Last week, Inc. magazine went virtual, as part of a month-long experiment to understand why some companies are ditching their offices and letting employees work from home. Here are seven lessons we've learned from our first seven days of office exile. Use the comments below to let us know what we forgot.
1. Remember to eat. "For the first day or two, I found myself starving and couldn't understand why I was so irritable," says our deputy art director Jason Mischka. "I realized it was 4 o'clock, and I had only eaten a banana." Not everyone missed lunch. Another staffer discovered that dining while watching the Family Feud can be "surprisingly enjoyable."
2. Prepare for e-mail overload. Being virtual means replacing face-to-face encounters with electronic correspondence--emails, IMs, phone calls, status updates, video chats, and more--which can quickly become overwhelming. If you want to bear down, try turning everything off for an hour or two.
3. Get out of the house. For some people, staying focused at home can seem impossible. To compensate, many of us found ourselves camped out in coffee shops, where, despite the noise, it was easier not to get distracted by chores, kids, and telemarketers. The downside: Having to wear a Skype headset in public.
4. Get a comfortable chair. We're only a week into our experiment and there are already lots of sore backs. That wobbly stool might seem comfortable enough for checking email on the weekend, but it won't cut it for an eight hour workday.
5. Video chat is your friend. "It's really illuminating to see people you work with in their own environment," says deputy photo editor Monique Perreault. "It's like seeing your high school teacher in the supermarket--like crossing over into the 4th dimension." Related lesson: Get dressed before you answer a video chat call.
6. Don't forget to stop. As with maintaining blood sugar levels, remembering to knock off for the day can be a lot harder at home than in an office, where a sea of empty cubes is a powerful hint that it's time to head home. Set a time and stick to it.
7. You can actually get stuff done. At 6pm on a Wednesday night, we decided to make a last minute change to our March cover. That sort of thing normally means printing out dozens of pages, which are then passed around the office until the wee hours of the morning. But this week, the page proofs were sent electronically--between laptops and smart phones--and our cover made it to the printer by midnight. Success! So far...
(Photo: Inc. assistant managing editor, Kalina Mazur.)
Last updated: Feb 8, 2010
Senior contributing writer MAX CHAFKIN has profiled companies such as Yelp, Zappos, Twitter,
Threadless, and Tesla for the magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @chafkin