When it comes to my profession, my favorite question to answer isn’t about what I do, instead it’s about how I do it. Here at Beutler Ink we are a distributed team, working from locations all across the country and with people from all around the world. (If you haven’t had a chance yet, go read my colleagues’ posts about The Benefits of a Distributed Team and How to Manage a Distributed Team.) Granted, there are challenges we face every day in working remotely, but I've experienced both traditional agency life and life at a digital agency, and can say without hesitation that I prefer the latter.
Before I go any further, I want to define what I mean by “traditional agency” and “digital agency”. In traditional agency life, you commute to the office every day and are in-person with your colleagues from 9 to 5. In digital agency life, you work from home (probably in the pajamas you wore the night before) or at a coffee shop, and you typically only see your colleagues during Google Hangouts and Skype chats. With your co-workers and offices completely virtual, your lifeline is the Internet and it is your workplace.
So, why do I think digital totally trumps traditional?
#1: Geography doesn’t matter
I am able to work with the best talent and best clients no matter where they are (or where I am!). Digital agencies must have a solid infrastructure and the right processes and tools in place to work effectively from timezone-to-timezone, and the value this brings in being able to find and work with the best talent to deliver the best work to our clients is unsurpassable.
Although I have worked with incredibly talented individuals at every agency I have been at, nothing can compare to the deep pockets of talent built from this type of structure. Being able to choose the right designer for a specific project means the best possible outcome for our client, and nothing can beat that.
#2: Excellent communicators
When walking into the coworker’s office next to you isn’t an option, you’re forced to write things down and take written action. Not only does this create a wonderful world full of notes and records, but this naturally pushes all team members to become great communicators—no matter what their position is at the company.
Believe it or not, more misunderstandings occurred at the traditional agencies I worked at than at the digital ones. The breakdowns in conversations not only interfered with how effectively we worked together as a team to meet client deadlines, but it would rear its ugly head during meetings only to prove to a room full of clients that the team wasn’t in sync.
Digital life may not be for everyone, but for those that know how to be personally organized, responsible, and enjoy autonomy, it’s definitely great. There are no helicopter colleagues or managers, because there simply isn’t an infrastructure to support it.
When the life of an agency depends on its employees to work remotely in an unsupervised capacity, the outcome is a roster of independent, action-oriented individuals who get sh*t done. This not only equates to higher levels of efficiency in all areas of the company, but sets the foundation for a less stressed work environment when you know you can count on one another.
#4: A well-oiled, agile, scalable machine
When working digitally, you are constantly fine-tuning your product, optimizing internal virtual processes, looking for new ways to grow, and defining the balance of all three (plus some!). It’s this ever-evolving, entrepreneurial spirit that never leads to stagnation. And it’s this same spirit that takes challenges head on.
When asked to do a quick turnaround project, we’re agile enough to quickly put a game plan together. We have the infrastructure, processes, tools, and talent to form a team to execute a design for a client during the day in the UK while the rest of us are sleeping in the US. This capability means we can maximize on time, execute in a pinch, and scale the value we can provide to our clients.
With virtual coworkers spread all over the map, the places you can sign-in to work from every day are almost endless (as long as there’s wifi!). This flexibility is one of the things I value most about working from a virtual office. Since going into work every day doesn’t mean I have to physically show my face from 9 to 5, I am able to spend more time with my family and on my own, doing the things that really matter most in life.
#6: Peace and Quiet
Yeah, there may be times when you miss physical interaction with actual people because you realize you’ve been talking to your cat for the past five minutes, but having the freedom to “shut your office door” by muting your Google chat is pretty priceless. By removing all of the daily distractions of an in-person office, imagine the amount of work you would be able to get done. This peace and quiet means you can work more quickly, finish tasks on time, concentrate on creating the best work possible, and still have time to make it to CrossFit at 5:30.
At the end of the day, you should work in an environment where you’re okay with it becoming an extension of you. The people you work with become your “best friends” for a minimum of 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. That’s 2,080 hours of your life per year. After 30 years, that’s 62,400 hours. And after 40 years, that’s 83,200 hours. (You get where I’m going with this, right?)
With your profession playing such a huge part in your life, why wouldn’t you take the care to ensure you’re doing it just the way you want to?