(by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson)
Chapter 1: The Time is Right for Remote Work
Why work doesn't happen at work
- The ability to be alone with your thoughts is one of the key advantages of working remotely.
- Working outside the office introduces interruptions, but they are things you can control. They're passive. They don't handcuff you.
Stop commuting your life away
- Research shows commuting is associated with increased risk of obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, heart attacks and depression, and even divorce.
It's the technology, stupid
- Progressive companies have not been practicing working remotely because for a long time, the technology just wasn't there.
Escaping 9am - 5pm
- Once you've structured your work technique and expectations to deal with coworkers in other time zones, those benefits extend to those in the same time zone, or even the same city.
- Having flexible hours is especially important for creative work, where you can't force yourself into the zone.
End of city monopoly
- The luxury privilege of the next twenty years will be to leave the city – not to the suburbs, but to wherever one wants.
The new luxury
- The new luxury is to shed the shackles of deferred living – to pursue your passions now, while still working.
- Instead of bifurcating your life into work and retirement, you can blend the two to design a better lifestyle that makes work enjoyable because it's not the only thing on the menu.
Talent isn't bound by the hubs
- When you have so many competitors within walking distance of your office, it should come as no surprise when employees cross the street and join the next hot thing.
- Star employees away from the echo chambers spend far less time brooding about how much greener the grass is on the other side, and seem happier in their work.
It's not about the money
- Remote work may also end up reducing costs and result in fewer-but-more-productive workers – but this is the icing, not the cake.
But saving is always nice
- Make the bean counters see dollar signs where you see greater freedom, more time with family, and no commute, and you'll both get what you want.
- Remote work helps the company's bottom line, adds to your own pocket book, and saves the planet via reduced commuting.
Not all or nothing
- Remote work is about setting your team free to the best they can be, wherever they might be.
- But nothing precludes you from having an office or all living in the same city.
Still a trade-off
- Remote work has drawbacks: Not seeing your coworkers in person, losing imposed structure and regimen, and difficulty in setting boundaries.
- Focus on reaping the great benefits of remote work and mitigating the drawbacks.
You're probably already doing it
- Legal, accounting, payroll, and advertising may already be done outside your company's walls, and outside your management's direct control.
- Every day this kind of remote work works, and no one considers it risky, reckless, or irresponsible.
Chapter 2: Dealing With Excuses
Magic only happens when we're all in a room
- Magic is not coming up with The Next Big Thing, but instead making better the thing that you already thought of six months ago.
- Meeting too frequently in-person to ponder breakthrough ideas means giving up on the last great idea that still requires follow-up, or further stuffing the backlog of great ideas.
If I can't see them, how do I know they're working?
- If you run your ship with the conviction that everyone's a slacker, your employees will put all their ingenuity into proving you right.
- If you can't let your employees work from home out of fear they'll slack off without your supervision, you're a babysitter, not a manager.
- You shouldn't hire people you don't trust, or work for bosses who don't trust you.
People's homes are full of distractions
- The number one counter to distractions is interesting, fulfilling work.
- Resorting to distractions warns you that your work is not well defined, or our tasks are menial, or the whole project we're engaged in is fundamentally pointless.
- If you're at a dead-end job that has no prospect of stimulating or fulfilling work, you don't need a remote position – you need a new job.
Only the office can be secure
- A simple security checklist:
- All computers must have hard drive encryption.
- Make sure all smartphones and tablets use lock codes and can be wiped remotely – they need be treated with as much respect as your laptop.
- Use a unique, generated, long-form password for each site you visit, managed by a program like 1Password.
- Turn on two-factor authentication for Gmail – because if your Gmail security fails, then all your accounts are vulnerable to password resets.
Who will answer the phone?
- Being available for a one-off 11pm or 5am must-do phone call is a small price to pay for the freedom of remote work.
Big business doesn't do it, so why should we?
- Looking to big business for productivity tips is a bad idea – you should be innovating and disrupting by doing things differently from those before you.
- To institute remote work, you need the confidence that you see a smarter way of working when everyone else is sticking to business as usual.
Others would get jealous
- Some say we should all suffer equally and in unity, but if working remotely is such an obvious good, then you should allow everyone who can to work remotely.
- You're all in the game to find the best way to work, where the most productive and happiness-inducing setup wins.
What about culture?
- Culture is the spoken and unspoken values and actions of the organization.
- Culture is incredibly important when it comes to loosening the leash, because stronger cultures require less explicit training and supervision.
- Having people work remotely forces you to forgo the illusion that building a company culture is just about in-person social activities.
I need an answer now!
- There's nothing more arrogant than taking up someone's time with a question that you don't need an answer to right now.
- 80 percent of your questions aren't so time-sensitive after all, and are often better served by asynchronous communication than by walking over to someone's desk.
But I'll lose control
- Many arguments against working remotely are based on the fear of losing control.
- To such alpha males and females, having someone under "direct supervision" means having them in their literal line of sight.
- To fight against someone's fear of losing control, start small and show that the world doesn't fall apart when you work remotely for one day. And then ramp up.
We paid a lot of money for this office
- Money spent on the office is a sunk cost.
- The only thing that matters regarding where to work is whether the office is a more productive place or not.
That wouldn't work for our size or industry
- There are very few industries left in which working remotely can categorically be ruled out.
Chapter 3: How To Collaborate Remotely
Thou shalt overlap
- You need four hours of overlap to avoid collaboration delays and feel like a team.
