Every year I’m posting pictures and videos of my home office. If you feel nostalgic, feel free to check it out: 2008, 2009, 2010 (video), 2011, 2012 and 2013. Why home office? Well, because my home office is indeed my only real office. Even when running a company of over a dozen of full time people.
I always wanted to work from anywhere…
Back in the day when I was in college I was amazed how much I could get done together with my friend. We built a web app together in early 2000s. He was living and studying in Poland and I just moved to study in Germany. There was no Skype back then, no Github, he was on a dial-up connection… it was crazy, yet we built something (you can read more about it in my book “It’s all about passion”).
I was so amazed by it that I wrote my master thesis on virtual companies and teleworking in 2003… and the main premise of it was:
“work is not a place to go, it’s a thing that you do”.
Now I’m running a successful company called Nozbe and we all work from home. I’m living my dream… and here’s how we’re doing it:
It’s not like having an office is bad…
Just the other day I visited a friend who runs another successful Internet company and he’s building this great office for his growing team and he’s really proud of all this. And I think it’s great!
It’s great for him, but not for me. That’s all. I’m not saying teleworking and having a “virtual company” is superior to anything else. I just like the benefits of running a “teleworking only” company:
1. Freedom to live where you want to live
We have countless stories here. When I was building the first version of Nozbe I lived in three different countries, one after another, always following my wife as she was getting internships in different companies. Four years ago we moved again and it was no problem for me. I hired my CTO when he was in college in one city, but after graduating he wanted to move back to his home town. No problem. He can enjoy being a CTO of a thriving global company while living in his home town, close to his family and friends.
2. Trust is what matters, results is what counts
When you’re working in a virtual environment, being loud, attending all the meetings and faking productivity won’t get you far. You have to deliver results. You can’t just pretend to work. Well, you can, but not over a long period of time. In the end your results will speak for you. And I think this trust is something that brings us closer as we work from different parts of the world. When you deliver results it strengthens the trust you’re building among your peers.
3. Flexibility is great
Need to run some errands in the morning? Take your car to the local garage for some reason? No problem. Just communicate with your team, get this done and be back and work a little longer later. Feel like you’re most productive at night? Yes, you can. As long as you’re delivering results and moving us forward, you can work on your own schedule. In your own “time zone”. Just make sure your team knows about it and you’re all set.
4. Talent is everywhere
Common wisdom says to get top programmers, you need to get ones that live in San Francisco. I’m not so sure. I know there are great programmers in the Bay Area, but there are great coders everywhere in the world. You don’t need to set up an office in the downtown area of a big city… and when you’re running a “virtual team” you can hire a talented person from any place in the world… without requiring them to move their family closer to your office. I believe that by searching for talented people in smaller urban areas we enable them to have a great career in a great company without making them sacrifice their quality of life. My chief designer is from a different city than my product manager or my CTO… and I have all three of them working for the same company from totally different locations.
5. I love my home office… but I also like to move…
Working from home enables me to switch workplaces. I can work from a cafeteria, I can travel and work from anywhere… in fact, this past month I was traveling with my family and working from all the different places… and got lots of stuff done. Of course, when I’m on vacation, I’m on vacation… but when I’m simply moving while working at the same time… I still can. And of course, I’m the owner of the company… so I’m basically thinking about the business 24/7 anyway… :-)
Teleworking isn’t all that rose’y but it’s great for me and my team
It’s not like “teleworking” is the ultimate solution. It’s just something I love doing and a lifestyle I love having. And it’s hard at times, too. You have to keep an eye on your work-life balance a lot more… and your team has to learn that, too. Not everyone can work like this, not everyone can find self-motivation to wake up in the morning and start working right away… without going to work. It’s not easy but I think it’s worth it. I just love to work like this.
Let me end this with something Delfina, my Chief (Customer) Happiness Officer, told me the other day:
“Michael, if you ever intend to set up a nice office somewhere downtown with nice office equipment and all the perks… that’s all great and all, just don’t make me go there!”
And yes, we’re a small team, running a small Internet company and people keep telling me that when we “grow up” we’ll need to have one central office… but as I remember while talking to Marten Mickos - MySQL had 500 full time employees and most working remotely… so I still have room to scale :-)
Question: Have you been working from home? Do you have any tips, tricks, ideas for teleworking? Would you want to try working from home?