Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

remote-officeFrom this book I’ve just pulled out sections that were of particular interest to me.

I don’t have a huge amount of notes because I worked from home for 3.5 years and in a co-working space for the last 14 months so I’m very much aware of the pros and cons of not working in a traditional office.

For the bigger picture on the office vs remote worker movement, I encourage you to read the book in it’s entirety.

My notes on Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

My favourite quote from the book:

  • Offices have become interruption factories.

On interrupting a workmate:

  • There is nothing more arrogant than taking up someone else’s time with a question you don’t need an answer to right now.

On how to keep people in the loop:

  • To instill a sense of company cohesion and to share forward motion, everyone needs to feel that they’re in the loop.
  • At 37signals we’ve institutionalized this through a weekly discussion thread with the subject “What have you been working on?”
  • Everyone chimes in with a few lines about what they’ve done over the past week and what’s intended for the next week.
  • It’s not a precise, rigorous estimation process, and it doesn’t attempt to deal with coordination.
  • It simply aims to make everyone feel like they’re in the same galley and not their own little rowboat.
  • It also serves as a friendly reminder that we’re all in it to make progress.
  • It’s also a lot harder to bullshit your peers than your boss.

On how being punctual every morning doesn’t matter. Output, “work” is what matters:

  • 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. Criteria like “was she here at 9?” or “did she take too many breaks today?” or “man, every time I walk by his desk he’s got Facebook up” aren’t even possible to tally.
  • What you’re left with is “what did this person actually do today?” Not “when did they get in?” or “how late did they stay?” Instead it’s all about the work produced. So instead of asking a remote worker “what did you do today?” you can now just say “show me what you did today.
  • As a manager, you can directly evaluate the work—the thing you’re paying this person for—and ignore all the stuff that doesn’t actually matter.

On the roadblocks you need to remove:

  • Getting stuff done while working remotely depends, first, on being able to make progress at all hours. It’s no good twiddling your thumbs for three hours waiting for a manager to grant you permission, or hoping a coworker gets up soon so he or she can show you how something works in the remote world.
  • You don’t really notice these roadblocks when you work 9am to 5pm in the same office as all your coworkers.
  • Start by empowering everyone to make decisions on their own.
  • People are often scared to make a decision because they work in an environment of retribution and blame.
  • That style of work is very incompatible with remote work.
  • 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.
  • Second, you must make sure that people have access, by default, to everything they need.
  • Most companies start out by adopting the reverse policy: everyone is only granted access to information and applications on a need-to-know basis. That’s completely unnecessary.
  • Unless you work in the military, or belong to one of the very rare firms that deal with super-confidential information—information that even trusted employees can’t be trusted with—keeping these access barriers in place is just making it difficult for everyone to get their work done.
  • Part of the problem is the occasional pride that managers take in being Mr. or Ms. Roadblock.
  • Having to be asked—even courted—gives them a certain perverse satisfaction.
  • Do not discount how powerful this syndrome can be.
  • At 37signals we’ve created a number of ways to eradicate roadblocks.
  • First, everyone gets a company credit card and is told to “spend wisely.”
  • There’s no begging to spend money on needed equipment to get the work done, and there are no expense reports to fill out (just forward all receipts to an internal email address in case of an audit).
  • Second, workers at 37signals needn’t ask permission to go on vacation or specify how much time they’ll take.
  • We tell them: just 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.

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