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Remote: Office Not Required Hardcover – October 29, 2013
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“The authors review the pros and cons of telecommuting, suggest ideas to enhance efficiency, and tools to optimize output and build a collaborative spirit….easy to digest [and] useful ideas that are worth checking out.”
“Presents powerful arguments…the book is an eye opener to the endless benefits that come with remote work...a worthwhile investment of your times and money.”
"Remote is the book that 21st century business leaders have been waiting for: a paradigm-smashing, compulsively readable case for a radically remote workplace. If you're intrigued by extreme teleworking, but have your doubts, Remote is the place to address them. Not a day goes by that I don't think about, talk about, and actually apply the insights in this game-changing book."
--Susan Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
"What you'll find in Remote is profound advice from guys who've succeeded in the virtual workforce arena. This is a manifesto for discarding stifling location- and time-based organizational habits in favor of best work practices for our brave new virtual and global world. If your organization entrusts you with the responsibility to get things done, this is a must-read.”
--David Allen, internationally best-selling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
“Remote is the way I work and live. Now I know why. If you work in an office, you need to read this remarkable book, and change your life.”
--Richard Florida, author of the national bestseller The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life
“In the near future, everyone will work remotely, including those sitting across from you. You'll need this farsighted book to prepare for this inversion.”
--Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick for Wired Magazine and author of What Technology Wants
“Leave your office at the office. Lose the soul-sapping commutes. Jettison the workplace veal chambers and banish cookie-cutter corporate culture. Smart, convincing and prescriptive, Remote offers a radically more productive and satisfying office-less future, better for all (well, except commercial landlords).”
--Adam L. Penenberg, author of Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves
“Fried and Hansson show how remote working sets people free--free from drudgery and free to unleash unprecedented creativity and productivity. This workday disruption is necessary if we want to use our new digital tools to full effect. The first gift copy I buy will be for my boss!”
--James McQuivey, PhD, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, and author of Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation
"Just like we couldn't imagine a cell phone smaller than a toaster in the 1970’s, some companies still believe that they can't get great performance from their employees unless they show up at an office. Virtual work is the wave of the future, and Jason and David do a brilliant job of teaching best practices for both employees and employers."
--Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation
“Jason and David convincingly argue the merits of remote work, both from the perspective of manager and of worker. For the former, working remotely means more productive teams. For the latter, there is the ultimate luxury: control over one’s environment. Remote work gives you the power to craft your own life, and this book is a roadmap to get that.”
--Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success
"The decentralization of the workplace is no longer fodder for futurists, it's an everyday reality. Remote is an insight-packed playbook for thriving in the coming decade and beyond."
--Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice
“Remote shows you how to remove the final barrier to doing the work you were meant to do, with the people you were meant to do it with, in the most rewarding and profitable way possible--this book is your ticket to real freedom!”
--John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
About the Author
JASON FRIED and DAVID HEINEMEIER HANSSON are the founders of Basecamp (previously 37signals), a trailblazing software company. They have been profiled in such publications as Time, Newsweek, and Wired. They're also contributors to Signals v. Noise, one the of Web's most popular blogs.
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To get work done we needed groups of people in the same place at the same time. To be at work at the same time, 8:30 to 4:30, people needed to live close to their workplaces. Towns grew into cities and housing grew upward. Those who could not or would not live close to their workplaces spend more time in traffic.
This book raises the issues of whether we all need offices. Why don’t we work from the place most convenient to us that day, at a time most convenient to us that day. The issue of remote and asynchonomous work could not be realistically raised ten years ago, but can certainly be today. We now have all the enabling technology to allow many types of work to be performed remotely. This includes the obvious call centre staff, but also the specialist repairman who can perform his work from afar.
“Office not required,” the subtitle of this book, is not the future, the authors argue, it is the present.
Why would anyone want to work remotely? There a many compelling reasons not least the wasted time spent on your daily commute. Stop and calculate the number of hours each week you spend getting to work. You could also add in the time it takes to get to clients for meetings. Then ask yourself what you would do with the time saved by not travelling.
So, why do we not work remotely? Some types of office work cannot be done remotely, and that is not at issue. The issue is that much work can be done remotely.
Before I pursue the argument for remote work further, let me answer the question of why large, thoughtful companies, are not doing it. The answer is they are. IBM, for example, has had their staff telecommuting since 1995 with a saving on office space of 7.2 million square metres.
The authors offer various reasons for the resistance to remote work.
A common argument is that innovation only happens through the magic of face to face contact. Let us presume for a moment that it is true and that creativity requires a group of people to be in the same place at the same time. How much time is spent creativity solving big problems? Very little, most of our time at work is spent executing the “big problems” and that can be done in so many cases, remotely.
