Keep Your Firm and Clients, But Ditch the Office

Dustin W Design, an interactive creative agency, noticed the office landscape looked scarce when freelancers started tightening their wallets and preferring to work from home rather than commuting to their Los Angeles office.

Then, in March 2009, Dustin W Design closed doors to the physical office and made the virtual transition—a decision that leaves Leslie Pollock, vice president of client services and strategic planning, with no regrets. “I’m so happy we made this shift. It’s been a great thing for me personally and for the company and has allowed us to remain competitive when we see so many of our peers going through massive layoffs or closing their doors altogether,” Pollock says.

How many employees/contractors work remotely?

Besides the two principals of the firm, everyone who now works for us are contractors (freelance). All of our contractors work from home and are scattered throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

How have your employees/contractors reacted to the change?
Since we’re primarily an interactive agency, we do almost all of our work, project management and administration online. So moving to a virtual office model was an easy transition for everyone.  The project manager is still available to everyone on instant messenger. Since our creative director is in New Orleans the majority of the time, we’ve been working virtually, in a sense, for several years.  And we find that everyone is happy working at home, not having to commute or dress up, so everyone has been productive.

What’s your personal workspace like?
I wish I had a dedicated room for the office, but am working out of a large one-bedroom and have made it work. I have floor-to-ceiling views right next to my desk. I can see the ocean, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Mountains and the coastline to Malibu. Sunsets are exquisite. With the expansive view next to the desk I feel inspired and don’t feel at all boxed in by the work. I’ve gotten some clever office furniture like a compact desk that closes up like a cabinet and a beautiful teak-looking file cabinet, and I use an antique Japanese table to hold elegant leather in-boxes.

What are the pros and cons of having a business from home?
Pro: A zero commute means more work time and better productivity. Since our creative director is in a time zone two hours ahead, I can catch up with his e-mails first thing in the morning, even before I get dressed. I love the fact that I can take a quick break and cook lunch, because I used to prepare and pack a lunch each morning before driving to the office or have to go out to lunch. This is a great time-saver (and money-saver) too.

It’s hard to separate the two worlds, and lack of space in my current place makes for a cramped workspace.

Overall, how has the switch to a home workspace affected your quality of work/productivity?
I love working from home. In the (old) office, I kept quiet and communicated with everyone via instant messenger and e-mail, so it’s no different here. I find fewer distractions and interruptions, and that’s important, particularly when I’m working on concept or writing work.

How do you distinguish between work/personal life?
I physically close up my desk when I finish work, and that helps me define the work time and personal time.

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