It is not uncommon for technology workers to work off site from time to time. This is especially true when a quite environment is required to achieve an important deadline. I have been known to solve complex problems in a few hours in my home office, where the same problem had stumped me for days at work
This increase in productivity is especially evident with senior designers, perhaps because they have all the skills they need to complete their tasks. There are times when I seek out distractions to get second opinions or a fresh perspective on a problem and during these times the work environment is invaluable. There is of course, the mentoring of others that only happens in the work environment… or does it?
The company that I am working for at the moment uses Skype as a tool for team members to communicate, in the same room or across great distances. Part of the team is in Romania, part in Quebec and part in Ontario. Team members work from home offices, customer sites and our own offices. When designers get blocked they reach out to the community using a Skype group chat and usually get an answer within a few minutes. When working on a customer site, it is important to be perceived as highly productive, professional and competent. Skype allows contractors to communicate with each other in the same room sharing expertise without exposing team weaknesses to the client.
This environment has caused me to wonder if this is not the wave of the future. Start-ups today need every penny of seed capital to establish them selves. Cutting out the storefront by allowing all the designers to work from their own homes would save a considerable amount of money.
There was a time as a new manager, when I was annoyed by the amount of time my employees spent on the phone doing non-work related tasks. I had to force myself to judge them by their work output not their work practices. When I did that I realized that some of the people who talked the most were actually the most productive members of the team. People multitask and those who can do that effectively get a lot done.
I believe that a distributed office can both work well, increase productivity and save money.