WOW Story: Nobody Here but Us Chickens

Customer Service Chickens

Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon. Your co-workers have all slowly trickled out of the office, the closed sign is on the door, and the weekend is within your grasp. You’re just packing up for two days of fun when your desk phone rings. What do you do?

You could easily ignore the call, leaving the message until Monday. Or you could answer and see who Ruby has for you—just in case it’s important. If you’re Ruby customer Natasza, you definitely take the high road…with a big smile, to boot!

Ruby receptionist Rachel recently reached Natasza two Fridays in a row. These calls were Rachel’s last of the day in both instances and, in both instances, Natasza’s office was technically closed. But Natasza took Rachel’s call anyway and Rachel was struck by how chipper and cheerful Natasza always seemed to be, especially late in the afternoon on a Friday.

Rachel took the time to create a beautiful, hand-drawn, personalized notecard and share her delight with her favorite Friday customer. And she couldn’t have done it any better!

In true Natasza style, she responded with a notecard of her own, one-upping the original connection by adding a fun pencil and chicken flingers to the mix. (What are chicken flingers? Apparently, you stretch them on your finger and fling them across the room for endless office fun!)

Thank you so much for your kind words as well as your fantastic decorative card. It’s hanging in my cubicle. It’s a pleasure speaking with you when you call in. Thank you again for taking the time to spread cheer to me. I appreciate you taking the time. You’re the best.
Natasza

Clearly, Rachel’s kind words made quite the impact on Natasza. It just goes to show that you can never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. Now just watch where you’re flingin’ them chickens, Rach!

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Incent, Inspire, Empower: Creating Engaged Employees in a Virtual World

Creating Engaged Employees in a Virtual World

A recent Gallup analysis found that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged with their work. According to Gallup’s definition, engaged employees feel a profound connection to their work that drives innovation. In fact, this select group is more likely to see above-average productivity rates by an impressive 38%. The numbers speak for themselves–employee engagement is a valuable investment with the potential for big payoffs, no matter what stage your company is at.

But it’s the silent majority that, according to Gallup, offer “the greatest untapped opportunity for businesses to improve their performance and profitability.” These disengaged employees meet expectations, but lack the initiative or motivation to go above and beyond.

So, what’s the Ruby® recipe for keeping our employees engaged? Three simple principles: Incent, Inspire, Empower®. Through this three pronged approach, we keep the spirit of Ruby flourishing even as our company grows and our teams expand. “The goal,” as our CEO Jill Nelson wrote in the Small Giants Community blog, “is to make it second nature for everyone on staff to go above and beyond for customers in their own way.”

What does Incent, Inspire, Empower look like in action? Holly Smith, one of the cultivators leading Ruby’s WOW receptionists, uses our Incent, Inspire, Empower philosophy to tap into the potential of the individual through our connection to the bigger picture.

Incent is More Than a Reward

Holly S., Cultivator

Incentives come in many forms at Ruby Receptionists. External motivators like our Core Values in Action Awards and our Five at Five sabbatical program are important opportunities to recognize the Rubys who make our WOW service a reality. These moments strengthen the Ruby community and allow us to practice the values that drive our company across all levels, Foster Happiness, Create Community, Practice WOWism, Innovate, and Grow. But cultivators like Holly know that the most effective motivator comes from within.

Incent isn’t just about rewarding someone for doing a good job,” Holly says. “It’s about educating an employee so they understand how their work is instrumental to the success of the business.”

Every quarter, team leaders like Holly nominate receptionists who live and breathe our commitment to WOWism for the Legendary Service Award. These Legendary Receptionists are excel in every area of service, and we celebrate their contributions with a plaque and a bonus that recognizes the value they bring to our company.

As a longtime Ruby, Holly knows that the Legendary Service Award is more than just a milestone. The Legendary Service Award honors the core characteristics of an engaged employee, innovation and commitment. So when Holly encountered a team member who set her sights on the Legendary Service Award as the next stepping-stone in her path to success, Holly recognized a teaching moment that would have ripple effects far beyond the upcoming quarter.

Thought starter: How do you connect your employees to their contributions? Communicate that their work matters and be sure to articulate how it matters.

Inspire Growth

To encourage this driven team member to grow into a legendary receptionist, Holly “taught her about how Ruby Receptionists functions as a business.” By connecting the stellar service our receptionists provide with the experience of our callers and the material business needs of our customers, Holly challenged this receptionist to think about her role and her path in a different light.

