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Is a Remote Office All It’s Cracked Up to Be? Maybe.

For the past few years, Carlos and I have had a dream. We want to travel more. But we don’t necessarily want to take long periods of time off from work.

One night, over a bottle (or two) of wine, we got to talking. What if we didn’t have to choose between work and travel? What if we simply packed up our laptops and ran our business from a remote office?

We would still hustle, of course, but we would hustle from a coworking space in Spain or an apartment in Morocco.

And when we’re not traveling, we could work from our home office. If we need to meet with our team, we can all get together at a coffee shop or go out for lunch.

It sounds so perfect, right?

My Remote Work Journey

To be honest, I wasn’t always on the remote work train.

In the past, when one of our employees had asked to work from home full-time, I said no way. At the time, I believed the only way to ensure everyone was operating at max levels of productivity was to have them working in our office.

I wasn’t exactly being fair. Carlos and I worked from home fairly often. But this was our business; there could never be a question of whether we were busting our butts.

But for someone on our team to work full-time from home? I don’t think so.

It was an old school way of thinking. But since then, my thinking has evolved. To be fair, the whole world has evolved.

I started seeing stories about tech companies in California that were fully remote and held their meetings in coffee shops. I read about even more progressive companies that skipped the coffee shop altogether, allowing their teams to work remotely from all corners of the globe.

I also read about software that offered these forward-thinking companies new tools to help monitor productivity, increase communication among remote teams and reduce feelings of isolation.

While the legal field as a whole is often slow to adopt new technology and workflows (we lawyers are famous for our “everything is fine, why change it?” mindset), I decided I wanted our firm to be one of the first to embrace a remote team environment.

It was a complete about-face. In the battle of Traditional Law Firm vs. New Law Firm, I suddenly found myself rooting for the underdog.

The Benefits of a Remote Office

For Carlos and me, it’s not just about travel. Right now, our office — as much as we love it — feels like an anchor. It’s this place we HAVE to be.

If we go remote, we could work from anywhere. Even just our home.

And this time, so could our team. We were positive everyone would love this new option. Who wants to waste hours sitting in traffic, hunting for a parking space or even figuring out what to wear each morning? I imagined how happy our team would be when they found out they could swap their commute for a workout session or spending time with family.

Then there were our clients. We already meet with many of our clients over video conferences and other telemeeting services. Carlos and I imagined how happy clients would be when we told them how much this new model would reduce our overhead, increase efficiency and ultimately save them money.

We couldn’t wait to see the grins on everyone’s faces.

The Big Reveal

Our big reveal didn’t exactly go as planned.

Our staff, even those who had asked to work remotely in the past, were resistant.

One employee worried we would cut her hours or terminate her. In her current role, she’s responsible for a lot around the office, including welcoming guests, tidying up the meeting spaces and checking the mail. She’s spent her whole life working in an office and was scared she couldn’t offer value if she couldn’t greet our guests and serve them coffee. I tried to reassure her that we would never cut her hours and would find other tasks for her to perform from home, but my promises were met with apprehension.

Others worried about the human factor of embracing a remote office. We have a pretty great team. Everyone gets along well and we’re famous for our afternoon joke sessions and impromptu conversations. Clients are known to pop in just to say hi.

Sure, you could get around these cons with regular in-person meetings and group lunches. But when it comes to team-building, nothing beats the close quarters of a shared office.

The Decision

After hearing our employees’ feedback, we found ourselves at a crossroads. Do we pursue our dream? Or do we sacrifice it for the camaraderie of the status quo?

We asked for signs and we got them. When our landlords heard we may be moving out, they pleaded with us to stay. We received a string of unexpected visitors, each of whom complimented our office layout and decorations. It was like the world was telling us to stay.

So we listened. We renewed our lease and decided to stay put. At least for now.

As we’re settling back into our old routine, we’re realizing that this isn’t an either-or decision. Just because our employees love coming into the office every day doesn’t mean Carlos and I can’t work remotely for a month or two from Europe or the Caribbean. And there’s always the option to reduce overhead by embracing a split schedule where everyone works from home part of the week.

We have a lot to explore in the coming months, but for the time being, I’m going to embrace the joys of having an office. Even as I’m writing this, a visitor just stopped by to drop off some chocolates.

I’m grateful, because after all the stress of thinking about going remote, I’m craving some sweets.


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