Remote: Office Not Required, David Hansson & Jason Fried (5/10)

A series of blog-posts that comprehensively address common objections to remote work from a business-owners perspective

Remote: Office Not Required, David Hansson & Jason Fried (5/10)

Rating: 5/10
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🤔 Pre Read Exercise: What Do I Know About This Topic/Book?

I've seen this book Goodreads and came across it on a Nomad book list. From what I understand, the book's about how to work remotely and the culture and shift in society around that. I know a lot about this topic from personal entrepreneurial experience, but not on a larger, business owner scale. My thinking is more geared towards the employee's perspective rather than large business-owners'. From the biz owner, I recognise how remote work could facilitate a 4-hour-work-week life through outsourcing and automation. But this isn't going to result in the next £1bn+ company. I wonder how this book balances that.

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. A series of blog-posts that comprehensively address common objections to remote work from a business-owners perspective
  2. Very little in terms of practical solutions to genuine and unique challenges and difficulties related to remote-work
  3. An outdated and narrow-minded view into remote work which I generally wouldn't recommend

🎨 Impressions

The book reads like a collection of blog posts rather than an actual body of work. The chapters end abruptly and are generally quite shallow. As a result, I found the book to be quite underwhelming.

Going remote poses genuine and unique challenges and difficulties. I was hoping this book might offer me practical solutions to these in order to grow and scale my businesses. Instead, the book is a series of counterarguments to common objections to remote work - geared towards execs, managers or low-level employees. But, as someone already on-board with remote work, this was quite redundant. It's ironic, since I feel most readers are already convinced of remote work and want to embrace it further...

The authors came across as pompous patriarchal prescribers of their very particular variety of work, incapable of looking beyond their specific experiences or drawing on analogies outside of their company - 37 Signals. I found them to be quite narrow minded and possibly even self-promotional to a counterproductive extent. I felt it might've been written in 2003, not 2013, at times. With that being said, it might, perhaps, be an indication of just how far we have come in 8 years (I write this in 2021).

🔍 How I Discovered It

Goodreads and various book lists for Nomads.

🥰 Who Would Like It?

If you're someone on the fence about remote work, this book is solid. If you want help convincing your team, your manager, or your company executives to work remotely, this book is solid. For anyone already on-board with remote work, looking for practical solutions to existing and possible future problems, this book is a bit of a waste of time.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

  • Be more cautious of reading books recommended by Nomad lists!

💬 My Favourite Quotes

  • Most people want to work, as long as it’s stimulating and fulfilling. And if you’re stuck in a dead-end job that has no prospects of being either, then you don’t just need a remote position—you need a new job.
  • Remote work speeds up the process of getting the wrong people off the bus and the right people on board.
  • In thirty years’ time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed. —RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER OF VIRGIN GROUP

📒 Summary + Notes

Arguments against remote work

  • Work doesn’t happen at work anymore! People no longer go to the office to get work done - there's too many distractions in the form of meetings, emails and phone calls breaking up your day
  • Commuting is a huge time drag. Remote workers don’t have a long commute, saving them 100’s of hours across the year.
  • Remote work opens you to hire outside of your location. Talent is globally distributed - don't rely of those near your HQ
  • Remote work doesn’t mean you’ll ‘lose control’. Losing sight of your employees doesn’t mean you lose control. Start slow - allow people to WFH on Friday. Your company won't fall apart.
  • Remote work is for any industry and size. N.A.S.A, Deloitte, Intel, HSBC, BT, etc.

Effective remote collaboration

  • Employees need to overlap. Successful remote work requires employees to have a decent time overlap. Failing this results in a break down in communication, reducing turnaround time. 4 hours overlap seems to work well.
  • Face to face time. Face-to-face time can enhance collaboration and get everyone on the same page. Zoom, Skype, etc. have made this a lot easier.
  • Create a virtual water cooler. Remote workers will get isolated. Zero human interaction will take its toll. Use Slack to create a 24/7 space for people to have fun, share off-topic stuff, and chat.
  • Keep everyone in the loop. Make a time where everyone can share what they're working on. Even if it's just a few lines in a chat room or minutes on call. It helps keep everyone on-track, in the same direction. It also helps with motivation and incentives.
  • Easy on management and meetings. Remote working requires managers to deal with things with more purpose, leaving employees to work. No more meetings for the sake of meetings.

When remote working can be bad

  • Cabin fever. Some remote workers will get isolated and it’s difficult to spot. Working from cafes or co-working spaces is a great way to get human interaction without the office distractions.
  • Keep a reasonable routine. Remote work can blur lines between work and play. It can be difficult to stop working. As a manager, it’s essential you set the right work ethic and encourage employees to enjoy their personal time away from work.

Hiring and keeping your best

Be quick to cut bad vibes or negative comments. Communication is far more important for remote companies. Disgruntled remote workers can be far more destructive. Be quick to cut out negativity before before it picks up momentum.

No parlour tricks. Microsoft and Apple are known for riddles and quizzes in interviews. This is a waste of time. Get your shortlist to demonstrate relevant work, e.g. mini project, to evidence their skills.

Great remote workers are just good workers. It’s harder to fake hard work when you’re remote. Most of what you do is visible. It’s easy to spot who's working and what the quality is like. No hiding behind endless meetings and calls.

Remote work speeds up the process of getting the wrong people off the bus and the right people on board.

Managing remote workers

The job of a manager is not to herd cats, but to lead and verify the work
  • Remote workers can still do meetups and sprints. Even the most remote teams should meet up - helps  get to know the people, making it much easier to work remotely. Meetups are especially important for new joiners. Meetups are also a great way to handle a last minute project or where something just needs to get done.
  • Learn from the open source community. Some of the most actively used products in the world have been curated and built by remote workers. Remote work has worked incredibly well on open source projects and proves how even the most complex tasks, with 1000’s of contributors can still be managed remotely. In the tech world GitHub, Basecamp and JIRA have made this much easier.
  • Don’t treat remote workers like 2nd class citizens. It’s easy for remote workers to fall out of the loop. Informal chats in the office can quickly lead to remote workers becoming alienated. Stop this by having managers work remotely from time to time. Encourage the need to keep the communication channels open and everyone equal.
  • Empower employees by letting them make decisions on their own. Trust is required for effective remote work. Let employees make decisions themselves to build trust. Remove the need for them to ask permission all the time. Some mistakes are a small price to pay for self-sufficiency.
  • Use scarcity to your advantage. Not seeing people face-to-face can be a good thing. It means phone calls and meetings will actually count. You know you won’t see them again for a while so you get straight to the point and get everything you can out of the short amount of time you have.

Life of a remote worker

  • You still need a routine. Getting up and going to the office creates a great routine and separates work from home. You must consider this and create a routine that works for you. One that allows you to be productive while enjoying your personal time. This might be avoiding taking your laptop out of your home ‘office’ or setting consistent ‘start’ and ‘stop’ times.
  • Break up the day. As a remote worker, you can be anywhere you want. Leverage this to work from home in the morning and the office in the afternoon. Or from multiple coffee shops throughout the day. This flexibility helps keep things fresh and stop you from getting too isolated.

Conclusion

The arguments for and against remote working will continue for some time. But as a new wave of managers and companies flourish, there's no doubt that remote work is on the up. A tipping point could be coming soon with companies realising the benefits of remote work and using it their advantage rather than fighting against it. It might not be for everyone but there are undoubtedly some tremendous benefits.