Remote: Office not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is an examination of the emerging trend of remote working. They discuss the benefits of working remotely for both the employer and employee while examining common excuses. Remote offers plenty of advice on how to get your company started on having remote employees and also advice on how to manage your work if you are a remote employee. A great all-round guide on the new way to work!
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Who is this summary for?
Remote: Office not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is an examination of the emerging trend of remote working. A great read for anyone looking for options other than the usual 9-5. They discuss the benefits of working remotely for both the employer and employee while examining common excuses. Remote offers plenty of advice on how to get your company started on having remote employees and also advice on how to manage your work if you are a remote employee. A great all-round guide on the new way to work!
About the authors
Jason Fried was one of the co-founders of 37 Signals, or more commonly known as Basecamp. Fried is a well-known keynote speaker, specialising in the topic of deficiencies in the workplace but also well versed in entrepreneurship, management, software, and design. Fried studied finance at The University of Arizona and during his time there he decided that he’d really like to work for himself and became interested in web design. From here, he met a couple of the right people and 37 Signals was born.
David Heinemeier Hansson is a Danish programmer, was a co-founder of 37 Signals and is currently the CTO. Heinemeier Hansson is the man behind Ruby on Rails, an open-source web framework that helps programmers all around the world build beautiful applications. Heinemeier Hanssen is also involved in public speaking, focusing on technology and business. A couple of his favourite hobbies are photography and racer driving.
Together Fried and Heinemeier Hansson have co-authored two books; Remote and Rework.
In this summary
This summary will start with a brief discussion about why remote work is becoming popular now and why more people should go remote. We’ll then move on to tackling some common excuses and learning how to collaborate with others when you work remotely. We’ll discuss how to hire staff and manage them remotely. Finally we’ll cover a few of Fried and Heinemeier Hansson’s thoughts on life as a remote worker.
WHY REMOTE WORKING?
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that when asked, people usually believe that in order to get work done, they need to go into the office, and preferably early in the morning before anyone else gets there. The idea is that offices are where work gets done, but other people are a distraction and cause interruptions.
Working in your average office usually means you are interrupted regularly and unable to get into a working zone. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that this means that it is hard to get meaningful or creative work done. To do that kind of work you need long stretches of time when you can really focus on the task at hand.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson acknowledge the difficulties of working at the office, but they also highlight that working away from the office has its own set of difficulties and interruptions. The TV for example if you work from home, or loud people at your local coffee shop. The difference with these distraction is that they are within your control. You can turn the TV off or move away from loud people in these situations. But in the office, you can’t escape.
Commuting and time
The vast majority of people spend time in rush hour traffic daily. The amount of time varies but in one example, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson use a thirty minute trip as an example. And when you count time to find a park and make it into the office you can add another fifteen minutes. So each day, that’s a total of 1.5 hours, 7.5 hours per week and between 300-400 hours per year. This time is completely wasted, and 30 minutes is actually a relatively short commute.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson question whether spending up to 400 hours commuting is a good use of your time? What else could you be doing with that time?
We have the technology
Technology has been developing rapidly and now the internet and portable devices give us the freedom to work anywhere, any time. Technology is the reason that companies haven’t been able to promote remote working in the past, but now, it’s easy and often better. However, older generations don’t see the benefit, they are stuck on the concept of work only getting done from 9am-5pm, in the office, in a busy city. However, we now know, that there are plenty of other options.
No more 9-5
There’s often no real need to be working only between the hours of 9am and 5pm. There’s a whole 24hours in a day and there’s no need to be so strict on ‘working times’. Some people work more efficiently early on, while others are night owls. And those with a family and children may want to work around school hours. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that any company that is efficient at promoting remote work shouldn’t have to set specific working hours. They explain that when it comes to creative work, this time flexibility can be so important. It gives you the freedom and flexibility to work when it suits you and when you are working at your best.
”Release yourself from the 9am-to-5pm mentality. It might take a bit of time and practice to get the hang of working asynchronously with your team, but soon you’ll see that it’s the work—not the clock—that matters.”
The new lifestyle
The general message about life is that you have two phases, first you work, and then you retire. However, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson believe that you should blend the two, and design your own lifestyle. Forget about the constraints that you believe are holding you back and do all the things you are saving for later, now. It’s not about quitting work altogether, it’s about taking bigger breaks more regularly or changing the environment you are working in.
Remote working means that an office is not required, however it doesn’t mean that you cannot have an office. The goal is flexibility, and that may mean having an office that you go to occasionally, but without the ties of being there Monday to Friday, 9-5.
Money money money
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson want you to remember that it shouldn’t be all about the money. Working remotely unlocks a better quality of life, earning more money or cutting costs is a benefit but it’s not the motivation.
Are there any downsides?
Like anything there are always benefits and downsides. Fried and Heinemeier identify a few compromises that remote workers have to give up:
- Not being able to engage with your coworkers in person regularly
- Giving up the comfort of structure and regime
- The difficulty of setting boundaries when working a home. When is work time and when is family time?
