Remote – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Reading Remote

I picked up Remote mainly because I often work from home as part of my job as an instructional designer at a university. There is the usual mix of attitudes there: some who applaud the system for helping us to be flexible and save money, some who decry the system for encouraging laziness, and some who are envious, wishing their position also allowed for working from home.

The fact is, there are many questions revolving around working remotely. How do you manage group projects? Isn’t there a delay if someone is in a different timezone? What is the manager’s role now? How can they trust their employees if they can’t see them?

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson do a light but thorough approach to the concept. They share how working from home has benefitted their company, 37signals, which is a successful software company. (I was surprised and delighted to see they created Basecamp, which is the clever project management software our organization uses to track time and share files.)

Overall, their message to companies, managers, and employees is that working from home can increase productivity, help workers be valued for their actual work rather than whether they reported to work on time, save major dollars, and increase employees’ longevity with the company (you can move and still work for the same company, no problem). They validate their recommendations by sharing examples and how working remotely has worked well for their company. I will say they didn’t focus much on what didn’t work, or roadblocks, but people can probably anticipate those for themselves readily enough.

This book was structured to be quick reading, with ideas broken into convenient 1-3 page chunks. I found it easily readable and succinct, and the conversational tone made it feel as though I was chatting casually with them in a coffee shop somewhere.

Highlights

  • Avoiding the delay in communication – If all files are open to everyone rather than saved on one person’s computer, and if the workflow is clearly mapped out, then delays don’t happen!
  • Community definitely happens only – leave a chat open and people will converse periodically. Their work isn’t interrupted, and they can share jokes, videos, funny memes, and more. People tend to do shorter chats, so that 15-minute conversation is now condensed into say, three minutes.
  • Routine is still key – at home, they recommend dedicating a room and a device to your work, so that the mental separation of work and play is distinct. You can wear comfy clothes, but ensure that you dress up if it helps you focus.
  • Be VERY available – show everyone that you are on task and with it by responding promptly! If the delays start happening, that’s when they’ll wonder if you are doing your work.
  • Have an ongoing “What are you working on?” weekly chat, so people can stay in touch.
  • Don’t be forgotten – by doing productive, outstanding work and communicating regularly, you won’t be ignored!

Who would like to read this book?

I would strongly recommend this book to managers and employees who either work from home or are curious about the benefits. We’ve found it to be a great solution in our workplace, and I can absolutely say I’m more creative, more rested, have a better work-life balance, and am more productive as a result. This book captures much of the mindset and advantages of working from home; it could be stronger on the actual strategies for implementation, but most of the battle is getting the right understanding before people adopt this option.

I received this book free from Blogging for Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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