Once this receptionist saw the big picture, she saw opportunity for growth. As Holly tells it, “[she] began to be excited and tell me about what she could do better. Each skill she learned lead to a new skill she could improve. She was inspired and empowered to use her abilities, intelligence, and past business experience to create a better company.”

Goal setting is an important practice in any area of life. But it’s also important not to let the future distract from the present. Our receptionists take pride in the WOWism they practice every day and take responsibility for their personal service delivery. When employees take ownership of their work, they proactively look for opportunities to grow.

Thought starter: How do you encourage your employees to take ownership over their work? Find a common goal and encourage them to forge their own way toward it.

The Ripple Effect of Empowerment

Empowering our teams to explore creative solutions is the foundation of exceptional customer service. Practicing employee empowerment isn’t limited to customer-facing interactions. By empowering our team leaders to practice their unique management style, cultivators like Holly are able to effectively lead our receptionists to reach their potential.

As Holly’s team member honed her service delivery and challenged herself to find new ways to WOW, she also grew into a leader who in turn empowers other Rubys to do the same. “She shares her experience and advice with other Rubys,” Holly says, “and is officially someone other receptionists can observe to learn from.”

We’re proud to share that this receptionist went on to earn the Legendary Service Award. What can we say? She learned from the best.

Thought starter: Do you foster a supportive work environment? Empower your employees to help each other at every level of the company.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy on International Happiness Day

RubyReceptionists Service Pyramid

With titles like “Problem Solver & Happiness Maker,” “Service Kickstarter & Happiness Builder,” and “Happiness Cultivator,” International Day of Happiness is one of our Customer Happiness team’s favorite holidays!

While the Customer Happiness team goes through rigorous and continual training to ensure we’re prepared to support our customers and program beautiful instructions, a desire to fulfill our core value of Foster Happiness is something that can’t be taught. Here’s our manifesto:

We are a league of superheroes. We are leaders, advocates, and friends, who are masters of sharing Ruby® magic. We believe in simple and creative solutions. We embrace change and celebrate innovation, teamwork, and tacos. We act with integrity and assume charitable intentions. Together, we define, embody, and elevate the standards of world-class service.

Each of us is here because we have a calling to make people happy—and that extends to our customers, callers, and colleagues. We do this with help from the Ruby Service Pyramid®.
The base of the pyramid is Be Prepared with the Right Infrastructure. Our Kickstarter team works hard to ensure that our new accounts start off on the right foot by programming beautiful instructions for receptionists and providing new customers with everything they need to know about getting started with Ruby.

Next up, Do What We Say We’ll Do. Problem Solvers & Happiness Makers own the customer experience once they’re all signed up. If a customer needs us to start handling a new type of call, we’re there to program those instructions in a way that will remain consistent for our receptionists. If there’s ever a mistake or a misunderstanding, we’re there to ensure that those are corrected, and the root of the concern is resolved.

Foster Happiness is so important to us that it’s both a core value and a level of the Service Pyramid!

Customer Happiness is also there to Create Experiences. Receptionists reach out to Customer Happiness every day, to connect customer calls our way and to alert us of any updates that might need to be made. While Customer Happiness is located in a separate office, we make it our mission to connect with receptionists to create one large community as a company. This might be as simple as including a cute cat photo in my email reply, or sending a handwritten notecard to let that one receptionist who always makes me smile know that I’m thinking of them.

Moving our way up the pyramid, we find Give Them What They Don’t Even Know They Want. Let’s say we just added a new instruction to ask callers a few new questions when taking a message. Rather than adding the instruction and leaving it at that, our customer might get a call from the Problem Solver they worked with a few weeks later, just to check in and see how those changes are working out. It’s more than a passive exchange, it’s a full-circle conversation that the customer didn’t see coming.

If we’ve fostered happiness by mastering the Service Pyramid, then we reach the very top—Make Meaningful Connections. This is my favorite piece. There’s a customer I sent a handwritten notecard to as a receptionist back in 2016, just thanking them for making my day. This customer not only reached out through work channels to thank me, but stayed in touch personally after learning we had a few friends in common. To this day, we write each other now and then just to check in. He sends me articles that he knows I’ll be interested in, and I share pictures of events I attend with our mutual friends.

Now, this won’t happen on every call, every email, or even every face-to-face meeting. But the relationship and friendship I’ve built with this customer is the Customer Happiness special sauce—we foster happiness by taking a genuine interest in the lives of our customers and each other.