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson identify a number of excuses that are brought up surrounding remote working and a few ways they can be overcome.
- In order to have an effective meeting, everyone needs to sit around a table and be physically present.Fried and Heinemeier Hansson acknowledge that being physically present for meetings can be very beneficial, but when these meetings are not regular they have a ‘special event’ feel about them and may even have better results. They also explain that video and audio chat such as Skype can be extremely useful and have the same results.
- How do you know people are actually doing work if they aren’t in the office?The reality is that by being in the office, it doesn’t mean that people are actually working or being productive. Someone who slacks off and surfs the web isn’t only going to do this at home, it will be done at the office also. And this person probably isn’t a good employee, it’s not remote working that’s the issue.
- There’s too many interruptions at home.The same can be said for the office, the constant tea breaks and interruptions from colleagues can be just as much if not more than home interruptions. And remote working doesn’t mean you are confined to the home, it can be in a library or cafe too.
- What about security? The office is the only secure place.It’s important to be security conscious but it’s easy enough to set up security protocols and algorithms. Security for any device is easy and should be used!
- What about when you need an answer immediately?First of all, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that too many people consider almost everything tome urgent. The reality is that most questions don’t need immediate answers, emails will be returned within a few hours and if you have a question you need a quick fire response to you can always use instant message. If an emergency does arrive, pick up the telephone.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson are often asked about collaborations between people when they are working remotely. How does this work?
Firstly, they explain that there should be some overlap in working hours, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to work 9-5, but it means that you should ensure there are a few of the same working hours either at the beginning of the day or the end of the day. This way, you can use the overlapping time to discuss and work together.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson strongly urge remote workers to use visual and audio chatting services such as Skype as well as screen sharing tools such as WebEx. This way you can see each other and share the same screen, giving you the ability to work on the same project or task at the same time.
Another great and secure way to collaborate on the same documents is to manage your files on Dropbox rather than saving things on your individual computer. This way everyone can access the same files wherever they are.
Fried and Heinemeier acknowledge that sometimes it’s great to just chat with your colleagues in a more casual manner, the way you would in the staff room or at the water cooler. For conversations like this, instant message is the best tool, it gives you the ability to chat in real time, just as if you were standing next to each other.
Not just for out-of-towners
Just because you live locally doesn’t mean you can’t work remotely. In fact, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that when your just getting started, letting local people work remotely is a great test! They explain that if you’re willing to try it out, do it for a minimum of three months. Like any life change, there’s an adjustment period and you don’t want to give up early!
”It’s low risk, it’s no big deal, and worse comes to worst, people can start working at the office again.”
Meetings and managers
Most workplaces are run by meetings and managers. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson believe that often, meetings and managers are counter productive. Meetings are over-used, they are the default option and can effect motivation. Meetings are also a big distraction, people are pulled away from their work and can be big time wasters.
Managers are obviously an essential component of any company, however, there shouldn’t be too many. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that too many managers means that there are too many people to ask permission from and hoops to jump through. Often, it’s the managers who call the counter-productive meetings as well.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson identify a few things that you need to watch out for when working remotely.
- Cabin fever. This occurs when you only engage with other people online, you can also feel suffocated by being in one location. To combat this, ensure that you engage with people in the real world, and they don’t have to be your colleagues.
”You can go further, for example, find a co-working facility and share desks with others in your situation.”
- Working around the clock. When working at home it’s easy to check emails before breakfast and after dinner as well as working throughout the middle of the day. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson identify the importance of setting boundaries between work and home life. Allow yourself to start work and finish work, and outside of that time, don’t work!
- Health. When working from home it’s easy to slump on the couch, but this isn’t good for the body. Move around, set up a desk, try standing for a bit as well! And by working from home it’s likely that you won’t do many steps in a day. Make sure you move your body regularly.
- Working with clients. Ensure that your client is aware that you aren’t living in the same place as them and the majority of the work done together will not be in person. In these situations, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain the importance of being available via phone or email as much as possible and keeping touch regularly.
HIRING REMOTE WORKERS
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson encourage employers to hire people outside of their home country. Although at first it may seem too difficult to have employees so far away and with different time zones to manage, it will soon become clear that there is very little difference between having an employee work remotely in a neighbouring state and one in a completely different country.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that once you feel comfortable to hire internationally, you open yourself up to some great options. The global market is much larger than locally and you may be able to find even better recruits.
However, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson warn against using the option to hire internationally as a chance to recruit from places with a lower cost of living an essentially save on salaries. Remember your employees should all be as valuable as each other regardless of where they live.
Everyone knows how much time is spent looking for and hiring the perfect employee. And as we all know, people move. Now, if you are set up fore remote working this means you can potentially hold on to your best employees even if they move away. It’s a lot less admin to set up a current employee as a remote worker than it is to hire someone new all together.
