How to Make Remote Working Work: Lessons from Fully Distributed Teams

I run two virtual companies, employing over 100 people combined. When I first started out, potential employees were horrified to learn that we had no high-rise office with appending copy machine and bad coffee. It helped separate the committed from the drifters.

Today it has come together almost seamlessly, teams meet outside of their wooden cubicles (we try to recruit 2 – 5 people in 20 miles of driving distance from each other) they meet in cafes, take walks in parks and I regularly impose (voted on) yoga, spa, golf, karaoke meetings – [turnout varies]. We don’t have office overheads, so we are free to create more fun and rewarding days together. GWYGA is a team building company, so we live and breathe togetherness.

We also provide rewards for doing out of company activities that involve meeting new people. This has proved to be hugely successful with employees and for the business. We actually got a press piece in a major HR publication from one of our employees meeting someone on an Italian Cookery course.

In creating this structure I followed my belief that if people can choose their environment and the time that they want to work, they are happier and truly more balanced and this translates into more profits. I also thought it would attract a better breed of talent, people who are self-motivated and deeply committed. In fact, I find virtual employees more committed – and I often have to reprimand people for working too hard!

Creativity is endless when you feel like you’re in control of your world. No clocking in, no one watching to see how long of a lunch break you take – for me, as long as my team gets the work done, I don’t care if they only work from 2am-6am!

The five-day office working week, is something people accept with too much readiness. I think working less leads to greater quality work.  Everyone benefits from it and health wise, and a healthy body means a healthy mind.

On a long term basis, financial revenues are not the most important, but ideas and knowledge contributing to feeding your businesses creativity. After all, we are now in the knowledge economy, not the industrial age. If either of my companies is around in 100 years, they won’t be doing what they do today and I need the best and brightest and committed minds to shape that future.

Although there have been hiccups along the way; you find the odd person who is happy to do nothing and you have to fire them, it has really been far and few between. Both virtual businesses work well principally because our people are committed to the mission of the company. That’s the most important foundation to lay, and without this, the house of cards crumbles with or without brick and mortar support.

What do you think? Can you imagine the world without offices?

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