to the office. Very unfortunate, right? Now consider what that employee could do with that idle time. If they are anything like me, it will likely be a combination of additional working hours as well as contributing to a work life balance to maintain a healthy equilibrium.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely see the benefit of face to face conversations. In fact, it is incredibly important to maintain those bonds and connections. However, I don’t think it’s necessary on a daily basis.

Where do you stand? Are you married to the the conventional approach, on the fence or do you find the remote approach works well? As always, let us know what you think.