This summer, CWS is set to embark on our first "Office Free Fridays" where we are encouraging employees to avoid the office. Don't worry, the team will still be available to support our customers, just not in the office. This idea came about because we were spending a great deal of time determining how to fairly staff the office during Fridays, when people often want to take PTO or work remotely.
The CWS Leadership Team (we don’t have managers, rather leaders that represent sectors of our business) struggled with this until Kim and I had the thought over drinks one night and said, “Maybe we should just lock the doors and have everyone work off site on Fridays?”
It felt like a scary step at first. We have one remote worker, Joe Milbach, but that’s because he lives too far away to be physically in our office. However, he has been a great remote employee and his productivity level is outstanding. Another member of the leadership team, Shane Kovash, suggested we read the book, “Remote: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried, CEO of 37 Signals. 37 Signals operates very successfully with almost an entire remote workforce scattered across the globe. We read the book and learned a great deal about the benefits of a remote workforce and garnered tips on how to be successful.
- The office is an interruption factory to getting things done. We completely underestimate what a production killer the office environment is with impromptu meetings, co-worker interruptions and other distractions. Go ahead, I dare you to count the number of times you're interrupted by the time you go home today.
- Even in our small town, we spend over 30 minutes each day getting to and from the office (even longer when we stop for that cup of coffee!). Why not spend those 30 minutes getting meaningful work done?
- Remote communication between coworkers must be concise and to the point, thus wasting less time talking about last nights Minnesota Wild game.
- The brain may be more creative if it’s not looking at the same 4 cubical walls every day.
- With technology, the cloud, web-based meeting software, etc. there’s no reason to be held hostage to a physical office.
- A remote employee’s work is the only thing that they can be judged on. Their charm and popularity at the office isn’t a factor.
- Encouraging everyone to work remotely for a day is an excellent test to see how well your team would function in the event of a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions. Do you really want to find out that your entire company comes to a screeching halt because of 18" of snow?
- The best employees may not be in your town. In our industry, web developers and programmers are highly sought after positions. Why settle for a less qualified candidate just because the best candidate is 500 miles away?
- Set up remote-friendly technologies (employee to employee video chat, company chat rooms, etc) and teach employees to use it.
- Create fantastic business processes and systems.
- Check in with employees daily and have a longer session with them 1X per month to see how it’s going.
- Put in writing the production expectations for each employee.
- It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Employees can work remotely in the morning and come to the office in the afternoon, for example.
Oftentimes, business owners and managers don’t want to give up control but remember, it’s not control that will make our businesses thrive, it’s production and happy, long-term employees. The CWS Leadership Team felt this book was highly valuable and made us question the value (or hinderance) of our own office. If you’d like to learn the benefits of having remote workers, we’d recommend reading it. Then, maybe test it on your workforce. We plan to. Every Friday from June 1-September 1 you can find our staff peppered about the town; producing, creating and enjoying a new way to work, remotely.