When I was in the corporate world not so long ago, I recall being envious of the agency types who would come into our boardrooms to pitch us on creative or PR work. Typically, they were dressed as though even casual Fridays were too stuffy for them. As I sat across from them in my suit, I found myself daydreaming about what it would be like to be so relaxed at work.
Lately, I have come to realize that those agencies were onto something — not only in the way their people dressed, but in the environments they embraced. I think we’re seeing corporate America come to realize this as well. There’s a noticeable shift from a conventional business environment to one that better serves employers, employees and clients alike.
The most striking difference has to do with the time people are actually spending in offices. Before email and cell phones, most jobs meant going into an office for a minimum of 40 hours a week, usually more. Over time, that began taking a toll on employees, leaving many feeling they were trading life for work.
These days, more corporations are realizing what forward-thinking agencies have known all along: a more flexible, relaxed environment yields happier employees and greater results. Decision-makers are reconsidering whether it’s imperative for everyone to be in the same office every day.
Late in 2014, I decided to put this to the test and start my own virtual agency. And so 13 After was born. What I have discovered is that both the process and the results have far exceeded my expectations.
I thought we might run into issues with clients wanting to come to our office, but I have found the exact opposite to be true. In one recent instance, when I requested a meeting at a client location to discuss a major project, I was met with the response, “Actually, we are really busy. Can we just handle this via email?” And we did.
In fact, most things can be handled via email, phone call or web conference these days. In the rare event that office space is needed for a meeting, there are multiple opportunities in most cities for businesses to rent space for a day or an hour. (Here is one of our favorite new options for office rentals in the Atlanta market: http://www.industriousoffice.com).
I have come to realize that, for the virtual office environment, the time is right. The smartest agencies and most forward-thinking corporations realize that there is little justification for the overhead of our grandparents’ offices.
Perhaps most encouraging is that our clients agree. Katherine Mosley, Development Director at TriBridge Residential, has this to say: “I think it’s very smart, and I agree that a virtual environment will play a big role in the future of marketing agencies and many other businesses. I’ve dealt with a number of different agencies in my career. What I have discovered in working with 13 After for more than a year now is that the virtual environment seems to have led to happy employees within their organization who are eager to meet our deadlines. Moreover, I enjoy the fact that prices are not increasing year over year at the standard agency pace as the firm is able to keep overhead costs to a minimum.”
Other clients understand and appreciate that we are keeping our prices as low as possible by continuing to operate in this virtual environment. From this side, the employees of 13 After could not be happier. The flexibility and work-life balance is a life changer. Our associates’ ability to determine their own schedules makes each work day something to look forward to.
For myself, I am comfortable in my casual clothes and my new work environment. Our agency will continue to embrace this new way of doing business.
We see it as one more competitive edge for 13 After and one more reason for our clients to love doing business with us.
About the Author: Dean Boswell