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MB&A is going virtual

In Yahoo vs. Remote Work I worried that Yahoo might experience some brain drain for the way in which it pulled its remote workforce "privileges." In Is remote work, too remote? I questioned if the type of work we did at MB&A required to much close in teamwork to effectively be accomplished by working remotely. I was surprised at the response from both posts. Particularly on govloop.com where some very strong opinions were shared on telework. That post prompted a response from Guy Clinch "Answering Joshua Millsapps Question: Is remote work, too remote?" which made me question some long held beliefs and do a little bit more research.

Eventually I found Remote: Office Not Required and started reading. The more I read the more I thought maybe this was something we should be considering. In fact our team sounded a lot like the folks at 37 signals. We have a strong culture, lots of high performers and as I thought more about it I was less worried about productivity and more worried about morale. The book put a lot of that fear behind me and the fact was our office was really only convenient to me. I liked having everyone close by because it was convenient for me. Everybody else was slogging an hour or more to get to Arlington, Virginia. The bottom line - the commute was terrible for everybody but me.

One of the things the book brings out is the way in which remote work refocuses manager on the real metrics worth watching -real productivity - not simply 9-5, plus a smile equals a job well done. It also points out that given the nature of the modern working world you aren't likely to be making that big of an impact by virtue of having people do their work at your facility other than helping yourself manage their chairs. Those inclined to spend the day watching YouTube are not going to be great employees no matter what office set up you have and the likelihood you'll notice is actually greater in a remote environment because it is so focused on productivity. We also did some number crunching. While our immediate savings from going virtual isn't anywhere near the 100 million dollars in annual savings reportedly saved by IBM - it was significant. So my partner and I talked about it and made the decision. 

As of December 1, Millsapps, Ballinger and Associates is officially virtual. We gave up our office space, our conference rooms and our hopefully our traditional attitudes. If it doesn't work we can always go back. One thing making the move easier is how much of our infrastructure was already virtual. We have a small development environment that needed to be moved but outside of that it was just shifting phones and faxes and working with each other to manage the transition. I have to say I'm excited by the experiment and while I'm still a little bit nervous about things will turn out I have to say I think it is going to be a smashing success.

I'll keep you all in the loop on what we learn a long the way. In the interim if you are considering going remote in whole or in part - check out Remote: Office Not Required - it convinced me that going remote was the best decision we could make for our long term future.  

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Tags: communications, human resources

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Comment by Joshua Millsapps on December 3, 2013 at 9:57am

We started doing more work from home over the last month to "practice." So far, so good. I have to say I was amazed at what the savings was once we looked at everything we spent to keep an office going. Not to mention what our employees were spending to get to and from, etc.

Comment by Terrence (Terry) Hill on December 3, 2013 at 9:53am

Good for you!  I'm sure that you will experience some "bumps" but find that this is a better work arrangement.  You can always use co-working or other community spaces for in-person meetings.  I thought that Remote was an easy, practical guide to implementing remote work.  It may not be for everyone, but there are a lot of government offices that should consider implementing a virtual office to save taxpayers and their employees money.

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