As a marketing and English major at the University of Maryland, the opportunity to intern at McDAY over summer seemed almost too good to be true. An internship that combined both of my majors, offered experience I never expected to gain as a rising junior; with the ability to have flexible hours and sit in my favorite cozy chair, working from home.
From the start, I knew it would require a lot of time management skills and self-motivation, but that was where my real understanding of a virtual office ceased. My first introduction to the term, “virtual office” had come in an accounting class where they focused on the main benefit being to simply “reduce overhead costs”. Over the course of the summer, I’ve come to understand that this growing trend of virtual companies comes not from a monetary perspective, but from a new understanding that people can be even more productive, inspired, inventive, and happy team members when given the space to thrive. I came across Margarita Tartakovsky’s article, “9 Ways to Support Your Child’s Creativity,” discussing various ways to encourage your child’s imagination and give them what they need to flourish in an artistic and creative sense. Upon reading the list, what really struck me were the incredible parallels to working in a virtual office.
Design a space for creating caught my attention immediately as I glanced around my workspace where I did my writing for McDAY. My beloved armchair with a plush blanket, the books I’m currently reading scattered around, and my puppy snoozing at my feet. Not everyone is able to work in this atmosphere, but for me, the creative juices start flowing when I’m curled up with a cold glass of lemonade in my favorite spot.
Keep it simple, the article had advised, and it doesn’t get much simpler than this my home “office”.
Allow for free time, it continued, which is arguably one of the most interesting parts of transitioning from working onsite to working remotely. It really forces you to hone in on your time management skills – if there are projects that need doing, you find the time to get them done. On the other hand, if you’re a tennis enthusiast like our president, Susan, who is also a great virtual office enthusiast, you will experience a boss who encouraged us to get outside every day and “just play.” One of our team members takes art classes! Me? I was just so happy to get a quick workout in at noon! The virtual office provides you the opportunity to achieve the work-life balance so many strive for. In turn, this only increases team member happiness, inspiration, and productivity.
“We need solitude, because when we’re alone, we’re free from obligations, we don’t need to put on a show, and we can hear our own thoughts,” says author Tamin Ansary.
This makes a great counterpoint to the image of a bustling New York ad agency – that open office architecture, so popular today, may promote team work and facilitate brainstorming, but it often hinders quiet creativity. This quieter formulation of ideas is often where we find our most promising themes, PR angles and out-of-the box marketing campaigns that hook a journalist’s attention for our clients. This is all contingent on a great deal of creative thinking on our part, and some of the silliest ideas that develop in private may never have gotten pitched to a room full of people – but have developed into our client’s most valued campaigns.
But we don’t always work by ourselves. Even the most original thinkers like to bounce ideas off of other people, so a couple times each month, the team gathers to Discuss creativity and Cultivate creative critical thinking, both concepts that tie back to developing a child’s creativity. At McDAY, we discuss the newest ideas for our clients, learn more about what each person has been working on, and get the opportunity to brainstorm face-to-face, followed by a unique team building activity like indoor golfing, or behind the scenes at a local brewery! McDAY recognizes that virtual doesn’t mean “disappear” — and that teamwork needs some face to face time. That goes for our clients, as well, because we do have a real, skyscraper high office in Philadelphia, and many, many meetings at our client sites – but isn’t that better for the clients, to have a refreshed, energetic agency team who isn’t worn out by a daily commute to Philly?
The growth of virtual offices around the world poses a bit of a culture shock for some who have grown accustom to their coworkers sitting in the cubicle next to them, instead of their hometown coffee shop in another state. But I am here to say that it was very easy to fall in love with the opportunities virtual commuting offers. And I applaud McDAY for effortlessly mirroring the very same tenets offered up by an expert in childhood creativity. I’m reminded that even scientists are kids at heart, and creativity is at the core of everything they, and we, do.
Tartakovsky’s article can be read in full here!