Even if there is a need for people to be together to work on issues, only a few moments on Skype or FaceTime is enough to establish who is present. Thereafter most of the work will be conducted on a shared computer screen where designs, text, or numbers are formulated and manipulated. These modes of collaboration are relatively low tech and inexpensive to use.
Many are afraid that people cannot be trusted to be productive at home. The fact is that people can come to work and not be productive either. The real difference between coming to work and staying at home to work is little more than whether you wear a T-shirt or a dress shirt.
As the authors point out: “If you can’t let your employees work from home out of fear they’ll slack off without your supervision, you’re a babysitter, not a manager. Remote work is very likely the least of your problems.”
An argument against remote work is the effect it would have on the company culture which would wither away. Remote work is not an “all or nothing” type choice. Staff can be brought together a few times a week or a month to connect and preserve the culture. It is also worth noting that “culture” is not embodied in the company events, but in the manner in which the company works. It manifests in the behaviour of staff to one another, in the manner of treating customers, in the quality of work accepted, and so on. None of these culture building blocks are absent if people work remotely.
The real question any discussion on remote work would need to address is why bother with the question of staff working remotely at all?
I have already mentioned the time wasted on your daily commute to the office, but there also many work related issues.
Where do you go when you want to do serious work? Very few people answer to the office without the qualification – very early in the morning, before anyone gets in, or after everyone leaves, or on weekends.
Offices have become “interruption factories,” observe the authors. When a colleague is only a step away why not ask for information or an opinion or a document, now. If you were working remotely, would you send an email or a sms, or if it is really urgent, make phone for the same request.
Of course, there are interruptions at home or in a coffee shop, but these are interruptions you can control more easily than a manager or colleague.
Remote work allows, in many cases, for better quality work. “Squeezing slightly more words per hour out of a copywriter is not going to make anyone rich. Writing the best ad just very well might,” the authors note.
Not having to live in Johannesburg to work for a firm in Johannesburg could be a huge incentive for someone who enjoys the more gentle life in the Paarl. For the firm it allows the search for talent to extend much wider than the immediate surroundings of the office. There is talent scattered all around the country and the world.
Provided the type of work you do does not require you to be present at the office, there is no longer any compelling reason for being there all the time. The most difficult challenge many only be the mental shift – you are still working even if you don’t have an office.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy
This book shares practical experience about working remotely, taken from 37Signals and some other companies. The authors spend a lot of time explaining the benefits of remote work, the resistance one may encounter against it, and the most common excuses for not allowing remote work. That is, prejudices like that innovation happens only face-to-face, or that people can't be trusted to be productive at home, or that company culture would wither away if remote work is allowed...
As a consultant I rely on remote work a lot. I think that a mix of remote work of some kind is in the future of many positions. But I have to say that I was disappointed by this book, specially after the expectations raised by the authors in the Introduction:
"Above all, this book will teach you how to become an expert in remote work. It will provide an overview of the tools and techniques that will help you get the most of it, as well as the pitfalls and constraints that can bring you down." This book will give you insights on remote work, but won't help you become an expert, or give you much in tools and techniques.
The ideas that the authors share are not new. You don't need to read this book to realize that interruptions are bad for your concentration and productivity. The examples given of companies and their use of remote work are poor. The examples are real, but they barely descend to any detail about the implementation, or the problems encountered. More important, there is no mention of the impact of remote work on things like work climate, productivity, meeting deadlines, client satisfaction, or the bottom line. From a more conceptual point of view, a question one would expect to be answered by the book is what are the key factors for a position to be considered for remote work?
The authors often use 37signals as a self-reference for remote working practice. For example, at one point the authors mention than Jason (Fried) usually starts working at home at 7:30 a.m. and arrives at the office at 11 .a.m. Great, but Jason is the CEO of his own company, and as most CEOs do, he organizes his time as he sees fit. But how does this apply to a second-level manager of a big company? Or to a sales supervisor?
Many of the ideas mentioned, in my opinion, depend more on the company's culture that on allowing remote work or not. 37Signals grew up being remote from the start, and has managed to remain a small workforce of great talented people. But established companies with years of operation and an established culture need more than good reasons to implement such changes, at least company wide.
My first opportunity arose to work for a company with remote option. After 15 years of commuting and chained to a beige cubical I was free. I was now able to do engaging work and deliver without having to come into the office. I even found that I was also able to be more productive.
This book is a great primer for understanding the concept of what today’s technology facilitates. From a company perspective, your employee selection opens up from the local market to all corners of the world. For employees it allows you to save time from commuting and spend that extra time with your family promoting even better work life balance. This is the future of work for knowledge workers.
As a business owner you will gain insights on the benefits of remote work. As a manager you will gain tools to facilitate remote staff. As a remote worker you will learn additional strategies to address common concerns.
Most recent customer reviews
It is a collection of short essays on why remote makes sense but with the exception of maybe 2 or 3 essays...Read more