[SUMMARY]-Remote: Office Not Required
Here’s a summary of the praise for the book Remote:
The book provides “profound advice from guys who’ve succeeded in the virtual workforce arena.” It offers 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.”
Remote work “sets people free—free from drudgery and free to unleash unprecedented creativity and productivity.”
“In the near future, everyone will work remotely, including those sitting across from you.” This book helps prepare you for this change.
The book argues for abandoning offices in favor of a “radically more productive and satisfying office-less future, better for all.”
Remote work “is the wave of the future, and Jason and David do a brilliant job of teaching best practices for both employees and employers.”
The book provides “insight-packed” advice for “thriving in the coming decade and beyond.”
Remote work removes “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.”
The book is “not just a powerful toolbox” but also provides “fascinating insights into collaboration, innovation, and the human mind.”
In summary, the praise highlights how the book provides practical advice and arguments for transitioning to remote work. The reviewers see remote work as the future and believe this book helps prepare individuals and organizations for the changes to come.
Meaningful work requires long stretches of uninterrupted time. This is hard to achieve in a typical office setting with constant interruptions. Working remotely allows people to settle into a productive zone and actually get work done.
-Commuting long distances is detrimental to our health, happiness, and productivity. It wastes huge amounts of time that could be better spent. New technology makes working remotely a viable alternative.
-Asynchronous collaboration allows remote teams to work across time zones and different schedules. Relaxed work hours benefit both early risers and night owls. Creativity flourishes when people have flexibility. Some companies have done away with set schedules altogether.
-Cities have traditionally been talent hubs, but new technology provides access to culture and entertainment anywhere. Many people are realizing they don't need to live in overpriced, cramped cities and are choosing to leave.
-The luxuries companies once used to entice employees to spend long hours at the office, like fancy meals and lavish perks, are outdated. The new luxury is having the freedom to live and work wherever you want.
Here is a summary:
Don't wait until retirement to live your life and pursue your passions. Start blending work and leisure now by choosing where and when you want to work. This new kind of freedom and flexibility is a luxury.
Great talent and creativity are not limited to major hubs like Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and New York City. Successful companies can be built anywhere. Employees who work remotely from smaller cities and towns tend to be happier and stay in their jobs longer.
Allowing employees to work remotely is not primarily a cost-cutting measure. It's about improving quality of life, access to talent, and other benefits. Cost savings on office space are a side benefit.
Remote work does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Companies can have a mix of office-based and remote employees. The office space a company needs can be greatly reduced but not eliminated.
There are significant cost savings for both companies and employees from remote work. Companies can save on office space and commuting costs. Employees can save on commuting costs and gain back time. There are also environmental benefits from reducing traffic and emissions.
However, remote work also comes with trade-offs and compromises. Loss of face-to-face interaction with coworkers, loss of structure, and difficulty building company culture are some potential downsides to balance against the benefits. Remote work may not suit every employee or company culture.
In summary, remote work offers appealing benefits but also requires careful consideration of the pros and cons for each organization and individual. The option to work remotely does not have to be an all-or-nothing choice. With openness to compromise, companies and employees can craft solutions that maximize the benefits of remote work for their unique situations.
Working remotely requires personal commitment to establish and stick to an alternative work schedule. This can be challenging, especially for procrastinators. It may be difficult for those with families to set boundaries. However, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks if you focus on maximizing the benefits and minimizing the disadvantages.
Many companies already work remotely without realizing it by outsourcing essential functions like legal, accounting, payroll, and advertising to outside firms. If companies trust outsiders to do critical work, why don't they trust their own employees to work remotely?
Look at what work already happens remotely in your company. You may find your company is more remote-friendly than you realize.
Face-to-face meetings are not required for breakthrough ideas or productive work. Ration in-person meetings to elevate their importance. Remote tools like video conferencing can enable effective collaboration.
Lack of trust is the primary reason for concerns about remote work. However, people can be just as unproductive in an office. Hire people you trust and who can work independently. Constant surveillance of employees is counterproductive.
While home environments may have more distractions, people can still be productive with interesting, fulfilling work. The distractions themselves may signal issues with the work that should be addressed. A dedicated workspace away from home can help minimize distractions.
Here is a summary:
Working remotely is less of an issue than many fear. It can be quite fulfilling for most people and allows them escape from dead-end jobs.
