[Book Review] Remote: Office Not Required

Today I finished reading Remote: Office Not Required, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Jason and David are the founders of 37signals, a company that creates great web applications for collaborating and working. David is also the creator of the ultra popular web framework Ruby on Rails and they both already wrote two books called “Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application” and my favorite, “Rework“.

Remote is their latest book, and it’s awesome. I’d say it has become one of my favorites just like Rework. They talk about working remotely, from home (or anywhere), its main benefits and how this way of working improves productivity and will end up killing the way most people work in offices today. They also talk about the detailed things like possible routines when working from home, how not to get ignored by the colleagues that are in the office and even the toolbox needed to make working remotely efficient and productive.

My words are really not enough to explain how good this book is and how badly everyone who works in an office need to read it, so here I pasted some highlights I made while reading. Don’t just think this is it though, because the whole book deserves to be highlighted.

  • That’s because offices have become interruption factories. A busy office is like a food processor—it chops your day into tiny bits. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there, twenty here, five there. Each segment is filled with a conference call, a meeting, another meeting, or some other institutionalized unnecessary interruption.
  • But past generations have been bred on the idea that good work happens from 9am to 5pm, in offices and cubicles in tall buildings around the city. It’s no wonder that most who are employed inside that model haven’t considered other options, or resist the idea that it could be any different. But it can. The future, quite literally, belongs to those who get it. Do you think today’s teenagers, raised on Facebook and texting, will be sentimental about the old days of all-hands-on-deck, Monday morning meetings? Ha!
  • The luxury privilege of the next twenty years will be to leave the city. Not as its leashed servant in a suburb, but to wherever one wants.
  • So, coming into the office just means that people have to put on pants. There’s no guarantee of productivity.
  • Between soap operas, PlayStation, cold beers in the fridge, and all the laundry that needs doing, how can you possibly get anything done at home? Simple: because you’ve got a job to do and you’re a responsible adult.
  • Most people want to work, as long as it’s stimulating and fulfilling. And if you’re stuck in a dead-end job that has no prospects of being either, then you don’t just need a remote position—you need a new job.
  • Remember, there’s no such thing as a one-hour meeting. If you’re in a room with five people for an hour, it’s a five-hour meeting.
  • By the same token, as a remote worker, you shouldn’t let employers get away with paying you less just because you live in a cheaper city. “Equal pay for equal work” might be a dusty slogan, but it works for a reason. If with regard to compensation you accept being treated as a second-class worker based on location, you’re opening the door to being treated poorly on other matters as well.
  • The mental shortcut usually goes: In the office from 9–5 + nice = must be a good worker. Of course, someone who’s either not smart enough for the job or doesn’t get things done is always found out eventually. But since few people will tell on a colleague unless the problem is of serious magnitude, it’s common to get stuck with lots of people who put in the hours and are plenty nice, but don’t fit the criteria established for being a great worker. Remote work speeds up the process of getting the wrong people off the bus and the right people on board.
  • The job of a manager is not to herd cats, but to lead and verify the work. The trouble with that job description is that it requires knowledge of the work itself. You can’t effectively manage a team if you don’t know the intricacies of what they’re working on.
  • Morale and motivation are fragile things
  • It’s everyone’s job to be on the lookout for coworkers who are overworking themselves, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the managers and business owners to set the tone. It’s much likelier to breed a culture of overwork if managers and owners are constantly putting in He-Man hours.
  • Trying to conjure motivation by means of rewards or threats is terribly ineffective. In fact, it’s downright counterproductive. Rather, the only reliable way to muster motivation is by encouraging people to work on the stuff they like and care about, with people they like and care about. There are no shortcuts.

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