Digital Dynamite experimented with the virtual model for the last few months. And although there were some great pros to that model, we have subsequently reverted to a physical office space.

Virtual can work really well. It requires a huge amount of discipline and team buy-in for a virtual model to be successful. It is simply a different way of working and a mind shift from working at a traditional office space. In our experience, virtual models seem to be a great fit for certain types of businesses. Digital Dynamite, being a digital agency, lends itself very well to the virtual model.

Our virtual journey started last year December and at the onset, we put in measures to create a level of structure. This included meeting and working as a team twice a week at a central co-working space, in our context this was Mondays and Thursday between 8:30am to 12:00pm. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings started with a team Skype call check-in. The most important measure was the implementation of Trello – an effective team project management application.

Other measures that were put in place was staff availability and clear communication. It was imperative that staff were still available between normal office working hours, however each team member was required to communicate when they were away from their computers for a certain period of time.

We also put in two very specific company measures to gauge the success of the virtual model, namely work efficiency and turnover/profitability. We found the efficiency did go up as the team felt more free to work when they wanted to, however still deadline driven. On a few projects, we experienced team members putting in extra time in the evenings to get the work out on time.

Regarding turnover/profit, one naturally would think this would increase due to the cheaper running of a virtual business. There is no rental or monthly consumption costs and fees for services like insurance and internet in our instance came down. Our turnover seemed to plateau, however after month 3 and 4 it seemed to drop by about 15-20%. This in reflection, was due to sales slowing down a bit as a result of the virtual model.

In the virtual model, there were some great benefits which included:

  • Less travel time and petrol costs for staff
  • Flexibility to work smarter and have more freedom to do more personal tasks
  • Cheaper operating costs
  • A good balance of co-working with team and individual work
  • Trying something new
  • Networking and premium coffee at our co-working space

And some challenges including:

  • Arranging meetings with our clients visiting us
  • Client perception of a virtual office
  • Creating team collaboration can be tricky when not together
  • Hands-on team management
  • Team motivation
  • Home distractions
  • Blurred home and work time
  • Co-Working space can be very distracting

After a good few months in the virtual model, we had to weigh up the pros and cons and decide on the best route for Digital Dynamite and where we wanted the business to be. The decision was made to move back onto formal space. We were fortunate enough to find some great office space and have completed our first month. And by comparison, although our costs have gone up a bit, we have had our most profitable month thus far for 2018.

In conclusion, there is something magic about arriving at a dedicated space, with a team focused on a collective purpose for a fixed, undistracted period of time each day. Although there is merit in a virtual model, our vote having experienced them both, would be for the physical office space.