At Majestic Media, we operate in an almost completely virtual workspace.
We have an office in Argentina, but none in Canada. We decided to open up an office in Argentina because it made sense to have our CTO and technical leaders, learning from each other, and collaborating in the same space. But in Canada, that’s not the case. There is no office space. The sales, marketing, strategy and project management staff all work from home.
This allows us to reap many of the benefits that we otherwise wouldn’t have if we operated in a traditional workspace. Telecommuting has allowed us to hire abroad, accessing talent beyond our local community. We've also been able to cut out a great deal of overhead expenses.
Although telecommuting brings a lot of benefits, business owners are still hesitant to embrace the idea. They worry about employees taking advantage of working from home and assume that they will end up slacking off.
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We've actually found that working from home has made our team more productive. We've found that without the distractions of a traditional workspace, our employees are able to better focus on the task at hand and get more done. On top of more focused hours, the by-product of how we work has eliminated the time needed to commute to work, leaving more hours in the day to do personal related items. It helps us achieve great work-life balance.
In 2011, AT&T found that they had a 17% lower absentee rate among their telecommuters and that there was a 72% lower turnover rate. They also found that 95% of their employees either agreed or strongly agreed that they were more productive when they worked from home.
In a traditional workplace, employers often assume that when their employees are at their desk, they're working. The truth is, employees can just as easily slack off in the office as they can at home. When your employees telecommute, they're forced to account for how they spend their day.
Although telecommuting has worked for us, you can't just send your employees home and hope that they'll produce the same quality work as when they're in the office. Here are a few tips that have helped Majestic to become a successful telecommuting team:
1. THE IMPORTANCE OF STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE
Although all of our employees telecommute, we don't offer flexible hours. The majority of our team operates around a traditional workday. This helps our team to communicate more effectively. It also makes it easier to communicate with our clients who operate around a traditional workday.
2. A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
When operating in a virtual workspace, it's important that your team stays connected and remains a team. We utilize a variety of tools to keep our team connected throughout the day.
Skype, as well as a number of Google services, helps our international team to easily communicate with each other without worrying about expensive long distance charges. We also use Google Sites to create an internal wiki that serves as a centralized location for Majestic employees to review guidelines, holidays, and information about the company.
3. TELECOMMUTING ISN'T FOR EVERYONE
At Majestic Media, we're fortunate that the work we do doesn't require our team to be in the same room. Not all businesses have this luxury.
At the same time, not all employees have the discipline and focus to manage their time without being constantly monitored. It's important to hire employees that you can trust to get the work done without you having to constantly check in on them. Some people actually just can’t work from home. They prefer and thrive in an office environment.
Even though we all work from home, everyone is accountable for projects, work, and ensuring things are done on time and at an exceptional level of quality. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to spot when someone is slacking off.
We have systems in place where at any point in time, day or week, we know what everyone on our team has accomplished. Working from home isn’t a free ticket to “lets-do-nothing” land. You have to ensure you have the right check-in points to keep your ship heading in the right direction.
5. RESPECT THE RULES
Since a good fraction of our team works from home and we’re a global organization, we have very strict rules. Here’s some that we live by:
- We start at 8am and end the day at 5pm. No overtime. If we do have to, it’s on rare occasions.
- We have a buddy system. Everyone is paired up with someone. If they aren’t online by 8:15am, then their buddy gives them a call to see if everything is okay. It may sound controlling and crazy, but that’s how we found out that one of our engineers got into a motorcycle accident and was in serious condition.
- At 8am, everyone is logged in to our company’s chat system and Skype. At any point in the day, we should be able to call, ping or chat with colleagues.
- In exchange for not working overtime, we ask that all team members refrain from using social networks for personal use. It’s a respect thing: “I’ll make sure you never work overtime as long as you don’t misuse paid company time.”
These are some of the insights on how we achieved a very successful process of working from home, and being able to employ staff all over the world. We hope this helps the community and even large brands that are looking to make the move to telecommuting.