As part of our series “Beyond the Office,” today we’re sharing a few strategies for business owners who want a more flexible work environment for themselves and their employees. For those who build flexibility into their business model, the benefits can be substantial.

The entrepreneurial spirit often sprouts from the dream of escaping from a traditional office environment. Yet, once former employees launch their own endeavors, many still find themselves working long hours in an office.

willreturnsign When followers of RingCentral on Facebook were recently asked what freedom meant to them, answers included “not being trapped at my desk” and “having the freedom to make my own schedule, work as hard as I want to and run my business my way.”

The ability to set one’s own schedule and get away from the office remains an elusive dream for some business owners. However, for those who leverage technology and implement strategies that facilitate flexibility, a higher degree of freedom can be obtained. The businesses that do embrace change often reap the additional benefits of cost savings, increased productivity and the ability to attract more talented employees.

Here are five things to consider when building more flexibility into your business model:

Take It One Step at a Time
Effective change happens incrementally. So even if you have the long-term goal of spending most of your days outside of the office, it may be necessary to move gradually in this new direction. Customers, employees and vendors often need to be eased into your transition to a less-structured business model. Develop actionable steps towards increased flexibility, and take your time to make sure that everyone is on board.

Embrace New Technologies
Mobile and cloud-based technologies provide myriad benefits for small business owners. The entrepreneur who is stubbornly against adopting new technologies will be the one who remains stuck in the office waiting for a fax, phone call or email. Internet-based business phone systems, online software as a service, social networks, on-demand outsourcing, document sharing and other tools that may be accessed from a mobile device can make the difference between being tied to an office and being able to run a business from anywhere.

Don’t Underestimate Your Employees
Some business owners are afraid of what will happen if employees are given the freedom to work outside of the office. In most cases, they’re not only grateful for the flexibility; they’re also more productive without the interruptions and distractions of an office environment.

Ignore Your Critics
Finally, every business owner will have at least a few critics who don’t understand what he or she is trying to achieve. While it’s always good to listen to a variety of opinions before shifting to a more flexible business model, it’s still your business. If it’s your desire to incorporate more freedom into your life as a business owner, stick with your new model until it is working or until you’re certain that it’s not possible. Just don’t give up on a dream of a more flexible business before you’ve attempted to make it come true!

Have you built more flexibility into your business model? Share your ideas with other business owners on our Facebook page.

And, if you have a piece of hardware that drives you crazy, don’t forget to enter our No Hardware Video Contest. Hurry – the deadline to submit a video is July 22nd!

Image by Erik Byers on Flickr