I’ve worked for companies that are fully virtual, for companies that are fully office-based, and for many companies somewhere in-between. I’ve landed quite firmly on the belief that fully virtual companies have many benefits over office-based or semi-virtual companies. Here are 10 reasons why virtual companies are the best:
Access to the best global talent
Let’s start with the obvious: The pool of talent with which a fully remote company can draw from is substantially larger. Being a virtual company allows you to recruit and hire the best people regardless of where they live. And, if geography does matter, companies can recruit and hire their employees in the locations that are most advantageous—focusing efforts beyond areas where they have offices.
Consistent employee experience
Office-based companies that have multiple offices, employees that work remotely— even employees that travel—create vastly different experiences for their employees. Sure, team meetings are great for anyone in the office, but they can frequently be challenging for those who are calling in. Not only can these employees not read the white board, they can’t even read the tone of the room in the same way as those who are physically there. For fully virtual companies, however, everybody is remote—even the whiteboard. With everyone calling in virtually, more attention gets spent ensuring that every team member has the same access to content and the same ability to participate—it simply creates a more consistent experience.
No real estate costs leads to more money to invest in the team and the company.
Office space is expensive. And, in some markets, it can be very expensive. This represents a significant amount of operating capital committed across a long period of time—even as needs can quickly evolve and change. How many companies were paying for empty offices when their employees couldn’t come to the office over the last two years? And how hard are they trying to get their employees to return? What if they could just sidestep these costs completely? Because without this cost, fully virtual companies are more nimble in their spending and investment. In fact, remote working can cut operational costs by up to one third. This means that companies can afford to pay their teams more, can invest in more technology, and can focus more on the growth and improvement of the company itself. They can also shift investments with more agility in response to marketplace opportunities.
There are many reasons why it’s increasingly difficult for employees working for an in-office company to move and keep their job: the company might not have an office in the place the employee wants to move, or they simply might not be able to make accommodation for a remote employee. Fully virtual companies offer much more flexibility for employees to relocate and new research shows 9.3% of people, or nearly 20 million Americans, are planning on moving as a result of increased remote working opportunities . This means that people aren’t forced to make difficult choices between the needs of their personal and professional lives. Which brings us to our next point:
In-office companies often make it more challenging to juggle demands from your personal life. Need to be home to let in a maintenance person? Need to take your dog to a vet appointment? Want to go have a quick lunch with your son at school? Did Amazon deliver a package that you worry about leaving on your front porch all day? There are plenty of life's struggles that are made a lot harder for those who work from an office miles away from where they live. Sure, you can ask your boss to leave and take care of these things, but you have to worry about whether you are developing a reputation as somebody that is always off running some personal errand. When your boss decides to walk by your cube, will you be there? Will this hurt your ability to be promoted? In a fully virtual company, most employees work from home. Many things that would take 30-60 minutes to run home and do, can be done in minutes without all the added stress and anxiety.
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that companies need to be “future ready” in the face of unavoidable events. How do you adapt when your employees can’t come to the office because of a pandemic? Do all your employees even have laptops? What happens if your office building is damaged by fire, flood, earthquake or other natural disaster? What happens if you have an office in an area that is caught up in a military conflict? Fully virtual companies have employees that are able to be more nimble in how they respond to all kinds of crises. And, this allows these employees to return to their professional lives much faster.
Remote team members have different access to opportunity as their in-office colleagues. They’re seen as less equipped to manage others, or to partner with strategically because it’s believed that these kinds of activities “require” an in-office presence. In some companies, it can even be challenging for employees to transfer to different teams within the company because of where those teams are geographically located. Fully virtual companies don’t care where you live, they care if you’re the most qualified candidate for promotion. In this way, virtual companies are even more flexible in accommodating employees' desires to try new things and explore different departments.
Dress for success
These days, most offices expect everyone one to dress in business casual attire. This means most in-office employees have huge portions of their closet dedicated to “work clothes.” This can be expensive to purchase—not to mention the dry cleaning expense. In a fully virtual company, you can look at the day you have scheduled and decide when it makes sense to dress up for video calls and when it’s fine to spend the day in your pjs. You can even keep a dress shirt on a hanger next to your workspace just in case you need one for an unplanned video call.
Controllable work environment
Offices can be quite distracting—whether it’s noise from hallway conversations, meetings in adjacent cubes, or the ringing of phones. With the ever-popular “open floor plan” it can be hard to find a quiet space where you can work without interruptions. There’s also the well-studied phenomenon of office buildings being a sauna in the winter and ice-cold in the summer. Sometimes, the temperature even changes in your cube as the sun changes sides of the building. In a fully virtual company, you have the power to curate your workstation, prioritize healthy habits, and minimize distractions, all in the comfort of your own home.
A more equitable workplace
When it comes to creating a working environment that promotes equity, working from home shows quite a bit of promise. It can promote organizational diversity by giving access to employment to groups that could benefit from more flexibility.
For example, we know that women are much more likely to worry if having children will derail their career and are statistically more likely to be tasked with overseeing the care of elderly parents, children, and children with special needs. Remote work provides women with increased flexibility that can make a real difference.
We also see that workers from marginalized communities are more likely to choose a remote working environment. Future Form reported that just 3% of Black knowledge workers (vs 21% of their white counterparts) wanted to return to the office after working remotely during the pandemic. Fully virtual companies can also provide better opportunities for people with physical challenges or disabilities.
While remote work doesn’t offer long-term solutions to the very real underlying discrimination that takes place across the board, but it could help address some of the symptoms in the short-term.
Where are things headed?
In the later part of the pandemic, there’s been a dramatic increase in work from home (WFH) opportunities across many industries. It’s an exciting trend that stands to benefit both employers and employees in the long-term. However, there’s a real tangible difference between a company that sometimes does WFH and one that always does WFH. Fully WFH companies are forced to consider and address things that are more of an option for occasional WFH companies. For employees of occasional WFH, this not only limits the flexibility they experience, it limits their access to opportunities as well.
Remote from the start
One great thing about aytm is that we have been fully remote since our founding. We aren’t in the process of adapting to a remote workforce. We aren’t working out the kinks and trying to figure it out. We have built the company around this foundational idea and it is fully baked into every part of the business.