A business with no coffee machine, no printer station, no desks, and no office – this sounds completely at odds with the traditional workplace set up, but this is exactly what 16% of organisations are doing, according to a report by Owl Labs.
These companies are what’s known as “fully remote”, which means they don’t have a central office that staff travel to every day. Instead, all employees work from home, a café, a shared co-working space – or wherever they wish – 100% of the time. Staff use digital workplace technology such as video conferencing, intranet software, and instant messaging to communicate, collaborate, share files, and generally get their work done.
The benefits of remote and flexible working are well documented. But a fully remote company with virtual offices is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Advantages of a 100% remote business
One of the main advantages of a 100% remote workforce is that businesses can recruit globally. No office means no geographical barriers, so the talent search can be opened up worldwide. Businesses can instead focus on hiring the best people, rather than hiring who lives closest. This works the other way round too. Job hunters can choose the role best suited to their career aspirations and lifestyle, without having to worry about the cost, time, and stress of a commute.
The knock-on effect of having staff located around the world is that you can become a 24 hour business. With team members in every timezone, your workforce can support customers, make sales, and work on projects during every hour of the day, making your business more productive and more profitable. Social media company, Buffer, who have been fully remote since 2012, embrace the time differences of their remote staff and are able to respond to 80% of customer queries within 1 hour – something they wouldn’t be able to do without a distributed team.
A remote team working across timezones gives you a 24 hour business
A fully remote business saves on real estate too, with no overheads on physical office space. Sara Sutton, founder of 100% remote business FlexJobs, estimates having saved $1 million on this alone. This also impacts the environment: with no office to travel to, FlexJobs calculates it’s taken the equivalent of 75 cars off the road.
100% remote may not work for everyone
Fully remote businesses won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, however. Many people enjoy the social aspect of being in the office with their coworkers and the face-to-face interactions that happen over a coffee break. Whilst this can be emulated using digital tools such as video conferencing and internal social media, for some, this isn’t quite enough. Companies that are 100% remote should make a conscious effort to organise opportunities for meet-ups, so that team members can chat, collaborate, and get to know each other in person.
It’s also worth remembering that not everyone works their best from home, so if remote working is the only option your business provides, you may be alienating those who would otherwise be a great fit in your company. Consider offering a budget for staff to hire shared co-working spaces, which provides the office environment without the commitment of travelling there every day.
Provide remote staff with a budget to hire co-working desks
The best of both worlds?
Being a fully remote business is a strategic decision, and the businesses who follow this path and get it right undoubtedly reap the benefits. But for those who have a bricks and mortar office already, making the leap to no office at all can seem like a step too far.
Getting the best of both worlds – by offering remote working for those who want it, but providing an office space for those who don’t – might be the way forward.
But as the world of work evolves and the demand for 100% remote working increases, businesses with traditional offices may need to adapt to the changes sooner rather than later to stay in the game.