Book:  Remote

Author:  Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Purchase:  PrinteBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Fried, J. & Hansson, D. (2013). Remote : office not required. New York: Crown Business.

Three Big Takeaways:​​

  • If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond "the office." If they do say the office, they'll include a qualifier such as "super early in the morning before anyone gets in" or "I stay late at night after everyone's left." What they're trying to tell you is that they can't get work done at work. The office during the day has become the last place people want to be when they really want to get work done. That's because offices have become interruption factories. It's increasingly hard to get meaningful work done when your workday has been shredded into moments. Meaningful work, creative work - this type of effort takes stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone. The ability to be alone with your thoughts is one of the key advantages of working remotely. When you work on your own you can settle into your own productive zone. (pg. 13)

  • If we're struggling with trust issues and staff not getting work done, it means we made a poor hiring decision. If a team member isn't producing good results or can't manage their own schedule or workload, we aren't going to continue to work with that person. We employ team members who are skilled professionals, capable of managing their own schedules and making a valuable contribution to the organization. We have no desire to be babysitters during the day. 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. To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision. Either learn to trust the people you're working with or find some other people to work with. (pg. 55)

  • Questions you can wait hours to learn the answers to are fine to put in an email. Questions that require answers in the next few minutes can go into a text. For crises that truly merit a sky-is-falling designation, you can make a phone call. With a graduated system like this, you'll quickly realize that 80 percent of your questions aren't so time-sensitive after all, and are often better served by an email than by walking over to someone's desk. Even better, you'll have a written record of the response that can be looked up later. (pg. 77)

Other Key Ideas:

  • The beauty of relaxing workday hours is that the policy accommodates everyone - from the early birds to the night owls to the family folks with kids who need to be picked up in the middle of the day. We suggest trying to keep a forty-hour workweek, but how our employees distribute those hours across the clock and days aren't important. A company that is built around remote work doesn't have to have a set schedule. This is especially important when it comes to creative work and the ability to "get into the zone." (pg. 22)

  • Worth counting is the number of days you spend at the office emailing someone who sits only three desks away. People go to the office all of the time and act as though they're working remotely: emailing, instant messaging, secluding themselves to get work done. At the end of the day, was it really worth coming to the office? Look around your company and notice what work already happens on the outside, or with minimal face-to-face interaction. You may be surprised to discover that your company is more remote than you think. (pg. 47)

  • If you think coworkers might get jealous about working remotely, think again. If working remotely is such an obvious good thing that everyone would want it, why shouldn't we let everyone do it? Is the business we're talking about just an elaborate scheme to keep everyone in their assigned seats for a set number of hours? Or is it rather an organization of people getting work done? If it's the latter, why not let people work the way they prefer, and judge everyone on what - not where - work is completed? Remember that you are all in this together to find the best way to work: the most productive and happiness-inducing setup wins. Hearing that pitch, only the most close-minded are likely to continue digging in their heels. (pg. 71)

  • When you can't see someone all day long, the only thing you have to evaluate is the work. A lot of the petty evaluation stats just melt away. What you're left with is "what did this person actually get done today?" Instead it's all about the work produced. As a manager, you can directly evaluate the work - the thing you're paying this person for - and ignore all the other stuff that doesn't matter. (pg. 106)

  • The best thing you can do when hiring is have as many people in your boat as possible with a thoroughly optimistic outlook. We're talking about people who go out of their way to make sure everyone is having a good time. That's why it's important to continuously monitor the work atmosphere and to hire for it. It's never a good idea to let poisonous people stick around to spoil it for everyone else. (pg. 150)

  • Allow your potential job candidates the opportunity to hang out with or go to lunch with the rest of the team. The prospective hire is going to be working with their teammates a lot more than their manager, so it's important that the team get a good feel for this person. Then ask the team their thoughts on the candidate. If they have passed your threshold as the manager, whether or not you hire the person is really up to the peers at this point. (pg. 173)

  • Empower everyone to make decisions on their own. If the company is full of people whom nobody trusts to make decisions without layers of managerial review, then the company is full of the wrong people. What is usually the case is that people are often scared to make a decision because they work in an environment of retribution and blame. As a manager, you have to accept the fact that people will make mistakes, but not intentionally, and that mistakes are the price of learning and self-sufficiency. Workers shouldn't need to ask permission to go on vacation or specify how much time they'll take. Simply tell them: be reasonable, put it on the calendar, and coordinate with your coworkers. If you let them, humans have an amazing power to live up to your high expectations of reasonableness and responsibility. (pg. 198)

  • Routine has a tendency to numb your creativity. Waking up at the same time, plopping down in the same chair and desk in the same office over and over isn't exactly a prescription for inspiration. Changes of scenery, however, can lead to all sorts of new ideas. Sometime when you change where you do your work you can see similar things in new ways. Variety in work locations could translate to more productive work. (pg. 228)

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.