November 23, 2014

“Remote” Working; Office Not Required

remote workingOnce in a while, in the great cosmos, the stars and celestial bodies – better known as opinions here on Earth – can line up between authors and book reviewers.

Take the book Rework by 37 signals Co-Founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (@37signals). When I reviewed it, I noted how service firms would benefit but the subject of collaborating with remote teams could be further explored.

Well Fried and Hansson listened. Or at least the stars aligned.  Either way, I am glad. For their new book Remote: Office Not Required, Fried and Hansson decided to explore remote working teams. It is more than a terrific follow up. It is a terrific guide for understanding how to collaborate with remote teammates effectively.  I picked up a signed copy when Jason Fried was interviewed at 1871, a Chicago technology incubator.

Moreover, Fried and Hansson are the best ones to know how to work a team, virtual or physical.   37 signals is best known for its online collaboration software Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire.  Started in 1999, the company is a remote team success story not only in the Chicago developer community, but globally as well (Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos is an advisor).  Its employees are mainly remote with a small core team in Chicago.

The Stakes Are Not Only Higher, They’re Everywhere

Remote is written in the same tone and format as Rework.  Thus, the authors waste no time in addressing how to leverage a growing trend in startups and small businesses. They note the fascinating aspects of the remote work lifestyle, as well as the justifications for its adoption.  They note that cities were once hubs for attracting talent, but today tech has ushered new freedoms in how we seek jobs and seek new employees:

“We have libraries, stadiums, theaters, restaurants, and all the other wonders of a modern culture and civilization. But we also have cubicles, tiny apartments, and sardine boxes to take us from here to there…Lucky for us, the advancements in technology that made remote working possible have also made remote culture and living much more desirable.”

The authors also dismiss a popular misconception about remote work – the idea that you pay lower salaries just because the employee is remote.  They provide a strong argument for making the remote opportunity worthwhile:

“Instead of thinking, ‘I can pay people from Kansas less than people from New York,’ you should think, ‘I can get amazing people from Kansas and make them feel valued and well-compensated if I pay them New York salaries.’ If your entire workforce is located in a hot hub and you pay market salaries, you’ll be under constant attack from poachers.”

Strategy That Can Inspire Employees Towards Meaningful Pursuits

The author’s experiences inject a genuine value about these knowledge gems. They go on to name employees they’ve hired from remote places.  If you ever get a chance to listen to Jason Fried, you’ll get a genuine sensibility about valuing people, similar to this comment shared in the book:

“So instead of trying to treat motivation as something that can be artificially ginned up with just the right tricks, treat it as a barometer of the quality of work and the work environment. If a worker’s motivation is slumping, it’s probably because the work is weakly defined or appears pointless, or because others on the team are acting like tools.”

There are also the memorable concepts such as easing up on the M & Ms (Meetings and Managers). More than mere slogans, the concepts help to frame what to expect from a remote working environment and how to connect, such as using conferences for gathering remote workers together.  This technique makes the tone of the book not only entertaining, but also useful for organizing your teams to be their best. The authors also address the downsides for remote such as distractions and working with more access to your family.

The tagline says, “office not required.” Well, reading this book to be successful in remote teams – is.  Fried and Hansson had once wrote, “learning from mistakes is overrated.”  They have done an outstanding job covering how you can avoid yours while running a remote team profitably.

4 Comments ▼

Pierre DeBois - Associate Book Editor


Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

4 Reactions

  1. I like the title of the book; the design too.

    I don’t believe I’ve worked remotely before as part of a team. But if it was back when I had a 9-5, it’s something I would have really appreciated at the time.

  2. Sounds like a great book. Can’t wait to read it. I wanted to add something with regard to telecommuters’ motivation and productivity. As someone who has worked remotely full-time for the past 8 years, as well as someone who has supervised other teleworkers, I can honestly say that there are times when distractions beckon. Fortunately, there is one cloud-based tool called MySammy (www.mysammy.com) that helps to prevent that from happening. Not only does it measure the teleworker’s productivity levels each day, it also allows the supervisor to create innovative ways to motivate the remote worker in increase his or her productivity. Tools like this one, when used by good managers, can make all the difference for a company interested in establishing a remote workforce.

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