business

Need those office brewskies? Maybe you're not ready for virtual work

Jane M. Von Bergen, Staff Writer

Updated: Saturday, August 26, 2017, 9:01 AM

David Wolk, chief executive of the Goodway Group in Jenkintown.

Face time with the boss isn’t happening at Goodway Group, an advertising media planning and buying company in Jenkintown. That’s because the majority of the 400 employees work anywhere but Jenkintown. Necessity drove chief executive David Wolk’s decision to grow a virtual staff.

When his third-generation advertising company went digital in 2006, he and his partner, based in Dallas, couldn’t find enough people with the necessary skills in any one spot, so any place with an internet connection became a branch office.

How do you hire in that circumstance?

There’s a certain profile that we’ve kind of learned over the years that does well working independently. First of all, we are about 75 percent female, and average age is 35. We have a lot of moms with kids that could be in college, newborns, and there’s this whole thing about working from home and being able to be a super mom by having a great job, but having some flex time to take care of everything.

We hired a lady in Los Angeles from Yahoo that we normally would not have been able to afford because we were still kind of building our company out. But she was commuting like two hours a day each way in L.A. and had a family, a young family. “Wow, let me work for Goodway, and I’ll make a couple of monetary sacrifices. I want that lifestyle.”

What types of people are you looking for?

You want to find someone that is a little more independent, a little bit more bold, certainly seasoned. People call me out of college: `Can I work for Goodway?’ No way. You’ve got to go in an office for five years, and learn politics, and socialize, and learn the ropes. So, no one here is [just] out of school. Everyone has anywhere from five years’ to 30 years’ experience before they come here. I think many of them get the work environment out of their system. … We find a lot of folks that maybe left the job market, were in the rat race, were in a big agency, maybe raised the family a bit, and are ready to come back. This would be a good second career.

Who flames out? How can you track who’s actually working?

There were a couple folks that came aboard as moms that didn’t get the help. You could see them missing meetings, missing assignments. A whole other part of virtual is that everything is very, very hyper-measured. So, when you are in an office together and have a conversation, you may not take notes, or say, ‘OK, got it.’ You go back, and it’s not really documented, because you just had a face-to-face, but we all forget things.

In the virtual world, someone is typing up a next-step notes of the meeting. We have something called a Wiki. We use the Wiki in general. So, we have our own Goodway Wiki. So, pretty much after I go in and talk to someone, or I talk to someone on the phone, like I was just talking about our all-company trip, it is all documented, and I can go back and see I have an assignment. Dave is going to follow up on this. I’m pretty accountable; we’re accountable, I guess, because we don’t have the crutch of just passing a Post-It note.

And what about the opposite? I can imagine a scenario where people just don’t stop working.

In terms of the workaholic end of it, we have a tech developer department, engineering department, and those are guys that say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I was at my desk for 12 hours. I never even got up to eat.’ I’m like, `Whoa, that’s so unhealthy.’ Tech folks tend to binge-work. But, in general, I think people learn to adapt to it and get some kind of schedule. Like, you know what? I’m going to go for a walk at 12. The first month, it’s an adjustment. Then, you start to get discipline, where I’m going to take a walk at lunch, I’m going to go work out, I’m going to do the wash, I’m going to walk the dog, I’m going to pick up my kids at the bus stop at 3, hang out, maybe watch a game, then I’ll continue working at 5.

I think if you looked at the average employee, I don’t think you would see 9 to 5. I think you would see 7 to 10, hour off to do something — a chore or workout — then you’ll see a couple of hours of work. Then, you might see 6 to 8 off. So, you’re working throughout the day, but maybe not continually.

Don’t people get lonely? I would. I see that you give memberships to coworking spaces as part of the non-office perks.

Certainly for millennials. If you’re a younger mom, you’ve got to be at command central, at the house, and managing everything. If you’re a millennial and you’re not married, you need to socialize. So, at least they have an outlet, plus we have these things called Meetups. So now, with about 40 people in Dallas, we have enough people that you could find someone to have lunch with every week. In Detroit, we have, probably, 15, 20 people. We have pictures around the office, but people send me a shot, hey, we got together and did a lunch or a happy hour together, or a concert, or a charity event.

How much do you think you save in rent? How do you handle that aspect?

I think for 400 people if we’re in Philly, it would have to be a million dollars a year in rent.

Jane M. Von Bergen, Staff Writer

Read full story: Need those office brewskies? Maybe you're not ready for virtual work