When people ask me about Elias, it is our team’s virtual setup that usually generates the most interest. I realized the world is different one day while driving down US 135 in Greenwood, Indiana. I was using my iphone to chat on skype with a teammate in New Zealand and business partner in Uruguay about a client in New York.
Inc magazine is using the month of February to conduct an experiment whereby their staff abandons plush office space for the freedom of home workspaces and the occasional noisy coffee shop (sidenote: I am writing this post from a starbucks). The magazine’s blog asked for feedback from other virtual companies – tips, pro, cons, and reasons for working virtually. I posted the response below (hopefully we make the upcoming April article):
Tips for working virtually
Choose the Right People
Not everyone is cut out to work virtually. Hire people who are trustworthy and self-motivated. Use smaller test contract projects with potential candidates to determine how they perform with your team in a virtual work environment before you hire them.
Set Clear Objectives
Cultivate a ROWE (results oriented work environment). It shouldn’t matter when someone clocks in or out if they get their work done. Find a good project management tool like basecamp, activecollab, zoho, or redmine to assign tasks and measure performance.
Invest in Communication
Buy a good headset for sound quality on calls. Take some of the money saved from no office space and spend it on frequent in person team meetings (we meet quarterly for 3-5 days). And use your project and customer relationship management tools instead of email when possible so that everyone has access to the same information.
Why EliasInteractive.com operates virtually
- Family: We all have strong commitments to our families and our families are rooted in different locations.
- Access to talent: anyone can join our team without having to relocate, which dramatically increases the potential pool of talent
- Cost savings: no office space and cheaper standard-of-living costs in our locations.
Virtual Company Pros
- Focus: I don’t get interrupted by coworkers stopping by my desk.
- Accountability: Too many managers measure performance based on employees arriving on time and staying late. Virtual work forces you to answer the question, “What did I really accomplish today?” And also see how to track employees working from home if you have staff working from home as they offer some great solutions.
- Flexibility: You should work when you are most productive. For some this might be late at night rather than during “normal” business hours.
Virtual Company Cons
- Boundaries: the lack of separation between home and work can open the door for interruptions from family while working or allow work to bleed over into family time. One of our teammates rents a cheap one room office because it is hard for him to be productive with 4 kids at home.
- Miscommunication: email, IM, and even conference calls remove nonverbal cues like facial expression and vocal tone which we all use to lend context to our messages. Beware of assuming what a coworker meant and give them the benefit of the doubt.