As a virtual entrepreneur myself, I totally get why people prefer to work at home. For me it’s simple. I want to take part in my children’s lives and spend more time with my wife. This just isn’t possible for me working a traditional 8 to 5 job with a commute. I’m also a very diligent worker. I can accomplish more in 4 or 5 hours of focused time than most can accomplish in a full 8 hour day. I use the rest of that time for exercise, running errands, having lunch with my wife, or whatever else I want to do. Again, this just isn’t possible when you have a normal career that forces you into an office.
Now, I’m a little different from your average worker these days because I own my own business and I get to set the rules. But while I’m different right NOW than the average worker, I’m a glimpse at the future for every worker and every company.
You see, I have a rule in my company, if we can’t do it virtually, we don’t do it. There’s only one exception to that and that is when I’m asked by an organization to come speak. Even then, I focus on conference calls when possible instead of live events. The reason for this goes back to early 2001 when I first started traveling as the VP of a small software company. I was on the road 328 days out of the year and barely knew my wife and daughter. To put it bluntly, it sucked. Always on the road and always living out of a suitcase with little or no time to enjoy life. Sure the money was great, but my lifestyle was in the toilet.
So in 2004 I made a lifestyle change when I launched my business coaching and consulting company. I was at home every night, but still out on the road during the day killing myself with meeting after meeting and seeing prospects face to face. While this was a great step forward, it still consumed all of my day. I missed bringing my girls to school and lunches with my wife. But I still did it this way for a couple of years.
In 2009, I started looking at business models that made more sense and the Virtual Model jumped out at me. Why should I have to go to endless meetings, meet prospects in their office, and hold my coaching sessions on site with clients? It didn’t make sense. So I decided to make a switch and go completely virtual by 2010.
The results have been amazing! Business is booming, I get to bring my girls to school and pick them up each day, I go to lunch with my wife and we work out together at least 3 times a week.
This brings me to the Number 1 reason companies will go virtual by 2020; LIFESTYLE! My lifestyle and quality of life have gone up 10 fold. And there has never been a time in history where people have wanted their dream lifestyle more than today. The search for our dream lifestyle is at the core of each and every one of us and can’t be ignored. It’s the eventual promise of a great lifestyle (usually referred to as retirement) that gets us out of bed every morning and keeps us going to the jobs. Pretty soon, people won’t be willing to wait until they “retire” to claim the lifestyle that is rightfully theirs. And its this shift in culture that will propel most of the change necessary to make virtual companies the norm.
The Number 2 reason is Technology. Technology today is so advanced that you really don’t need to be in an office chained to a desk anymore. There are simple apps for the iPhone, iPad, PC or Mac, that will allow you to video conference with anyone anywhere in the world at a moments notice, FOR FREE! Not to mention great apps like Skype that allow you to call your clients, colleagues, and friends all over the world for free. Just this morning I was on the line with South Africa at 9 am and then Philadelphia by 10 am. Take that one step further with document sharing and online storage tools like dropbox.com and you see what an amazing world we live in. And I truly believe that apple hasn’t even touched the surface yet with the iPad that has already changed the way I do business and will for years to come. Don’t even get me started on-screen sharing technology. It’s a whole can of worms itself. The technology will only get stronger.
The Number 3 reason is Acceptance. We have now come into time and culture that is quick to accept new things. As cultures have shifted at home and become more accepting of different social trends, these same people in the workforce are more accepting of trends in the workplace and from companies that supply them products and services. The more this happens the more the acceptance grows and over the last 10 years we’ve seen an increase in at home workers and entrepreneurs. The key part of this that translates into more companies using this model is that CUSTOMERS and CLIENTS will accept that this is OK. That acceptance paves the way for MASS distribution of the virtual model in every business known to mankind.
The Number 4 reason is Social Media. Social media has played a huge role in the acceptance factor. The reason is that it has basically immersed a large portion of the population into technology tools that get you to communicate remotely with other people. Thus making those forms of communication more acceptable to nearly everyone. It’s also helped train people to communicate remotely. Believe it or not, communication skills were the biggest barrier to going virtual. Now that people have the tools and are training themselves to communicate virtually, the biggest barriers are GONE!
The Number 5 reason is Cutting Costs. This factor is usually the turning point for most companies when they realize how much money they can save by going virtual. For instance, do you know how much office space costs? Well, the answer is A LOT! Even in a recession, it’s still expensive. Going virtual eliminates the need for extra office space. So if you want to grow, but don’t want the office space you can just go virtual and you have no increase to your overhead. In some cases, that can save a company 50 to 75% on just their rental lease alone. Then we get into purchasing desks, phones, lamps, printers, computers, paying for extra utilities and all the stuff that goes with each employee you bring into an office space. That stuff gets expensive! With the virtual model, all those costs are gone.
And if you use a company that specializes in virtual staffing you can cut even more costs. For example, do you know how much time it takes to screen, recruit, and interview an applicant? Quite a bit… What if you could connect with a virtual staffing company and give them your criteria for an employee and be given three applicants to choose from without you doing the due diligence? Would that save you some time and money? You bet it would. And when they work for someone else, you don’t pay HR costs, benefits, unemployment, etc. It’s a huge win for you.
The Number 6 reason is Customer Service. Once you cut costs, you can really focus on enhancing your customer service by hiring and training better people and doing so more often. This takes your customer service level through the roof. Also imagine being able to increase or decrease your staff based on the demands of your customers? Pretty cool if you ask me. And ramp up time is cut drastically because you don’t need to order a PC, get their “cube” setup, get with HR and get their “package” ready, etc. So the speed from concept to implementation is much faster. You can literally have an idea on Monday and be implementing it hours or just days later. This all translates into a better experience for your customers and that my friend is what drives business. Just ask Zappos, the fastest company to ever go from zero to a billion dollars in revenue.
The 7th reason is Demand. Believe it or not, by 2014 the government is predicting that there will be a shortage of highly skilled workers in many fields. And just like with the laws of supply and demand, the best workers will have a say in their work environment or they will go work for the competition. The number one thing they will demand more than money by 2020 is to work from home. Many will even take a pay cut to do it.
Bonus 8th reason…… Entrepreneurs. My bonus reason is that entrepreneurs will truly embrace this concept and infuse it in the DNA of their people. As this happens it will spread and grow through organizations until it completely saturates the market. During this time you will start to see more technology and more business models that focus on this virtual concept. As this happens, the acceptance level will rise and enforce the model even more. Companies will see the cost savings and benefits and pursue the model even more. Trust me when I say it’s coming to a job near you.