Now, forgive me for what I am about to say, because to the majority of you it’ll seem ridiculous. It’s been a while since I got up at 6a.m.That’s the beauty of working from home, up you get, roll into the shower via the Nespresso machine and then you’re at your desk for 8am having risen at 7:30..... I asked for forgiveness because for most people rising at 6 a.m. is the reality. The idea of working at home is still a dream. But why is that?
In an age where everything we see as conventional is being challenged, and how we need to adapt in order to be more productive to protect the planet etc, why are some companies still so against the idea of people working from home? The positive financial implications can not be argued. Who wouldn’t want to commit to a smaller office space, with the savings this will undoubtedly bring? The energy saved with less industrial lights being used, cups of tea being made etc., Isn’t this one of the ways in which as an industry, or as individual businesses we can try to be the most sustainable that we possibly can?
So if sustainability is a dream, and not a reality (if we are being honest, there will be people out there who pay lip service when it comes to discussing the big issues without ever actually meaning it..... “Oh yeah, of course sustainability is high on our agenda blah blah blah)” and the savings a smaller office space would make are inconsequential because everyone’s business is in such a healthy position, what are the key drivers behind wanting to keep an office?
*Another pre cursor..... I understand that businesses above a certain size need an office, such are the number of departments to keep the cogs turning.*
I guess this is aimed more at the SME market, of which there are many more than the large businesses that I speak of above. Maybe drilling down even further it is a better idea to look at certain business functions. Does everyone you employ need to be in the building at all times? Designers, creatives etc. mainly work under their own steam and are probably more comfortable working alone on a brief before presenting back to the group across a conference call or other group discussion. Content writers the same. Marketeers, finance... The way in which the world is connected these days means pretty much every function can be run remotely. But then there’s the biggie. SALES. There, I said it. The dirty words....... Sales People.
In reality everyone’s a sales person whether or not we want to admit it..... We spend our lives selling ourselves in social situations, attracting a friendship group, a partner etc. But more than that, whether you’re in finance or filing, whether you’re a designer or a director, you talk about the business you work for and when you do, you’re selling it. Positively or negatively, every time you talk about your place of work you’re selling it. How much you enjoy your job and how you are treated depends on how hard you’ll sell it in either direction. Anyway, I digress. I’d suggest that there are two main reasons for keeping an office and your staff in it on a daily basis. Firstly, ego, and secondly, trust. How is the balance weighted? I’m not sure, but they’re both major factors.
“I like having a big office because it shows I’m a serious business”. So do you really need all of the space you have?? “I like having a big office because it shows I’m a serious business”. Oh okay..... EGO.
“People can come and see me for meetings in my office and we won’t be disturbed” (I like having a big office because it shows I have a serious business) EGO.
In truth, it’s actions, not a big office with a nice sign that people will judge you on. Reputation is built on service and trust. Speaking of trust, let’s look at the sales function.
Lazy, egotistical, out for themselves and all of the other cliched stereotypes you want to level at them. They may all be true, but without them where would we be? Would we, or could we be as successful? I’d suggest they’re a lot more valuable than many give them credit for. The biggest criticism of the sales function is that they’re chancers and will take as many shortcuts as possible. They’re untrustworthy. That may well be true, but what causes this? Why do salespeople take a mile when given an inch in certain situations?
Do you learn not to trust or to be untrustworthy when you know you’re not trusted by your superiors? Are business heads scared to admit that this age old stereotype of window salesmen from the 70’s has affected their thinking? Therefore they don’t trust those that work for them? Do salespeople feel this lack of trust and then act up on it because they know it’s what’s expected of them anyway? How does it look from the opposite side? Or are you afraid to ask? If you did ask would you act on the feedback? I've seen many a situation where all the right things are said but nothing has ever changed with regards to culture. This then festers and the lack of change breeds less trust. It’s counterproductive.
Is another option that Sales Directors/Managers remember how they used to behave when they were a young salesperson and so this is where the lack of trust comes from? “I used to nick off on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so I’ll make it mandatory for all of my salespeople to be in the office on those days”. It’s a pretty old school approach but maybe for these people it works. Surely sales roles are based purely on figures. If the numbers aren’t being produced then there’s a problem, regardless of whether or not they are office bound. But if they are producing the numbers, does it matter how these people spend their time?
Salespeople are, by nature, gregarious individuals. People who love people, and being around people. Keeping them in an office is surely like keeping a bear in a cage. They’ll get frustrated because they feel their time would be better spent elsewhere and eventually lash out, most likely by not coming back to the office when their afternoon meeting cancels or something equally as trivial.
Salespeople like money. That’s why they do it. Give them the opportunity to go out and find it and I expect you’ll see better results. As an industry we sell direct contact. Maybe it’s time to start trusting direct contact more than direct dials. Spending 2 hours a day on the phone won’t help you to sell, and when you don’t you’ll need to find another job. However, you'll be partly trained as an operator so every cloud......
Some will argue that the team and the environment creates the buzz. At a really junior level, that may be true, but the best sales people are naturally engaging and will always deliver more business, more quickly by sitting in front of people and not at the end of a phone. This will also show trust in them which is what they’ll really value. The old stigma’s around their chosen profession are tired. The stick we’re beating them with needs to change.