Experts in DevOps and UrbanCode

The Virtual Office

My office doesn't have 4 walls and a desk like your typical workplace.  I don't have a conference phone or a dry erase board where I hold impromptu brainstorming sessions. No coffee maker in the break-room or a water cooler to gather around and chat about office politics... I have a laptop, a cell phone and two small dogs who accompany me to daily meetings. My office is everywhere; the kitchen table, a lawnchair on the deck, the local coffeeshop and sometimes the desk in my home office- yes I do actually have one, although it doesn't get much use.  You see, I enjoy what I do so why not enjoy where I am while doing it?

There are a lot of advantages to working remote.  Of course, the obvious work/life balance is high on the list.  But besides that, there's the benefit of not dealing with a lengthy commute, the cost of gas and most importantly the liberty of a freely structured workday- why, yes I will squeeze in that mid-morning yoga class between meetings and answering emails.

The virtual office has been a hot topic lately with both Google and BestBuy changing their policy's and requiring that employees return to the workplace.  But what does that do for company morale & employee happiness? Forrester predicts that 46% of the workforce will be remote by 2016 so it's a surprise that so many employers are still resistant. Some may argue that it's important for people to interact with their peers and for some jobs this may in fact be the case.  But, if the job requires independent work, why not allow your employees to work remotely?

Forbes found that workers' productivity increased by 13% when working remotely.  I'm direct evidence of this and have no qualms about checking email at 10pm or blogging at 6am. Hey, my laptop is with me at all times so why not right? More importantly, employees were 50% happier with their jobs which means they're less likely to leave. Todays technology offers more flexibility than ever before.  The freedom to choose a work location is almost as important as employee benefits and could have a big impact on retention rates.

For those who have a virtual office, here are some tips for staying productive...

  • Stay Focused.  Eliminate distractions and keep on task.  This can be easier said than done, but it's also completely manageable.  You can't ask co-workers to keep their voices down or bring your laptop to a meeting and multi-task.  If you're at home, turn the radio down or reply to emails over lunch.  If you determine your own work environment, then you can control it.
  • Set Tasks.  Try to come up with a list of projects so that at the end of the day you can go back and review your accomplishments.  By setting deadlines you'll be less likely to procrastinate.
  • Take Breaks.   There's nothing wrong with checking your facebook feed, tweeting, posting on Linkedin or even doing a little shopping during the day.  Taking a quick 10 minute break could make the rest of your time even more productive.
  • Socialize! Just because you work alone doesn't mean you can't talk to people.  Chat up your colleagues and friends on Gchat or hold a conference call using a Google Hangout... turn on your webcam for some added excitement ;)

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