”Given how hard it is to find great people, you should be doing your utmost to keep them.”
HOW TO MANAGE REMOTE WORKERS
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that the best way to get started with remote working is to start immediately. If you are a new business just getting started then allow it to happen from the beginning. This way. the company culture will grow up with remote workers. If you’re an already well-established business then you may as well get started right away. It will be a slightly harder road but worth it in the end.
”Take a tiny step with a few trusted current employees. Let them work outside the office a couple days a week. See what happens. It’s low risk and you’ll immediately start learning whether the policy makes sense.”
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that you need to consider how you treat all of your employees. Just because someone works out of the office doesn’t mean that they should be treated any differently to those that work in the office. Ensure that you maintain equal relationships with all staff members.
Obviously it’s important to remain in contact with all employees and keep up to date with what they are working on, but Fried and Heinemeier Hansson believe you should have slightly more frequent check-ins with any remote workers. Ensure that the communication is always open and consistent and make sure they feel included.
Empower your employees
Ensure that your employees are empowered and able to make important decisions on their own. If every employee needs to get approval for almost all of their work before they can move on, things won’t get done quickly and productivity will be effected. If your employees feel trusted and comfortable then you can trust that they will make the right decisions.
WHAT ITS LIKE TO BE A REMOTE WORKER
As a remote worker, it’s important that you build yourself a routine. Without the structure of an office-day, your freedom and flexibility can sometimes become a hinderance. For this reason, it’s important to set yourself some boundaries and routines. Here are a couple of tips from Fried and Heinemeier Hansson:
- Have ‘work clothes and don’t wear your pjs all day. This can be tempting but putting on ‘work’ clothes can help seperate your day into work and leisure.
- Seperate your day out into seperate chunks. Times such as catch-ups, collaborations and serious working time.
- Only work in whatever space you dedicate to ‘work’. Don’t do your emails in bed or on the couch!
Not all or nothing
As a remote worker you don’t have to commit to working remotely full time. You are able to spend some of your days at home and others at the office, or work from home in the morning and head into the office after lunch.
Some people find it difficult to work in silence and alone. If this is the case you can head to a coffee shop or library.
”There’re also a growing number of co-working facilities popping up in major cities. They function on the same idea as subletting a single space or a few desks from another company, except everyone in the office is doing just that.”
The other benefit of remote working is that you can literally do it from anywhere with a wifi connection. Most people spend their lives waiting until retirement before they travel, but if you are able to work remotely then you can get started straight away.
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson explain that your family life can actually benefit from you working remotely. You might be able to spend some time with your family over lunch, or be there for your child when they are ill without needing to take a day off work. Flexible hours also mean that you might be able to get away early some days to watch your kids sports.
”Remote work is here, and it’s here to stay. The only question is whether you’ll be part of the early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, or the laggards. The ship carrying the innovators has already sailed, but there are still plenty of vessels for the early adopters. Come on board.”
- You don’t need to be in the office to get work done.
- Working remotely can save you hours of commuting. This time can be used productively.
- Technology now allows us to work from anywhere, wi-fi, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
- You don’t need to be confined to the hours of 9-5, if you’re someone who works better early in the day then get started early and finish up early.
- You can still hold staff meetings without being physically present, tools such as Skype provide a platform for audio and video chat.
- Other tools such as instant messengers allow your staff to keep in touch regularly and instantly.
- Many people are concerned that working from home can be too distracting, but the reality is that offices are just as distracting with constant interruptions.
- Tools such as dropbox allow multiple staff members to work on the same document or project.
- You don’t have to be an out-of-towner in order to work remotely. You can live just down the road but choose not to work out of the office.
- As an employer, hiring remotely allows you to look internationally and opens up the pool of talent you can choose from.
- As an employer, make sure you keep in regular contact with your employees.
- Remote working doesn’t have to be all or nothing, you can work remotely a few days a week and head into the office a few days. Or even do half a day at home and half at the office to keep things interesting.
By the same authors, Rework is a fantastic read for anyone interested in business, leadership and entrepreneurship. It's very quick and easy to read. Each section is very concise; there's no fluff – just quick tips and actionable ideas. This is one of the reasons I love the book so much! One of the interesting things about the book is that it was written based on the experiences of growing 37 Signals; the company behind Basecamp and other productivity apps. The book is a byproduct of their business (which is one of the ideas they talk about in the book).
Another great read is Passive Income by Richard Gadson . This book has 30 strategies and ideas to start an online business and acquiring financial freedom. Perfect for someone looking to escape the office and the 9-5 lifestyle. Full of tips and ideas on how to get started on your journey, this book covers everything from starting an online shop to selling eBooks on Amazon.
Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.
- As an employee, approach your employer and ask about options for remote working.
- As an employer, look for ways that remote working could integrate into your company.
- Download the complete book on Amazon.
This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.