Photo by Elizeu Dias on Unsplash

Here are my notes from Remote:

  1. 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” or “I sneak in on the weekend.”
    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.
  2. But why wait? If what you really love doing is skiing, why wait until your hips are too old to take a hard fall and then move to Colorado? If you love surfing, why are you still trapped in a concrete jungle and not living near the beach? If all the family members you’re close to live in a small town in Oregon, why are you still stuck on the other coast?
    The new luxury is to shed the shackles of deferred living — to pursue your passions now, while you’re still working. What’s the point in wasting time daydreaming about how great it’ll be when you finally quit?
  3. Most fears that have to do with people working remotely stem from a lack of trust. A manager thinks, Will people work hard if I’m not watching them all the time? If I can’t see them sitting pretty at their desks, are they just going to goof off and play video games or surf the web all day?
    We’ll let you in on a secret: If people really want to play video games or surf the web all day, they’re perfectly capable of doing so from their desks at the office. In fact, lots of studies have shown that many people do exactly that. For example, at clothing retailer J.C. Penney’s headquarters, 4,800 workers spend 30 percent of the company’s Internet bandwidth watching YouTube videos. So, coming into the office just means that people have to put on pants. There’s no guarantee of productivity.
  4. 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. Talk about a blessing in disguise!
  5. If you’re an owner or manager, letting local people work remotely is a great first step toward seeing if remote will work for you. It’s low risk, it’s no big deal, and worse comes to worst, people can start working at the office again.
    But here’s the thing: if you’re going to give it a shot, give it a real shot. Try it for at least three months. There’s going to be an adjustment period, so let everyone settle into their new rhythm. You can even start with two days remote, three days in the office. Then, if all goes well, flip it — two days in the office, three days remote. Work up to a full week out of the office.
  6. Fortunately, one of the key insights we’ve gained through many years of remote work is that human interaction does not have to come from either coworkers or others in your industry. Sometimes, even more satisfying interaction comes from spending time with your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, your neighbors: people who can all be thousands of miles away from your office, but right next to you.
  7. When you’re a manager and your employees are far flung, it’s impossible to see the dread in their eyes, and that can be fatal. With respect to drama, it therefore makes sense to follow the “No Broken Windows” theory of enforcement.
    What are we talking about? Well, in the same way that New York cracked down in the ’90s on even innocuous offenses like throwing rocks through windows or jumping the turnstile, a manager of remote workers needs to make an example of even the small stuff — things like snippy comments or passive-aggressive responses. While this responsibility naturally falls to those in charge, it works even better if policed by everyone in the company.
  8. As a company owner looking for a way to reduce payroll, it’s tempting to recruit from places with a lower cost of living. In some industries with low margins that approach may well be worth pursuing, but it’s not the interesting part of remote working for most knowledge-based companies.
    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.
  9. Contract work is an excellent way for both the company doing the hiring and the person being hired to ease into remote work and try it on for size. In a sense, both sides are test driving each other. Part of the appeal of contract work is that if your client is a bozo, then at least you don’t have to work with them forever. Once the contract is up, you’re free to try another fish in the sea. But given how many stories most contractors have about bozo clients, it’s not exactly a stretch to imagine them champing at the bit if they find a client who’s not.
  10. 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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Software Developer at Day | Aspiring Writer at Night

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