Security risks of remote work are often overblown. By following basic security protocols like using encryption, strong passwords, two-factor authentication etc., remote work can be quite secure. Many big companies let executives use unencrypted laptops while preventing regular employees from working remotely.
To deal with client expectations of quick responses, set some ground rules like not scheduling early morning meetings. Occasional off-hours calls are a small price to pay for the benefits of remote work. Having people work staggered shifts can ensure coverage during business hours. For very small companies, some employees like customer support may need to work regular hours.
Just because big companies don't widely adopt remote work doesn't mean small companies shouldn't. Big companies are often inefficient and slow to change. Remote work can provide a competitive advantage. Some big companies like IBM, SC Johnson and eBay have fully embraced remote work.
Concerns that coworkers would get jealous if some can work remotely but not others are misguided. If remote work improves productivity, it should be offered to anyone whose job allows it. Different jobs have different requirements, and people understand that. The goal should be finding the best way to work for each role.
Culture is about the values and actions of a company, not social events. A strong culture means less oversight is needed, as people internalize the company's values. Remote work can strengthen culture by focusing on actions and decisions, not superficial in-person interactions. Culture derives from how people actually work, not what the company mission statement says.
Here is a summary:
Constant interruptions and bothering coworkers for unnecessary questions reduces productivity in a traditional office setup.
It is important to recognize that not all questions need an immediate answer. Questions can be handled via email, chat or phone based on urgency. This helps minimize interruptions.
Working remotely helps overcome the addiction to needing an answer as soon as possible (ASAP). It leads to more productivity and calmness.
The fear of losing control is one of the biggest arguments against allowing remote work. This fear needs to be overcome through a gradual process by starting small and showing that productivity does not suffer. If the fear cannot be overcome, it may be time to find another job.
The money already spent on office space is a sunk cost and should not be a reason to force employees to work from the office. Productivity should be the only consideration.
Remote work can work for companies of all sizes and industries. Many major companies across various industries have large remote workforces.
Overlapping work hours and avoiding delays in communication are important for successful remote collaboration. A time difference of 4 hours or less works well for most teams. Larger time differences require extra effort.
Other tips for remote collaboration:
› Share as much as possible in writing to create an archive of discussions and decisions. This helps avoid confusion and brings new team members up to speed.
› Overcommunicate and be transparent. Share updates, challenges, wins, questions, ideas, etc. Make coworkers aware of your schedule and availability.
› Use video conferencing to help build rapport and see facial expressions. This can help reduce misunderstandings.
› Be open to feedback and be willing to clarify. Written communication lacks tone and body language, so misunderstandings happen easily. Address issues promptly.
› Build relationships and trust which are harder to establish remotely. Make an effort to connect personally with coworkers.
› Be disciplined and focused. Working remotely requires avoiding distractions and staying on task. Let coworkers know if you need to be offline and for how long.
Compromise was needed to figure out a work schedule that accommodated time zones for teams in Copenhagen and Chicago. They found a four-hour window of overlap that worked.
Unconventional work schedules have benefits like less interruptions and more time for yourself. People have preferences for when they work best.
If time zones prevent real-time collaboration, rely on tools for asynchronous communication like screen sharing, video conferencing and screencasts. These help replicate the experience of collaborating in person.
transparency and open access to information is key for remote teams. Use tools like Basecamp, GitHub, shared calendars and Dropbox to give everyone visibility into work progress, schedules, files, etc. This avoids wasting time chasing information.
Create opportunities for social interaction and building rapport like a chat program for casual conversation. This provides the virtual equivalent of chatting by the water cooler.
Share regular updates on what individuals have been working on and will work on next. This helps give everyone a sense of forward progress and being in the loop. It's harder to exaggerate or misrepresent work when updates are visible to the whole team.
Remote work means evaluating employees based primarily on the work itself rather than superficial measures. This focuses on actual productivity and output.
Here’s a summary:
Working remotely can lead to feelings of isolation or “cabin fever.” However, human interaction does not have to come solely from coworkers. Spending time with friends, family, neighbors, etc. can help combat isolation. If those options aren’t available, try co-working spaces or getting out into the real world for social interaction.