So, on this International Day of Happiness, I ask you to not only think of something that makes you happy, but take that and share it with someone else.

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Incent, Inspire, Empower: Practical Situational Leadership with Rosy Rocha

In a recent post for the Small Giants Community blog, Ruby® Founder and CEO, Jill Nelson underlines the value of creating a service-driven culture. “Whatever your line of work, a service-driven culture fosters happy customers and employees, and that translates to increased revenue and business growth,” she notes.

If your business is anything like Ruby, establishing a culture of service is table stakes. We take our service-delivery pretty seriously and we couldn’t offer the unparalleled level of service we’re known for without Incent, Inspire, and Empower®, our unique management philosophy.

Meet Rosy, Ruby’s first bilingual team leader

There is perhaps nothing more daunting in your career than to start a brand-new team from scratch. Not only that, but also to pioneer a first-time service offering and lead your team in meeting company-wide service standards in an entirely different language!

Bilingual Receptionist Cultivator, Rosy Rocha is the intrepid Ruby responsible for creating and maintaining Ruby’s Spanish service delivery. And she’s relied heavily on Incent, Inspire, and Empower to get her there!

“As a manager of a team and Ruby’s bilingual service, the IIE philosophy gives me the opportunity to genuinely practice situational leadership. It helps me know each team member a little better and supports me in keeping them motivated and engaged!”

Incentives in Action

At Ruby, we incent around the things that matter (i.e. the things that help us deliver on our mission and keep us living our core values). How? This question is really all about where we place our time and resources. So, on the most basic level, we are committed to compensating our staff well by offering competitive wages and top benefits.

We also recognize our employees and their accomplishments at every opportunity. And we make sure that these recognitions are directly linked to our mission, vision, and values. A great example of this recognition is Ruby’s Five-at-Five Sabbatical Program, which employees become eligible for after five years of service.

A sentiment to our newest core value, Grow, the program helps Rubys realize a dream they may not otherwise have the chance to realize. Given five weeks and a little seed money, our employees have lived some pretty incredible dreams.

These things are obviously company-wide, so how do you find ways to incent employees at the manger level? Give your leaders the tools to get creative!

Rosy recently found a great way to reach an employee who was struggling with their timeliness. “Using my ‘incent’ tool I promised this receptionist hand-delivered coffee for every two weeks they went without a timeliness incident. This is such a small treat, maybe $4-$5 every two weeks, but it really helps having something to look forward to.”

Bring it home: Think about your business. How do you provide company-wide incentives to keep your employees engaged with your mission? Challenge your leaders to find personal ways to incent their team members!

Inspiring by Example

Hearing about the success of others, or seeing it in action firsthand, keeps employees motivated to strive for their own success. Ruby’s dedicated compliment email inbox, werock, is inspiration central! Every compliment a Ruby receives is recorded and sent in an email to the entire company. These emails are an inspirational reminder of the direct impact our mission of creating personal connections has on the world.

But sometimes, seeing someone else succeed in the moment can bring the biggest inspirational, “ah-ha” moments. Rosy agrees. “When I find that I have a receptionist struggling with guiding callers confidently, I have them observe another person on the team who had that same challenge and is now thriving in their role. This also keeps that model receptionist inspired to be an example of what their newer teammates can strive for.”

Bring it home: Inspiration comes in many forms. Make sure to find the right storytelling or success-sharing avenues for your business and encourage your leaders to inspire by example!

Providing the Tools to Achieve

When you empower your employees to not only have big ideas but provide them with the tools to execute on them, they feel more engaged and you may just find the answer to a question you didn’t even know you had!

Ruby provides each employee with a bank of culture funds each year to make Ruby a better place and create community. The money is theirs and they can use it all at once, piece it out, or join others and contribute it to a bigger project. Employees have used these funds to contribute to Ruby’s culture with fitness equipment, kitchen gadgets, and a host of one-of-a-kind events.

Rosy recently faced a unique challenge to find resources for employees who wanted to improve their Spanish. To help with this challenge, she called on one of her employees with an extensive background as a Spanish interpreter. “I know that using this experience makes her proud and fosters her happiness at work. I empowered this employee to brainstorm a solution to help those wanting to improve their bilingual skills. She now is the proud leader of Ruby’s Spanish Club. Knowing that she is empowered at Ruby to host her meetings in our office, to set her own schedule and style; she’s been able to foster her vision of the Ruby Spanish Club. And innovated a solution to one of my biggest struggles!”

Bring it home: What tools can you provide your employees to help them execute on their big ideas? Faced with a particularly sticky challenge? Think of ways you can involve your employees in the brainstorming process!

This post appears as part of our Incent, Inspire, and Empower series, where we share personal stories from Ruby’s leaders. You can catch last month’s post, Managing Mangers, here.

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Incent, Inspire, Empower: Managing Managers with Desi Vigil

Ruby® Founder and CEO Jill Nelson recently wrote a piece for the Small Giants Community blog sharing how Ruby has built a culture of service over the years. The key to doing the same in your business? Your leadership style.

Incent, Inspire, and Empower® is Ruby Receptionists’ management philosophy. It’s how we create true commitment and ensure each employee is poised to succeed by delivering on our mission to preserve and perpetuate real, meaningful connections in our increasingly technology-focused virtual world.

This philosophy ensures that our employees own their personal service delivery and are encouraged to think outside the box. There’s no idea too big, no risk too daring. Sounds great in theory. What about in practice? Ruby’s employee engagement score from spring of 2017 shows the proof is in the pudding. The results indicated that over 90% of Ruby’s employees were highly engaged and engaged.

So, how do you encourage your leaders to inspire with this mindset?

The Most Crucial Employee Touchpoint

A Gallup study from a few years ago notes that “managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.” If you’re unfamiliar with Gallup, they are a research-based consulting company whose bread and butter is measuring trends in employee behavior and attitudes. They also publish the State of the American Workplace report. This crucial manager-employee relationship is the driving force behind Incent, Inspire, Empower.

Management Styles at Ruby Receptionists
Desi Vigil, Ruby Cultivator Coach

“To me, it means encouraging our leaders to go above and beyond regularly for their receptionists because they want to, not because they have to,” says Ruby Cultivator Coach, Desi Vigil. (Cultivator is the title for our receptionist team managers.) “We’ve created a culture here at Ruby where every individual is caring, supportive, and willing to push themselves to think outside the box when it comes to going above and beyond for their team.”

Incenting Around the Stuff that Matters

It all starts with providing your managers a solid foundation to support their own service delivery when it comes to their teams. In the case of incenting employees, Ruby makes sure to incent around the things that really matter to us.

A great example is Ruby’s Core Value in Action Awards. These awards celebrate those Rubys who are living our core values in exceptional ways. Why is this important? Our core values make us who we are. They are what drive us. That’s why we incent our employees with company-wide recognition for truly remarkable examples of our core values in action.

Following this example, our leadership team is empowered to incent their employees, both as a team and on an individual basis. Desi recalls a particular situation where a Cultivator came to her for advice on ways to incent a team member for going the extra mile to work on accuracy goals.

“My Cultivator had great ideas, but they were all around food, treats, gift cards, etc. Those things are great (and necessary at times), but I encouraged them to think of other ways they could incent this individual.”

To Desi’s point, it’s tempting to assume that incentives always include food, money, or other tangible rewards. Yet, some of the most impactful incentives have nothing to do with “stuff.”

Your Turn: What matters most to your company? Provide your leaders with the tools to incent their employees on the things that lead back to your mission, your vision, and your values.

Finding Inspiration

We’ve learned (and the research shows) that employees want to feel a sense of purpose and understand the difference they make. Sharing stories of our success and demonstrating Ruby’s sweeping impact are how we aim to inspire.

On a foundational level, Ruby has several storytelling platforms that we support internally to inspire our employees. From a dedicated email inbox for compliments to an internal blog featuring stories of employee success, storytelling is a huge part of Ruby’s culture.

For Desi, an inspired employee “shares their stories of triumph with their peers and congratulates others on their successes.” This creates a culture where employees build each other up and become their own biggest champions.

Your Turn: Are your leaders modeling the behavior you hope to see in your employees? Encourage your team to lead by example and find ways to share the stories of employees who are getting it right.

Empowered to Forge Your Own Path

Empowering your employees is all about getting out of the way and letting them work their magic. At Ruby, we use well-made processes to create reliability, efficiency, consistency, scalability, and accountability. These foundations are the nuts and bolts that keep the company running smoothly.

But Ruby wouldn’t be Ruby without our amazing people! Empowering our people to break the rules and use their unique personalities and talents to deliver on our mission is what sets us apart.

Desi’s job is to empower our leaders to empower their team members, encouraging them to find unique ways to deliver on our mission. At the end of the day, it’s all about trust. Empowered employees feel trusted to make decisions and are given the tools and resources to execute. These tools include everything from the technology they use to our feedback processes.

A little trust goes a long way! The last thing you want to do is constrict your staff with policies, procedures, and scripts they must follow. Take a step back, empower your employees to succeed, and encourage them to make their own mark on your company’s culture.

Your Turn: At Ruby, we use systems and standards to create a foundation that incents, inspires, and empowers Ruby employees to use their own personalities to live out our mission. What will you do next to improve your own management style?

This post appears as part of our Incent, Inspire, Empower series, where we share personal stories from Ruby’s leaders.

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Improve Productivity with the Happiness Journal Challenge

See How Happiness Boosts Productivity!

At Ruby, we’ve built a culture around fostering happiness and one of our tools for success is the Ruby Happiness Journal Challenge. This easy challenge takes just five minutes a day for 21 days, and it can make all the difference in a company’s happiness, productivity, and accuracy.

It isn’t just about happiness—though happiness is certainly important. It’s also about building a company that has the capacity to grow while keeping perspective, having gratitude, and focusing on what keeps us sharp day to day.

This year we’re taking on the challenge as part of our dedication to workplace wellness, or as we like to put it, Swellness.

Swellness?

The term Swellness may or may not sound familiar. Last year Ruby redefined the concept of sick time, focusing more on the goal and less on the problem. After all, you don’t stay home to remain sick, you’re taking the rest you need to become well!

Thinking about that process of going from “sick” to “well”, we landed on the word, “Swell”. This year, we took Swellness to a whole new level. Instead of focusing a single month on wellness, we’re bringing the Swellness all year long. In 2017 Hello Swellness is an entire year of whole-Ruby wellness from top-to-bottom, front-to-back, inside and out. Each month we’re zooming-in on a single aspect of wellness—from nutrition to physical activity to, you guessed it, happiness.

The Ruby Happiness Journal

All the way back in 2011 Shawn Achor did a Ted Talk titled The Happy Secret to Better Work. In his presentation, he revealed that happiness has a huge impact on productivity and accuracy. This is our 6th year taking on the Ruby Happiness Journal Challenge, and every year we’ve seen it make an impact on happiness and productivity! Happy people are just better team members.

 

 

In fact, his research credits small, daily positive habits—like writing down three gratitudes, journaling, exercising and meditating—with actually rewiring our brains to scan for the positive before the negative. And practicing these positive acts for 21 days makes them a habit.

All it takes is 21 days of positivity to brighten your perspective, improve productivity, and boost accuracy.

Still not sold on the importance of happiness?

You’re busy doing the work it takes to grow your business. It might seem like there isn’t time to set aside for journaling or meditation.

But what if we said the Ruby Happiness Journal will help you grow your business?

Achor’s research suggests that these moments do more than just boost overall happiness. In fact, happy people are:

  • 37% better at sales
  • 31% more productive
  • 19% more accurate

So happy people aren’t just happier, they’re more productive.

Join the happiness movement!

Interested in taking the on the challenge for yourself and your team? Participating only takes a few moments a day! Every day for 21 days, record these three things in your Happiness Journal (or notebook, or online blog).

  • Three things you’re grateful for that day
  • A positive gratitude action for the day
  • Your favorite positive experience from the past 24 hours
  • Optional: exercise for at least 10 minutes and spend at least two minutes in meditation

Grab your favorite notebook, blog, dry-erase board, or napkin and get writing. Then, let us know if you see a difference in your productivity and positivity!

Tweet us @callruby to share your experience!


We’re looking for a few happy people to join our team! Check out our open receptionist positions to see if you’re a good fit!


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Customer Love, The Ruby Way

What does customer love mean to you?

On Valentine’s Day, Ruby Founder and CEO Jill Nelson was the speaker at an AMA PDX luncheon. Her topic: love—specifically customer love.

If you look up the definition of love, you’ll find something along the lines of “an intense feeling of deep affection,” synonymous with fondness, tenderness, warmth, and attachment.

That’s a great definition. When you strip away all the excess connotations, love is an important goal for many businesses like Ruby: showing customers the love with a great product, service, and brand.

At Ruby, our mission is to preserve and perpetuate real, meaningful connections in an increasingly technology-focused, virtual world.

What does that come down to? Real. Meaningful. Warm. Love.

Here are just a few of the ways Ruby works to show and share our customer love!

Structure: The Ruby Service Pyramid

Ruby Service Pyramid

It’s the Ruby Service Pyramid that has empowered us to build the scalable service-minded culture that we have today. Only once we’ve built the foundation, put the processes in place, and trained the right people, can we blow our customers away.

Consistency is key when it comes to customer love, and with the Ruby Service Pyramid, we create consistent experiences from the bottom up. To make meaningful connections with our customers, first we have to build the right infrastructure. Then we have to commit ourselves to meeting our promises, fostering happiness (inside and outside of our company), creating experiences, and anticipating the unexpressed needs of our customers.

The Ruby Service Pyramid

Theme: In Our Customer’s Shoes

Our theme for 2017 is “In Our Customer’s Shoes,” which aims to answer the question, “how well do you know your customers?”

You can’t love what you don’t know. While we’ve always gotten to know our customers on a one-on-one basis—one of the great perks of being a remote receptionist company—we’re striving to spend 2017 getting to know our customers better than ever.

With customers from a variety of industries—including legal, construction, marketing, real estate, and more—we recognize and embrace the need to understand the nuances of our different customers, and their differing needs.

The more we understand our customers, the better we’re able to WOW them.

“In Our Customer’s Shoes.”

Process: Grow

core-values-growGrow is one of Ruby’s five core values, and we work to achieve it externally and internally by helping our customers grow, and fostering our employees’ growth.

Fostering employee growth means empowering them. Instead of managers, we have cultivators. A bad week doesn’t mean punishment. Instead, it’s an opportunity for improvement. Happy employees mean happy customers, and we try to have the happiest employees around!

We also empower our employees with the ability to send WOW gifts at their own discretion. By giving them the power to do whatever they need to do to make someone’s day, they have the opportunity to connect with our customers directly. It makes that connection meaningful, personal, and memorable—for both our customers and our employees.

When our employees grow, we grow, enabling us to better help our customer’s businesses grow.

Our Core Values

Goal: The Concept of WOW

core-values-practice-wowismAt Ruby, we’re not just about answering your phones; we’re about making your day.

And that’s exactly what WOWism is. Practice WOWism is one of our core values, and it’s the act of blowing our customers away. We don’t strive for fine, acceptable, or alright—we strive for surprised, delighted, WOWed. And what else is WOWism but Ruby’s way of showing our customers we appreciate them?

WOWism

Customer love is a movement. It’s a culture. And maybe, in the end, Ruby’s mission really is all about spreading the love.

What Office Type Are You?

What office type is right for you?

The first step to WOWing your customers is enabling your employees to be a positive and effective force. You and your team spend approximately 40 hours every week in your workspace, and that space (whether physical or virtual) has a significant impact on productivity and happiness.

The Classic—Brick and Mortar Office

As long as there have been businesses, there have been brick and mortar offices. It’s the home space, full of cubicles, desks, conference rooms, and coworkers.

Benefits of a Brick and Mortar Office

  • A professional space. Having a traditional office space ensures you always have a professional place to bring clients, have meetings, and work with employees. You can even use your office space to develop your brand personality and create community with your clients. If meeting clients in person is vital to customer service success, you might need a traditional office space.
  • Collaboration. An office location gives you the advantage of having a physical place for employees to meet and collaborate on ideas.
  • Complete control over the office environment. When you have a physical space, you have full control over your office environment. All employees have access to the same tools and resources. You’re also better able to mold your company culture and ensure your output is always high quality.

Challenges of a Brick and Mortar Office

  • It’s expensive. Capital is a common problem small businesses face, and rent isn’t cheap. Paying rent as well as buying supplies, furniture, and equipment can add up to a hefty price tag.
  • Commute and location can cause you to miss out on talent. Whatever your office location, your talent pool is comprised of area residents. Where virtual or home offices can allow you to hire people from around the country or world, a physical location often limits you to those who are able to commute to the office.
  • You have to commit to a lease. Unfortunately, renting an office space is a commitment. It can be difficult to project the size of the space you’ll need, and growing out of it can mean additional costs if you have to break a lease and find a new space.

The One-Man Show—Home Office

If you’re just starting out, a home office might be the best choice for you, as it can be an effective way to balance costs, efficiency, and capabilities.

