June 09, 2012, 7:24 AM — The virtual workforce. Telecommuting. Mobility baked into everything. The cloud.
Nearly all the big trends facing small companies doing business in the '10s speak to the increasing irrelevance of one of the hallmarks of the working world: the office.
We've all worked there, whether we had an individual office with a window and a door, or just a small patch of carpet in a sea of cubicles. And generally an office isn't a bad place to spend the day: It has climate control, an IT department to fix problems, and sometimes even free coffee. But most of all, offices offer camaraderie, and the chance for employees to have impromptu meetings and bounce ideas off one another.
Unfortunately, offices are also terribly, terribly expensive. Even in the down economy, real estate in a prime area such as midtown Manhattan can cost $50 per square foot per month and up, and that's not including utilities, furniture, and build-out expenses.
So maybe you don't need an office after all. With a largely mobile workforce that is often working from home, a car, or a nearby café, what's the point of stocking a fridge that no one will ever use? Why not ditch the office for good and go 100% office-free?
Many people already do this, but if your job involves more than just tapping away on your laptop and making the occasional phone call, running a company without an office can be challenging.
Here are the big issues--and how to address them.
Dealing With Employees
One of the biggest fears that many employers have about telecommuting is the worry that remote employees won't do their jobs. Leave staffers alone at home all day, and they'll just watch TV, do the laundry, or play hooky, leaving you to foot the bill for a day off. Those concerns seem to be misplaced, however. In fact, some studies have shown that employees who have more flexibility (including telecommuting options) work harder and longer than if they were at the office. This is why many employers are happy to outfit their staff with smartphones and laptops: A mobile device makes it incredibly easy to take your work home with you.