While remote work offers more freedom and flexibility, some managers may require excessive “checking in” to monitor productivity. This can defeat the purpose of remote work and damage trust and autonomy. The ideal situation is a balance of trust and accountability. Managers should focus on evaluating work output and trust employees to do their jobs, while employees take initiative to update managers on progress and ask questions.
Some people may struggle with lack of structure or accountability when working remotely. For them, creating routines and schedules can help provide needed structure. It may also help to break down work into concrete tasks and deadlines.
Managers should make communication a priority and ensure all relevant information is accessible to remote teams. They should also facilitate opportunities for remote workers to interact, build rapport and collaborate.
In summary, the key points are:
• Combat isolation by connecting with non-work relationships and social interaction.
• “Checking in” excessively on remote workers can damage trust and autonomy. Focus on work output and trust employees.
• Help provide structure for those who need it. Create routines, schedules, concrete tasks and deadlines.
• Make communication and collaboration a priority. Share all relevant information and facilitate opportunities for interaction.
• The ideal situation is a balance of trust, accountability, structure and flexibility.
Here is a summary:
Remote work allows for flexibility but also the risk of overworking if you don’t maintain a work-life balance. It’s easy to end up working longer hours when you have the freedom to work from anywhere.
Managers need to set reasonable expectations for remote employees to avoid burnout. For example, expecting employees to work 40 hours a week on average and not rewarding overwork. It’s important for employees to determine what constitutes “a good day’s work” and stop when they’ve achieved that.
Proper office equipment like an adjustable desk, ergonomic chair, and high-resolution monitor are important for remote work. Employees should be encouraged to vary their workspace and switch positions to avoid health issues from prolonged sitting.
Remote work can lead to less movement and exercise, so employees need to make an effort to stay active. Things like walking during breaks, exercising, and cooking healthy meals are important. Some companies offer stipends for gym memberships and healthy food options for remote employees.
Implementing remote work successfully requires transitioning entire teams, not just individuals. It takes time for people and workflows to adjust, so organizations need to commit to giving remote work a real chance to work. Starting with a pilot group and learning from their experiences can help in rolling it out more widely.
When working with remote clients, be transparent about working remotely upfront. Provide references from other remote clients, show work progress frequently to build trust, use video conferencing, establish regular communication, and focus on results and key milestones. Building trust and managing expectations are key.
Video conferencing, screen sharing, and other remote collaboration tools are essential for connecting with clients and colleagues from a distance. Make an effort to have some face-to-face time over video and be fully present during those meetings.
Focus on key results and milestones instead of hours worked. Manage based on deliverables and what’s accomplished rather than physical presence. This benefits both managers and employees.
Here’s a summary:
Working remotely is legal in most countries, but there are accounting and tax concerns to be aware of, especially if you have employees in other states or countries. It’s best to consult legal and accounting experts.
Hiring international contractors is simpler than establishing a local office in another country. Contractors bill as invoices, but don’t receive benefits. Companies and employees share currency fluctuation risks.
Thinking internationally exposes you to more talent and diverse perspectives. However, consider time zones, language barriers, and cultural differences.
Don’t let valuable, long-time employees leave just because they need to move. Remote work allows them to stay, retaining their knowledge and experience.
For companies, the hassle of remote work mostly comes from not being in the same office. The distance between employees, whether in the same city or on different continents, makes little difference once good remote working habits are established.
Having an international team can be a selling point for clients, exposing them to more ideas.
It’s important to consider time zones and communication abilities when hiring internationally. Strong writing skills are key for remote teams.
People move for many reasons unrelated to work, like marriage, weather preferences, family, or scenery. Companies shouldn’t lose valuable employees just because they need to move.
Here is a summary:
It is important to keep good employees and teams together as long as possible. They become more efficient over time and make fewer mistakes.
Even though remote workers are not physically together, it is important to maintain the human connection. Small misunderstandings can spiral out of control quickly without in-person interaction. It is important to hire people with an optimistic outlook who will maintain team happiness and cohesion.
Managing remote workers requires monitoring work atmosphere and addressing even small issues quickly. Letting "poisonous" behavior persist can be very damaging. Enforcing a "no assholes allowed" rule is important.
While remote work has its benefits, it can narrow employees' lives if they don't pursue outside interests. Companies should encourage diversity of experience by giving employees time for hobbies and interests outside of work.
