The time has come to embrace the benefits of the virtual office

When clients ask about my company’s location, they’re usually surprised by my answer. Jennasis & Associates doesn’t have one. When I started the company in 2011, I wanted to create a virtual marketing firm that not only would be leading edge in our work, but also bridge the gap of the seemingly mythical work-life balance that many of us crave.

Work-life balance is different for each of us. For some, we want the ability to care for ailing parents, be home with small children or be available to attend our school-age kids Valentine’s Day party. Others may simply be more productive working on project-based tasks in the location of their choosing. For me, I desired flexibility in my schedule for my kids and I found that I could accomplish this by helping clients grow their businesses and achieve their marketing goals from a virtual office.

Regardless of your motivation, the key to building a thriving, remote workforce is the same: trust. It is crucial to hire the right team members and to develop a culture on this foundation.

Many business leaders fear the idea of trusting a team that is not onsite daily. Yet holding employees to a brick-and-mortar routine doesn’t necessarily guarantee productivity. In fact, recent studies show that on average, individuals who work eight hours in an office setting are truly only productive for two hours and 53 minutes of the day. That is not only a waste of valuable resources, it’s also a waste of their time. 

By building a virtual team, you can empower your team members to accomplish tasks in the way that works best for them — and allow them to be present in their personal lives as well. Team members are challenged to prioritize their day to get through tasks — and do so willingly to maintain the benefits of a virtual lifestyle. In my experience, this motivates employees to be more productive. 

Your business also benefits by gaining the abilities to reduce overhead, attract top talent (particularly millennials) and keep up with the ongoing ebb and flow of work due to seasonality, trade show seasons, etc.

Strong leadership is required with virtual teams. The need to keep employee and company growth goals and productivity on track is imperative. How you manage your team will likely look different than in traditional business. 

Fortunately, with technology today (Google Hangouts, Zoom calls, Slack, etc.), it is easier than ever to stay in contact with team members and to monitor progress of projects and to promote collaboration, creativity and community. Although we work from different locations, we diligently use these tools to maintain excellent accountability and quality.

Leading the virtual charge within my own business has helped us to double the company’s revenue over the past year. I’ve accomplished this while still focusing on being present with my family as a new wife and mother of three.

With the right people and processes in place, don’t fear what your business may lose in a virtual environment — fear what you could be missing out on by clinging to a traditional one.

Jennifer Malcolm is president and CEO at Jennasis & Associates