Book Notes : Remote

Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson, Jason Fried
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book provides an overview of remote working and provides suggestions on how to overcome some of the common problems and also highlights the potential problems of people over working.

  • The time is right for remote work
    • Why work doesn’t happen at work – there are far more distractions at work than at home
    • Stop commuting your life away – 45 minutes each way is 7.5hrs per week in a car
    • It’s the technology, stupid – for quite a few jobs technology means we are no longer stuck in the office
    • Escaping 9am–5pm – its the work that matters not the clock time, you need to adjust but working asynchronously has some advantages
    • End of city monopoly – there is now no longer a need to live in expensive cities for work
    • The new luxury – flexibility means that people don’t have to work at home but can travel etc
    • Talent isn’t bound by the hubs – this means you open yourself up to more talent from more places
    • It’s not about the money – any financial savings are a bonus but not the motivator
    • But saving is always nice – savings on commuting etc for both the individual and the company
    • Not all or nothing – remote does not need to meet fully remote but could just mean a day or part of the day working from elsewhere
    • Still a trade-off – there are advantages and disadvantages which should be weighed up
    • You’re probably already doing it – its likely you have external accountants or lawyers who already work remote from yourselves.
  • Dealing with excuses
    • Magic only happens when we’re all in a room – there are some times when being together is useful but delivering the work is really the aim
    • If I can’t see them, how do I know they’re working? – you have to hire people you trust and then it does not matter if you see them or not if they are delivering the work
    • People’s homes are full of distractions – so are offices
    • Only the office can be secure – there are now tools to let you work remotely which are likely to be more secure than office based ones
    • Who will answer the phone? – remote does not mean there are no commitments, such as the phone being staffed 9-5, this just takes coordination
    • Big business doesn’t do it, so why should we? – big businesses are slow and set in their ways
    • Others would get jealous – why not let everyone do it
    • What about culture? – this does not just spread by in person communication so it will still exist
    • I need an answer now! – your likely to have a better response time than before without the office distractions
    • But I’ll lose control – this is very Theory X thinking and if that is the type of organisation you wan this won’t work anyway
    • We paid a lot of money for this office – sunk cost fallacy
    • That wouldn’t work for our size or industry – it has and does work in different size and type of industry
  • How to collaborate remotely
    • Thou shalt overlap – to ensure there is cover when needed
    • Seeing is believing – there are tools which you can use to collaborate remotely which are different but the results are as good as in office collaboration
    • All out in the open – tools make it open for people to see what is going on
    • The virtual water cooler – this is a quality break with your co-workers, everyone needs it
    • Forward motion – there needs to be more explicit communication which would happen by osmosis in regular organisations but this can be overcome by a weekly email or similar
    • The work is what matters – it is easier to compare based on what is being produced
    • Not just for people who are out of town – everyone can be remote, even if it is just from the coffee shop down the street
    • Disaster ready – this is distributed by design meaning that things such as power cuts impact very few people
    • Easy on the M&Ms – meetings and managers – working remotely reduces the pressure to fill a day with meetings
  • Beware the dragons
    • Cabin fever – people feeling isolated and alone
    • Check-in, check-out – its very easy to work too much and so its more important to limit working time
    • Ergonomic basics – having suitable office desk etc for your posture etc
    • Mind the gut – its very easy to put on weight working remotely
    • The lone outpost – having a single remote worker makes it very hard for them, its better to do it by team or department
    • Working with clients – let your clients know where you are so they don’t expect you to be near their office
    • Taxes, accounting, laws, oh my! – hire a specialist to help you deal with this
  • Hiring and keeping the best
    • It’s a big world – remote working opens you to hiring people from all over the world
    • Life moves on – remote working allows people to move without having to change job
    • Keep the good times going – if you have a bad character employee you should treat them the same if they were sat next to you
    • Seeking a human – helping people do things in a human way, like hobbies or sightseeing
    • No parlor tricks – its the work that matters to look and hire for it
    • The cost of thriving – you should not pay people less who work remotely
    • Great remote workers are simply great workers – remote working makes poor performers more visible
    • On writing well – good and clear written communication is very important when hiring a remote worker
    • Test project – give people a test project to see how they actually get on
    • Meeting them in person – its still important to meet people important as part of the job interview
    • Contractors know the drill – they are used to remote working
  • Managing remote workers
    • When’s the right time to go remote? – start early in the company and if you are already passed that then start small with a team
    • Stop managing the chairs – this is actually managing on results rather than on time spent on a chair
    • Meetups and sprints – meeting in person is important 2 or more times per year
    • Lessons from open source – intrinsically motivates, out in the open, meet up regularly
    • Level the playing field – treat remote and local workers equally, not as second class
    • One-on-ones – are really important, perhaps video or telephone call
    • Remove the roadblocks – just let people get on with working their own way
    • Be on the lookout for overwork, not underwork – because getting to work is easy people can easily over work and care must be taken to prevent too much of this
    • Using scarcity to your advantage – by having less time together (e.g.) this makes the time more precious and people use it more wisely
  • Life as a remote worker
    • Building a routine – so that you don’t over work
    • Morning remote, afternoon local – make a routing that works for you
    • Compute different – to separate work and home life
    • Working alone in a crowd – such as in a coffee shop to give you a community
    • Staying motivated – is sometimes hard but one to ones should support and sometimes a break helps regain focus
    • Nomadic freedom – with great internet everywhere you can move around quite freely without any problems
    • A change of scenery – gives you a different perspective on things
    • Family time – with less commute and flexibility means more time with family
    • No extra space at home – use a cafe, co-working space or a shed in the garden
    • Making sure you’re not ignored – people who produce quality don’t get ignored

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