Using riddles, puzzles and other gimmicks to hire remote workers is not effective. The most reliable way to evaluate candidates is to review their actual work product, like writing samples, code samples or case studies. For roles without an obvious work product, posing real-world problems from the job is better than indirect measures.
While it may be tempting to recruit remote workers from low-cost areas to save money, it is better to hire the best candidates and pay competitive salaries. This helps workers feel valued and builds a highly skilled team. Focusing too much on cost savings can damage culture and productivity.
The key points are: maintain strong human connections with remote teams; address issues quickly; encourage outside interests; evaluate based on work, not gimmicks; and pay competitive salaries for the best candidates regardless of location. Building a cohesive, optimistic team and company culture is most important for success with remote workers.
Here is a summary:
It is harder for remote employees to find new jobs at the same salary level since local companies tend to pay local rates. This makes remote employees less inclined to switch jobs, giving companies hiring them an advantage.
Hiring remote employees from small towns and paying them well helps retain top talent. The author gives examples of hiring remote employees from small towns who have stayed with the company for years.
Remote work exposes who the truly productive employees are. Without the distractions of an office, it becomes clear who is smart, gets work done, and is productive. Remote work speeds up identifying and removing underperforming employees.
Strong writing skills are essential for remote workers. Most communication and decisions happen via written communication, so remote workers need to be able to write clearly. The author recommends some resources for improving writing skills.
To evaluate potential remote hires, the author recommends paying them to do a short-term “pre-hiring” project to assess the quality and timeliness of their work. This is a better assessment than just evaluating their resume or past work.
Even though the work is remote, it is still a good idea to meet top candidates in person before making a final hiring decision. This in-person meeting allows evaluating if the candidate is a good cultural fit and has a good character. Letting the candidate spend time with potential coworkers is the best way to assess this.
If in-person meetings are not possible, using video chat to have group meetings with candidates and potential coworkers can simulate this type of evaluation.
In summary, the key points around hiring remote workers are: pay them well to retain them, evaluate them based on the quality of their work, assess their writing and communication skills, meet them in person if possible, and make sure they are a good cultural fit for the team. With the right approaches, companies can build a great distributed workforce.
Here is a summary:
• It is best to start allowing remote work as early as possible in a company’s lifecycle. It is easier to build a culture around remote work from the beginning rather than introduce it later. However, it is still possible to transition an existing company to remote work, it just requires more effort and commitment. A good first step is to allow current employees to work remotely a few days a week.
• Managing remote workers requires focusing on leading and verifying work rather than simply ensuring employees are in the office during set hours. Effective managers of remote teams understand the details of the work and can properly evaluate progress and productivity. They do not need to physically see employees to manage them.
• Meetups and in-person sprints are important for remote teams. Meeting in person helps to strengthen relationships and build connections between employees who typically only interact remotely. Meetups are especially helpful for introducing new team members. Some companies organize company-wide meetups a few times a year, while others may organize smaller meetups around deadlines or conferences.
• The open source software movement demonstrates that complex, collaborative work can be done effectively with people distributed around the world. Thousands of contributors, many of whom have never met in person, have built operating systems, databases, programming languages, and web frameworks. Their success provides many lessons for companies incorporating remote work.
• In summary, starting early, focusing on leading and evaluating work over managing employee hours, organizing regular meetups, and learning from the open source movement are keys to successfully building a remote work culture and managing remote employees. With the right approach and commitment, companies can make the transition to remote work.
Open source software projects have succeeded beyond expectations. Key reasons:
Intrinsic motivation: Programmers work for passion, not money. Exciting work that interests them, without micromanagement.
Transparency: Coordination happens on open mailing lists and systems like GitHub. Anyone can participate. Experts have easy access.
Occasional in-person meetups: Some projects support conferences or meetups. Optional but helpful for social interaction and bonding.
To enable remote work success:
Level the playing field: Don't treat remote workers as second-class. Get good technology for collaboration and put remote workers in leadership. Require managers to work remotely sometimes.
Do one-on-one check-ins: Connect by phone with remote workers regularly, like every few months. Keep it casual. It prevents issues from building up and monitors morale.
Remove roadblocks: Empower people to make their own decisions. Trust them and accept that mistakes will happen. Give people default access to everything they need. Eliminate unnecessary permissions and controls.
Watch out for overwork, not underwork: The real risk is people working too much, not too little. Without office hours, work can blend into personal life. It's easy to make work a primary hobby. Set boundaries and encourage time off.
