Telecommuting = Happy Employees?
While sitting in your cubicle or at your office desk, do you often find yourself dreaming of a job where you are working from home, happily typing away in sweat-suited bliss? You’re not alone and recent studies, like this one reported by GigaOM, explain why telecommuters are happier than those that work in a traditional office setting.
Many top companies are now implementing work-from-home business models. Office supply giant Staples offers flex time and allows the majority of their customer service team to telecommute. Their advice to other businesses? Send your workers home. According to a recent survey from the company’s business-to-business unit, 86 percent of telecommuters say they are more productive in their home than at the office. And IBM has long been a proponent of the virtual workplace with something like 50 percent of people working from home (perhaps IBM really does stand for “I’m By Myself”).
Is this the future of the workplace? I sure hope not.
We started InkHouse as three people in a virtual workplace and we felt we had it nailed: between IM, email, phone and Skype, we could connect instantly. But here’s the thing we eventually realized: when you work from home, constantly reaching out to colleagues via email or phone feels like an intrusion and annoyance; you don’t connect as much on day-to-day details and instant brainstorms are nonexistent.
During our second year in business when we landed some big accounts and grew to six people, we thought, “Gee, maybe we should have a real office.” We found one of those temp spaces and went in every Wednesday. We thought that was great at the time. But looking back, I think we saved too many conversations for Wednesdays.
The following year, we wrestled with the idea of getting a real office. We weren’t sure if we were ready to make that kind of financial commitment and wondered if we were even an “office kind of crowd.” But having grown to 12 people, we decided it was time.
And that decision was arguably the very best decision we ever made. Sure, we like working from home (everyone here still gets to work home on Fridays, or basically on request if they need to), but without question, we are better for it. Why?
- We learn from each other – even about the small stuff – e.g. how do you track your work across multiple clients?
- We brainstorm on the fly – HUGE.
- We know each other better. In 2007, I actually had a member of my team walk by me in the street and when I stopped him he said, “Meg? I thought you were a blonde” (I am not).
- We better leverage each other’s connections, past experience, etc.
- We have a strong sense of unity.
Today we are 25 people, and while some could argue that we could have been just as successful even if we were virtual, I disagree. We have a totally open workspace with just a few offices. Recently, due to space constraints, we had to put a few people in offices. When we asked for volunteers, not one person volunteered. People want to be together – to think, to share, to laugh.
I get that there are definitely some days that staying in your PJs is a whole lot easier than jumping in the car or on the T to get to work, but I don’t think anyone here would have it any differently (most days anyway).