You wouldn’t know it but ITG’s offices are closed this week. They were closed last week too. Folks have had the flu and nobody feels like catching or sharing it. This winter, we’ve closed the office down a few times for nasty weather. And since November we’ve closed the office every Friday, just because.
Yes, this would normally be an ill-advised way to operate a high-touch service business. However, we’re able to open and close our offices on a moment’s notice with no interruption in customer service. This flexibility has been one of many side benefits to an infrastructure experiment we began six years ago.
Remote desktop paradise
In 2014, ITG was facing the joy and pain of rapid growth and had to figure out how to manage office space and work stations for a steady stream of new hires. Remote desktop technology presented itself as a potentially ideal solution. It was not smooth sailing at first. We began by trying to host our system internally and it was clunky. Remote workers still had to connect to a PC physically located in the office, our bandwidth was insufficient, and the lack of stability slowed adoption rates. After about a year of trying to fine-tune our first attempt, we began again with a new IT partner. This time, each employee’s work station would be hosted in the cloud, fully configured and managed by our IT team, and could be accessed from any internet-connected computer. It was the secure, stable, flexible system we had been hoping for.
That gave us the ability to start our desk sharing program. Almost everyone on our team now splits their time between working from home and the office. They are free to coordinate their schedules with their desk partners as suits them best. Employees use their personal computers at home and we supply them with the same dual-monitor display setup used in the office.
Good for business—great for culture
Remote desktops have certainly helped make ITG more profitable. We only need office space for half our team at any given time, we purchase less computer hardware and we’ve been able to do away with most of our internal IT infrastructure. Those savings have been critical during a slow market. We’re also able to expand more easily. Since 2017, we’ve been able to spin up teams who work seamlessly in Indiana, Nevada, Utah, and Colombia.
The surprise benefit of the implementation has been its massive effect on our company culture. In company surveys, the team consistently points to the ability to work from home as one of their favorite perks. Employees spend more time with their families. Transportation hassles and the cost of commuting are reduced. When health or weather hazards emerge, we can keep everybody safe at home. There’s a greater sense of freedom and enjoyment in our work.
But what about productivity?
Our experience has been that remote employees are every bit as productive as their office-based counterparts. This has been so consistently true that we recently launched a test program called The Friday Initiative. We spent a few months testing whether we could maintain productivity if we had the whole company work from home on Fridays. The results are in and The Friday Initiative is now an ongoing program.
It’s about the WHY
In our 30 year history, we’ve always been on the lookout for technology that keeps us ahead of the curve and enables us to be a better company. It has brought us great success and we’re very grateful for that. But our WHY isn’t simply to be the best company in the business. Our WHY is to build up a team that is inspired and empowered to make this tough business a bit easier for everyone. It’s been a powerful lesson for us to see that investment in the right technologies can help us accomplish that goal as well. We’re already looking for what’s next.