Office Innovations Add Real Value
November 17, 2014
Paid for Time vs. Paid for Value
Would you rather be paid for the time you spend in an office doing whatever it is you do, or would you rather be paid for the value you add to the business for which you work? How you answer that question says a lot about your character, who you are, what kind of employee you are, and whether you are currently stuck in a job or pursuing a fulfilling career.
Let’s ask a similar question to someone with an employer’s perspective. Would you rather pay an employee based on the time they spend working for your business or based on the value they add to your business? Smart employers would rather pay employees based on value added by the employee to the business, because doing so ensures that the employee’s incentives are aligned with the business’s incentives for maximum mutual benefit from the employee’s labor.
So, why are we still punching clocks? This video from RSA Animate, featuring Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, presents a perspective on what might be possible if more organizations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture. Of course, doing that requires a shift in the way we look at employment–a shift away from paying people just for warming seats in an office and toward compensating them based on the value they add to the business for which they work.
The Obsolete Office
I was recently at a meeting of property management professionals, doing a bit of networking and learning about the great community that is starting to coalesce in the property management industry in my hometown. I sat at a table full of people and introduced myself. We started conversing, and the girl sitting next to me asked me, “So, do you have an office here in [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][my hometown]?”
“I used to,” I replied, “but having a physical office wasn’t making me any money. So, now I don’t. Now, my office is [in a different place], but I still work here and in Nashville and in other places where my clients are–I go to them, instead of making them come to me, if it’s necessary for us to meet.”
“So you work from home,” she pressed.
“I have a virtual office. I work from wherever I happen to be or wherever my clients need me to be.”
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” she condescendingly remarked.
“It’s more than that,” I said. “It saves me money, helping me offer competitive prices to my clients, and it helps me provide better service to my clients by saving them the time and stress that would attend having to come to my office to meet with their lawyer.”
She didn’t really have a response to that. What could she say, really? She had already formed an opinion about me, and a rather incorrect one, at that. She presumed that I have a home office because I cannot afford to rent or buy office space. The truth is I have made a choice to live in the 21st century, and use technology to free myself from being chained to an office.
We no longer live in a world in which one has to travel to a destination where there is infrastructure that enables you to do your job. Obviously, there are still such jobs, but, more and more, professionals are able to work from nearly anywhere, because they can be connected to their colleagues, co-workers, employees, employers, clients, and so on through the internet, cell phones, email, virtual meeting software, cloud computing, etc., etc. The world of work in the 21st century has made offices more-or-less obsolete.
What many if not most employers are concerned about is control. Employers worry that if employees do not have to come to an office where their work behavior can be monitored and controlled, if they are not in a tightly controlled, structured environment, they will cease to add value to the business. The problem with this is also closely tied to how employees are paid. Rather than being paid for adding value, many employees are paid for punching a clock, 9 to 5 or 8 to 4 or whatever.
Before I formed Executive Legal Professionals, I was waking up, putting on a suit, driving 30–40 minutes to my office, working, eating lunch (either one I packed or one I purchased–usually the latter; so, more expensive), working a bit more, and then driving back to my house, another 30–40 minutes, where I would not be in an ideal environment for getting anything done, because all my files and my work computer and everything were at the office.
Now, my business model with Executive Legal Professionals is designed around being nimble, flexible, and using technology to free me from the need to waste an hour or two every day on the road, commuting to an office, not to mention the unnecessary expense of even having a physical office outside my home. I still get up, get dressed, and go to work, but instead of driving down the road, I walk down the hall. Instead of eating out, I make myself a meal at home, saving time and money.
By adopting a 21st-century approach to my work environment, I have improved my efficiency and effectiveness, lowered my costs of doing business, and gained quality of life I never would have if I still had a physical office. I still meet my clients, but instead of having them come to my office, I go to theirs, or I meet them in a coffee shop or a Regus office. My clients love this, because it saves them time and hassle, and it is a refreshing change from what they expect from an attorney.
There once might have been a time when working from home was something one only did if he could not afford an office. Now, building into your business plan the use of a home office as an alternative to high-overhead commercial real estate can be evidence of a commitment to doing things the best way–not just the way they have always been done, before. Right now, it would be foolish for me to have an office outside my home. There would be costs without commensurate benefits. Someday–perhaps, even, someday soon–that equation will be different, but for now, “I work from a virtual office,” is not just a “nice way of putting it,” it’s a luxury I enjoy, a luxury that has benefits that make my business stronger, make my clients happier, and allow me to do what I do better.
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