Who Needs an Office Anyway?

A brief description of a designer’s move from working in an office to working remotely from home.

In 2017 myself and my colleagues started MAX, a design company specialising in design and visual communication through 3D, animation, design and print, and online/mobile creativity. Previously we were Max and Co and wanted to continue (and improve on) the quality and service that Max and Co were known for.

From the outset however, we made a decision that would constitute a radical change to our previous working situation, we decided that we would work from our homes.

How I work

So now my office is in my home (or a cafe if the situation fits), and it has its pros and cons of course, but generally it suits me. I’ve always found that I worked better at home on the days that I didn’t go into the office as there are fewer distractions, internal meetings, banter etc.

I have created an efficient work-space with everything I need at hand, and modern technology allows me to do everything I used to do in an office environment.

Working from home doesn’t mean that you and your colleagues are less of a team and it’s important to maintain the team ethos by having weekly meetings and keeping up regular communication.

It is easy to have video and chat using VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) software, and we use this for our weekly production meetings, regular client meetings and, by using screen sharing can sometimes be more productive than being in a meeting room with a client.

Of course, it is also very important to meet up with colleagues and clients face-to-face and a lot of our clients prefer us to come to their office for meetings, so not having an office is irrelevant in those circumstances.

How does it affect clients?

As mentioned above, technology makes communication very easy and flexible these days and a lot of MAX’s clients are not in the UK anyway, so VOIP plus email and telephone all play a part in providing a good service to our clients. Even when we worked in an office, meetings were held using VOIP.

Although you can rent meeting rooms and invite clients to meet with you, we have found that local clients prefer it if we visit them for meetings as it reduces their time spent travelling and works out more productive for them.

By working from home, our overheads are reduced, a saving that benefits our clients and makes us more competitive.

Positives

The benefits of working from home are that we can be very flexible, and our costs are reduced, which gets passed on to our client as savings on the work we produce.

There are other indirect positives from working at home such as, we no longer have to commute to work which also has an environmental benefit. It also means that as soon as we stop working, we are relaxing at home and not having to spend the next half hour or so travelling before we can relax, which makes your working day seem much longer.

We are all comfortable at home with our own things around us, being able to make a proper lunch, and even just having a cup of tea in the garden can all help make work feel a bit more enjoyable.

Negatives

It all sounds great to be getting up and spending the day in our pyjamas, having breaks whenever we feel like it, and being more autonomous, but it’s not necessarily ****the idyll that you imagine.

One of the main things you notice is the risk of feeling socially isolated. This will depend on what you do of course and if a lot of your time is spent going to meetings and being out and about, then this will be less of an issue.

There is also the potential for you and your colleagues to work less as a team due to the simple fact that you are no longer in the same building. As discussed earlier, it’s important to work on communication and use technology as well as organising face-to-face meeting with colleagues.

Essentials and things to consider

So you decide to take the plunge and adopt a work from home model for yourself/company/staff, what are the essential considerations? Hopefully, these few pointers will help plan for the change:

Internet – essential, the better the quality/speed the better VOIP – being able to chat with people on webcam or just chat windows is essential for both client and staff communications. There are lots of options such as Skype, WhatsApp etc Backup – a robust back-up system that everyone can adhere to. A cloud-based back-up is very useful when you work across separate locations, but you have to be aware of file security, confidentiality, GDPR etc. Filing System – in our business we have lots of files of various types and sizes so it could be an issue making sure that everyone follows a standard filing system to avoid duplication on backups etc. in your business as well. Separate Workspace – this isn’t an essential, but it helps to create an area or have a separate room where you go to work. I could fill an entire blog with just this, but basically, you don’t want to be working on your coffee table and having to set up your work area at the start of the day then clear it all away when you finish. It also has a psychological benefit to not work in the same place you relax, eat, sleep etc. Self Discipline – this will be an issue for some people more than others, whether an office full of people, chatter, telephones etc. is more of a distraction, or working at home where there are chores to do, television etc. will be a personal thing. Luckily, I’m not a fan of daytime TV or chores and have always found that I focus better at home on my own. When working at home, you will need to ensure that you have the self-discipline and focus required to perform at work.

The verdict

Over and above the considerations, pros and cons listed above, I think it’s worth adding my personal thoughts and experiences on what it’s been like working from home over the last year and a bit.

I personally like working at home and the sense of ‘taking control of my time’ that I’ve experienced. As a director of the company I obviously have a degree of autonomy that someone who works from home as a staff member won’t share, but the self-discipline and focus needed are the same. We are still accountable for our time and output but also share a degree of liberation that I never felt in an office.

We’ve had some small problems, but overall, things are better and I don’t feel any desire to get back to an office-based working environment. The reduction in travelling alone makes the change feel worth it.