Working excessive hours leads to burnout, even for people who love their jobs. Managers and business owners should encourage sustainable work hours for employees.
Scarcity breeds appreciation. Reducing face-to-face communication in a remote workforce makes the times people do meet in person more valuable.
Remote workers need routines and boundaries to be productive. Things like changing clothes, dividing the day into work chunks, and separating work and personal spaces can help.
A hybrid approach, like working remotely in the mornings and in the office in the afternoons, provides flexibility. This can allow for focused work in the mornings and collaboration in the afternoons.
Using separate devices for work and personal use creates mental separation and healthier work-life balance. Reserve one computer for work only, and use a different device like a tablet for evenings and weekends. Separate email and chat accounts also help establish boundaries.
The key points are that managers should encourage sustainable work habits, reducing constant communication and interaction makes face-to-face meetings more valuable, establishing routines and boundaries is important for remote workers, a hybrid remote-office approach provides flexibility, and using separate computing devices for work and play helps create a healthier balance.
Getting away from the office to work in public places like coffee shops can be great for productivity. While you avoid in-person interruptions from coworkers, the ambient buzz of people around you can help motivate you to stay focused. For some remote workers, complete isolation at home can make it harder to get into a flow state. Changing your environment and interacting with new people, even passively, exposes you to new perspectives that can spur creativity.
Rather than threats or rewards, the key to motivation is giving people work they care about and enjoy, with people they like. If motivation is lagging, it's a sign the work or environment needs improvement. Managers should have one-on-one conversations to determine the root cause and make changes. For remote workers, a lack of motivation often stems from isolation or unfulfilling work, not personality flaws. Speaking up and making changes to improve the situation is key.
Remote work enables a nomadic lifestyle for those who want it. As long as you have a laptop and Internet, you can work from anywhere. While you still need to collaborate with coworkers in real time, remote work offers more flexibility in your schedule and location. For some, constant travel and changing scenery leads to new ideas and inspiration. Without the financial burden of a permanent home, nomadic remote work can be affordable. However, it's not for everyone and constant change may be taxing over the long run.
Rather than being tied to one workspace, remote workers can frequently change locations, from home to coffee shops to libraries. Routine and lack of variety numb creativity. New places expose you to new perspectives and ideas. One 37signals designer works from different coffee shops around Chicago each morning to spark new ideas, believing environment directly impacts his work.
Working remotely, especially from home, allows more time with family. Without long commutes and rigid work hours, remote workers can share meals, breaks, and life events with family in a way office workers cannot. Close family relationships provide social interaction to balance less face-to-face time with coworkers. Family oriented people may be particularly well suited to remote work.
Remote work is convenient as the commute is eliminated. This allows for a better work-life balance and less stress.
Not everyone has space for a home office. Alternatives include renting desks at co-working spaces, using cafes, or renting single office suites.
Two ways to avoid being ignored as a remote worker are to do exceptional, high-quality work and to be vocal and participate in discussions. Work that demonstrates progress and impact will be noticed.
Numerous tools enable remote work, including:
Basecamp for project management
WebEx and Skype for video conferencing
Know Your Company for gauging company culture
Instant messaging tools like iChat, Gchat, and Campfire for quick communication
Google Hangouts for group video calls
Dropbox for file sharing
Google Docs for real-time collaboration on documents
Remote work is here to stay. While some remain skeptical, many see the significant benefits. Early adopters of remote work are already reaping the rewards.
Docs is a useful tool for remote work. Check it out at http://docs.google.com.
Co-working spaces are shared office spaces that remote workers can use. They allow remote workers to get out of the house and provide a desk and office environment. Major co-working space providers include:
Regus - http://regus.com
LiquidSpace - https://liquidspace.com
Desktime - http://www.desktimeapp.com
Coworking Wiki - http://wiki.coworking.com/w/page/29303049/Directory
The authors thank the following companies and individuals for contributing to the book:
Carabi + Co
The Jellyvision Lab
The IT Collective
American Fidelity Assurance
Jamie Heinemeier Hansson helped interview, research, rewrite, and critique the manuscript.
The book is dedicated to Jamie and Colt Heinemeier Hansson.
The goal of the book is to inspire more people and companies to adopt remote working.
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