The Pros and Cons (and Pros) of Virtual OrganizationsI hate to tell you this, but the commute from my office to my kitchen is six seconds.

Truly. I timed it.

Please don’t hate me if your commute is longer than six seconds. 

The good news is…things are changing and you, too, can have a six second commute.

Offices, and getting to them, are for the birds.

We used to have a big, fancy office with grown-up furniture and a lobby and receptionist and desk phones and the like.

I thought it was necessary. I thought it was what you needed to do to be taken seriously as an agency. One of the costs of doing business.

And did it ever have costs.

Not only the rent and utilities and furniture, but making sure it was presentable for clients and personal and comfortable for the team (not to mention the up and down of the thermostat…drove me nuts!).

When the economy took a downward spiral, we had to look at all of our expenses, including the big, fancy office space—and decide what could go.

We made a decision to work remotely for a year, save some money, and then gather back together.

That was eight years ago.

Virtual Organizations Are Hip

Virtual organizations have skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade—both for owners and for employees.

What’s not to love?

Except some people think brick and mortar offices are something serious businesses have—and you must be working in your mom’s basement, eating Cheetos and drinking Dr. Pepper if you work from home.

There also are concerns about not knowing what your team is going and whether or not they’re slacking off and wasting time.

But we’ve found pretty much all of that is completely ungrounded.

No one cares if you work from home, as long as you deliver results and are accessible.

Well, almost no one cares.

We did have a new business prospect who couldn’t believe I was running a multi-million dollar business with no commute and not sitting in an office next to my team.

She truly thought I was lying.

It was an easy way for me to say, “Not an ideal client for us.”

Your Stress Level Goes Down

Plus, we saved a ton—a TON—of money on not having office space.

But you know what is even better than saving money?

Cutting WAY down on the stress.

Once we went virtual, I didn’t care when my team was clocking in and out or taking lunch or exercising in the middle of the day, or if the dishes were getting done, or what temperature the office was.

In an office, you HAVE to be aware of those things, but in a virtual organization, all you care about is results.

People get things done. They get results. And they’re far more productive. Truly.

Trust has been one of the biggest benefits for me, and I think it is for the majority of virtual business owners.

When you give your employees trust; when you respect their professionalism and that they will do what they say they will do, you see amazing results.

All told, productivity is way up.

My team has the flexibility to spend time with their families and pursue passions, and we all get to work when we work best.

It’s excellent.

It’s Easy to Stay Connected

But how do we stay connected, plan the work that needs to be done, and track progress on projects without sharing a physical space?

It’s mostly meetings and technology.

I have meetings with my direct reports weekly, a weekly meeting with the leadership team, and a monthly meeting with the entire organization.

This is when we review priorities, discuss goals, and update against results.

These meetings are critical and aren’t run any differently than they would be in person.

The only difference is some people show up in ball caps or hats and yoga pants or shorts.

This allows us to measure people—and the organization—against how we are progressing toward goals.

By keeping our goals, and what we’re doing to reach them, front and center every week, we know very quickly if something is going off the rails, and we can address it right away.

Technology Needed in Virtual Organizations

Contrasting this to when we had an office space, we had constant access to one another so we weren’t as focused.

Also—and I’m sure some of you can relate to this—we found we were texting or instant messaging one another from the office next door versus getting our butts out of our chairs to talk face-to-face.

If you’re not going to talk face-to-face when you’re in the same space, why spend the money on the offices?

Of course, nothing replaces face-to-face, which is why we have all of our meetings on Zoom, a digital meeting room platform.

This allows us to stay focused as if we were in the same room and we can record calls for reference and internal training.

We use CoSchedule for project management, planning, and execution.

QuickBooks for time tracking and invoicing.

Slack for quick conversations, our virtual water cooler, sharing updates, and our daily check-ins.

Voxer for individual and group updates—and to hear tone and inflection so it’s not taken out of context, like email can be.

And Google Drive for document sharing and collaboration.

The Challenges Are Few and Far Between

There are some challenges, of course.

Some of my team tends to be more extroverted and they miss the energy of the office.

But not enough that they want to make a two-hour commute to downtown Chicago every day. 

And they would have to commute downtown. Actually, worse. I live four blocks from Wrigley Field so I’d make them commute to an office near me.

There have to be some advantages to owning the joint.

If you know Chicago at all, you know that’s a far worse commute than taking the train to Union Station and walking a few blocks to your office in the Loop.

See! I’m being kind!

All in all, though, we really love being a virtual organization.

The pros definitely outweigh the cons.

If your commute also is six seconds, I’d love to hear what works and what doesn’t work for you.

The comments are yours…

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich