Out-of-Office Reply: Innovation and the Remote Workplace
In 2009, I co-founded Blue Moon Estate Sales with my parents, Ken and Deb Blue in Raleigh, NC. Today, the business has grown to become a leader in the estate sales industry with 14 locations operating across five states. Since launching in 2009 and franchising in 2011, we have helped ease the stress and workload for hundreds of families looking for help with residential, commercial and moving liquidation services— and we’ve done so with a team of talented remote workers.
While Blue Moon is headquartered in Raleigh, some of our key players are based in other states, such as New York and even abroad in Sweden. Despite varying time zones, I’ve found that allowing telecommunication not only benefits my employees, but also contributes to our company’s innovation as well.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the remote working trend is not just unique to Blue Moon Estate Sales. According to Forrestor Research’s US Telecommunicate Forecast, 34 million Americans currently work from home. As a result, with a rapidly growing number of remote employees in the workforce— from independent contractors to outsourced employees— the traditional idea of “work” no longer applies to many workers. And that’s likely the case for many of you reading this article.
In the past few years, regardless of the industry, the focus has shifted from getting in-office face time to just getting things accomplished. While a vast number of companies have widely adopted this model, many employers are not fans of remote working.
In my position, especially in the franchising industry, I’ve noticed there are several benefits to not restricting the geographic locations of my employees. All together these benefits have resulted in increased innovation for the company.
Upending the Traditional Meeting
At Blue Moon Estate Sales, our meetings are far from traditional. From communication platforms, like Google Hangouts or Slack + Asana, we’ve essentially created a virtual office. These platforms allow us to streamline internal communication no matter where we are. We also find keeping our meetings short, yet frequent, makes for improved efficiency and allows us to quickly execute ideas once they are developed. Additionally, we make sure that only relevant people attend certain meetings. A meeting geared toward franchise sales, for example, would only include employees that touch franchise sales. This, we’ve found, has allowed us to effectively ideate new ideas and strategies during our planned meeting times.
In addition to more effective meetings, remote working has delivered added value to our bottom line by minimizing the costs that companies often incur as a result of in-house employees. For example, we have significantly reduced our overhead costs, which require typical companies to budget for office supplies and equipment, break room snacks, transportation reimbursement and janitorial services.
We have also minimized unnecessary costs as well, such as the cost of sick days. We’ve noticed that allowing our employees to work from home means that they often take fewer sick days. Whether due to personal issues or medical appointments, our telecommuters are able to immediately return to work following their day off.
Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, communication platforms have become a large part of our business. Not only has it helped us effectively hold meetings, but it has led to decreased travel costs. Instead of expensing costly business trips to visit our franchisees or agency partners, we collaborate virtually as an efficient alternative to travel.
Building a Larger Network
One key aspect that I’ve noticed in the franchise industry is the importance of networking. Fortunately, having a remote working model has allowed our employees to network with a wide range of individuals. With employees based both nationally and internationally, we have grown our network of contacts much larger than we would have been able to if we were contained to the Raleigh area.
According to published research, 91% of remote workers believe that they get more work done when telecommuting. While remote working may not increase productivity in all cases, it works best for our business. For example, as a growing franchise, our goal is to expand across the United States— this does not happen when our franchise development team is isolated in just one state. Since travel is a big part of our business, remote work helps our franchise development team travel to different parts of the country to meet with prospective franchisees or partners; thus, increasing the productivity of our team.
Is Remote Working Right For You?
The biggest lesson that I have learned is that while remote working is not for every company or employee, as a business owner, particularly in franchising, you owe it to both your company and employees to give the remote workplace a try. From improved communication to increased productivity, all of the benefits of remote working help fuel a more innovative workplace and sustain our continued growth.
David Blue is the Vice President & Co-Founder of Blue Moon Estate Sales. David attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he received an Integrated Science and Business Degree. He currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.