Is the virtual office the "wave of the future?" Not so fast. While telecommuting is an outstanding tool in many ways, it may not be the right model for your business. In fact, it has a real potential to fall well short of its promise by killing the very morale and motivation that it was supposed to save.
Here's the dark side of telecommuting in action.
After I sold my second company I was feeling burned out and stressed. I felt physically ill at the idea of dealing with employees on a day-to-day basis. In spite of this, I wanted to continue working and creating. So my partner and I decided to settle our new company into a 100 percent virtual office. We didn't even think about hiring employees at first, but when we did we planned for all of them to work from home, too.
I'm not saying the virtual office wasn't successful, because it was. In two years our little office had 30 employees and was bringing in 4 million dollars of revenue.
So what went wrong? Managing the company became an increasingly chaotic affair the more the company grew. Working from home also started to take a real toll on me. I felt isolated, because all of my communication with other people came either via e-mail or chat. Sometimes I didn't leave the house for days at a time. It was depressing!
To my shock, I learned that many of my employees felt exactly the same way. It seems that working from home wasn't quite the effortless experience in freedom and fun that we'd all been led to believe it would be. So in 2014, we opened an office, and brought most of the team back in-house.
We didn't bring everyone back. I'd say it's truly important for any 21st century office to leave the telecommunication option open to trusted employees. Some people are introverts. Some people have life circumstances that make telecommuting their only true option. I'd have lost some truly phenomenal employees if I'd chosen to force everyone to follow me back into an office environment.
Nevertheless, great things started happening when the bulk of the team began working in the same location. Going back to the office actually contributed to my well-being, and to theirs. Face-to-face communication created a new rush of energy. There was real power in a sales team who could hear, see, and share solutions with one another.
Plus, we all made a bunch of new friends. We became a true team for the first time--turnover was down, and profits were even better than before. We're now well past $4 million, working toward becoming a $10 million company.
Did coming back in-house give us the morale boost we all needed to take the company to the next level? I'm inclined to think so. It just goes to show that the newest way of doing things isn't always the best way!