How to determine whether going officeless will work for your business

Twenty-first technology makes working remotely much more feasible than it used to be. The speed of email, instant messaging, project management apps, screen sharing and remote meeting software all make telecommuting possible.

According to Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast, 34 million Americans work from home. And this number is expected to reach 63 million – 43 percent of the U.S. workforce – by 2016. Although most companies are still working in traditional offices, more business owners are considering the benefits of remote offices.

Is a remote office right for your company? Here are some points to consider:

Employees will appreciate the freedom and flexibility. Working remotely means that employees can choose to move without disrupting their careers. They don’t have to take a whole day off to wait for the cable guy to show up “between 2 and 4.” They can work in the evenings or crazy early in the morning if they want. Employees who can more effectively juggle the work/life balance are less stressed and ultimately better workers.

  1. You can hire the best employees regardless of location. When you are limited to hiring someone in the area or who is willing to relocate, you won’t always get the best man or woman for the job. But if you can choose employees based solely on what they can contribute to your company, you’ll have a huge advantage over the competition. And when good employees want to move, you won’t lose them and have to start the hiring process all over again.
  2. Communication is key. When everyone works in the same office space, communication happens naturally. (Sometimes too much of it, in wasted time at the “water cooler” or in unnecessary meetings.) In order to maintain proper communication, a remote office has to be set up with tools and equipment for staying in touch. Each employee will have to have a webcam and camera, and you may even need more expensive equipment like projectors. Project management apps and instant messaging can go a long way toward keeping the lines of communication open.
  3. A remote office is not necessarily cheaper. True, you will be saving on rent and electricity, but communication technology and travel expenses may end up costing as much, if not more, than maintaining an office.
  4. Some work is better done in an office. According to a study published in the Wall Street Journal, employees doing technical and repetitive work benefited from the office environment, while those charged with more creative tasks succeeded more when they worked remotely. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, famously put an end to remote working at the company, claiming that teamwork was possible only if all employees were present in the office.

In order to determine whether telecommuting is a good idea for your business, assess the benefits and drawbacks for the type of work that you do. Ask your employees if a remote office works for them. Think about how to build a company culture and encourage communication without an office. A good way to test out remote working is by implementing it on a limited trial basis or part-time. Then, if it doesn’t seem to be working, you can easily go back to business as usual. And if it’s wildly successful, you can let go of your office entirely.