Benefits of a Home Office

  • Schedule flexibility. If you need to get your kids to school by 8:30 am, you can get up, work for an hour, then take your turn on the carpool schedule. When you don’t have a commute, you get to enjoy increased flexibility and the ability to schedule your day around your needs and the needs of your clients.
  • Tax benefits and cost saving. If you qualify, you can deduct a portion of your home’s expenses against your business income. A home office also has the distinct advantage of lowering startup costs by eliminating office rent.
  • Your work is always available. If you get a call at 8:00 pm and you need data from your work computer, it’s always near. Have international clients? Do customer service right and make that client call at 5:30 am. Your work is never far away.

Challenges of a Home Office

  • Limited hiring capabilities. While a home office may be perfect for the sole practitioner, it can be hard to hire employees. You may be able to fit one, maybe two, employees in your home, but you lose privacy as a result. As you grow, you’ll likely have to find a new location.
  • Lack of “professional space” to take clients. Meeting with clients can be hard when you work out of a private residence. Do you have space set aside for client meetings? Can your appointments be done in shared spaces, like coffee shops?
  • Lack of boundaries and inability to leave. Burnout is the worst. When you work at home, you’re home all the time. You live at home, work at home, and sleep at home. This seclusion can cause undue stress and anxiety. Can you rest during your off hours knowing you have an unfinished project one door down?

The Incubator—Coworking Office

Freelancers, contractors, and startups are flocking to coworking office spaces. Essentially a big, flexible shared space that is occupied by a variety of employers and industries, a coworking space can be great for folks who are energized by people.

Benefits of a Coworking Space

  • Lower Costs. With a coworking space, you have the advantage of having access to the tools and resources you need at a much lower price. You also avoid paying rent on an office or getting roped into a lease.
  • Collaboration and networking. There’s something powerful about being surrounded by smart, creative people. In a coworking space, you get the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs and freelancers, reach out to them for advice, and learn from them.
  • Community. When you put a bunch of smart people together, a community develops. Natural camaraderie builds a sense of identity within a community of smart, like-minded people.

Challenges of a Coworking Space

  • Distractions. Distractions are everywhere. The community and networking that can be such a benefit can also distract you from tackling the tasks on your plate. This kind of environment isn’t for the easily sidetracked.
  • Cost. Coworking spaces are much less costly than renting an office but more expensive than working from home. If you’re just getting off the ground, $300-$500 a month may be outside your budget.
  • Noise. When you put a lot of people in one space, things can get loud. While coworking spaces can be great for collaboration, they might not be the best strategy for making phone calls. If you need to focus, you’ll probably need your headphones.

The Traveler—Virtual Office

Maybe you don’t need an office at all. Maybe you travel, have virtual clients, and don’t need traditional office supplies. A virtual office space is essentially no office space. It’s the ability to work completely from wherever your computer is. With telecommunication tools, cloud storage solutions, outsourcing capabilities (like maybe a receptionist?), and conferencing technology, physical location doesn’t have to hold you back anymore.

Benefits of a Virtual Office

  • Cost. Your overhead is just a fraction of what it would be anywhere else. You aren’t paying rent, buying supplies, and paying for phone lines. You get all the capability for less.
  • Limited management. You aren’t managing a space. You don’t have to worry about doing dishes, getting a cleaning service in, and having building security.
  • Work from anywhere. With virtual office spaces, you take your office with you. You can essentially work from anywhere and customize your workspace no matter where you are.

Challenges of Virtual Offices

  • Lack of physical space comes with its own difficulties. As with a home office, the lack of physical location can make client meetings more difficult.
  • Distractions abound. There are distractions everywhere you go, and the virtual office can have a lot of these same problems. If you’re working from home, while traveling, or in coffee shops, there are plenty of distractions.
  • Communication. In a physical location, you can turn to your coworker to address a problem. When you’re working in a virtual space, communications can lag, and there is more room for miscommunication.

So, Which Office Type Are You?

If you want to foster happiness in your workplace, it’s important to make sure you have the right infrastructure. It all depends on your needs. Are you launching a small business? Leading a growing law practice? Venturing into the world a freelance web design? Each business, culture, and work style is going to require a different space to thrive.

Thing to Consider When Choosing a Workspace

  • Size of your team
  • Nature of your business—do you need to meet clients in person
  • Company/team culture
  • Capital
  • Preferences and lifestyle