- You'll probably get far more done when only half your workday overlaps with the rest of your team, allowing for maker time.
- Access to one-of-a-kind talent is a good reason to break this rule, but saving money is not.
Seeing is believing
- Most of the magic that people ascribe to sitting together in a room is really just being able to see and interact with the same stuff.
- When recording a screen-cast, don't worry about it being perfect. Just let the tape roll and it will be more than "good enough."
All out in the open
- Avoid locking up important stuff in a single person's computer or inbox.
- Put all important stuff out in the open, and no one will have to chase down a wild goose in order to get their work done.
The virtual water cooler
- Have a virtual water cooler where you can spend mindless breaks with your team.
- To instill a sense of company cohesion and to share forward motion, everyone needs to feel like they're in the loop.
- We all have a natural instinct to avoid letting our team down, so when that commitment becomes visual, it gets reinforced.
- It's a lot harder to bullshit your peers than your boss.
- Progress is a joy best shared with coworkers.
The work is what matters
- When you can't see someone all day long, the only thing to evaluate is the work.
- When it's all about the work, it's clear who in the company is pulling their weight and who isn't.
Not just for people who are out of town
- If you're an owner or manager, letting local people work remotely is a great first step toward seeing if remote work is right for you.
- Try it for at least three months, to allow everyone to adjust and settle into their new rhythm.
- Forcing everyone into the office every day is an organizational single point of failure.
- While natural disasters are infrequent, personal "disasters" strike regularly, and at such times the ability to work remotely is essential.
- Whatever the work throws at it, a distributed workforce is one that can keep working regardless.
Easy on the M&Ms
- The further away you are from meetings and managers (the M&Ms), the more work gets done.
- Meetings are major distractions, as they require multiple people to drop whatever it is they're doing and instead do something else.
- If you're in a room with five people for an hour, it's a five hour meeting.
- Working remotely makes it easier to spot managers drumming up busywork for themselves and for others.
- When management is forced to manage remotely using email, chat, and so on, its intervention is much more purposeful and compressed, and we can just get on with the actual work.
Chapter 4: Beware the Dragons
- Instead of interacting with coworkers, even more satisfying interaction comes from interacting with your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, and your neighbors.
- Alternatively, find a co-working space, or wander out into the real world.
- A manager's instinct is to worry about his workers getting too little done, but the real threat is that they'll get too much done. And because the manager isn't sitting across from his worker anymore, he can't see the burnout.
- To help set a healthy boundary for ending the day, look at your progress toward the end and ask, "Have I done a good day's work?"
- If yesterday was a good day's work, chances are you'll stay on a roll. And if you stay on a roll, everything else will probably take care of itself.
- Ergonomic equipment may seem expensive, but it's a bargain if it means not ruining your back, your eyesight, or any other part of your anatomy.
Mind the gut
- Without a conscious effort to the contrary, working from home will likely afford less opportunity to hit your recommended 10,000 steps per day.
- Studies vary, but office workers on average take between two-thousand and four-thousand steps per day.
- Find excuses to move, such as walking to a café for lunch, taking your dog for a walk, or running on a treadmill.
The lone outpost
- To give remote a try, you must set free an entire team (including project management and stakeholders) for longer than it takes to break in a new pair of shoes.
- The new work arrangement will come with trade-offs, and it's important for everyone to feel those trade-offs together.
Working with clients
- When pitching businesses, let the prospective client know up front that you don't live where they live.
- Provide references before they even asks in order to build trust.
- Show work often in order to chip away at the client's natural situational anxiety.
- Be very available. If you're local, the client often feels like "they know where you live" and can always knock on your door.
- Get the client involved and let them follow along, so that they feel like this is their project too.
Taxes, accounting, laws, oh my!
- In the United States, people can work remotely from anywhere in the country.
- Having a remote worker out of state establishes a "nexus" for your company there, which can lead to paying additional taxes in that state.
- There are two ways to higher people internationally: establish a local office, or hire people as contractors.
- It's probably best just to start out hiring people as contractors.
- To qualify as a contractor, one has to work on self-directed work, and must incorporate him or herself or otherwise be recognized as a company in their own right, so that they can send invoices.
- If you feel uncomfortable, you can always hire lawyers or accountants who specialize in this stuff.
Chapter 5: Hiring and Keeping the Best
It's a big world
- The majority of hassle in adjusting to remote work exists as soon as you're not sitting in the same office, and so the incremental hassle of working in different cities or even different countries is negligible.
- Thinking internationally not only dramatically increases the size of the applicant pool, but makes you a better fit for tackling global markets.
- You need solid writers to make remote work work, and a solid command of your home language is key.
Life moves on
- People who've been with the company a long time make ideal remote workers, because they already know everyone, how everything works, and what they need to do.
- Keeping a solid team together for a long time is a key to peak performance.
- Doing great work with great people is one of the most durable sources of happiness we can tap into.
Keep the good times going
- Human connection is even more important when hiring remote workers because it has to be stronger to survive the difference.
- Over chat and email, small understandings that could have been nipped in the bud with a wink of an eye or a certain tone of voice can snowball into drama.
- A manager of remote workers needs to make an example of the small stuff – things like snippy comments or passive-aggressive responses.
Seeking a human
- Smart solutions, friendly service, and edgy design all happen in the intersection between professional skill and life experience.
- Having people work remotely carries the risk of narrowing their lives.
- A manager directing a remote workforce has to ensure that a diversity of human experience happens for his troops.
No parlor tricks
- When hiring you must evaluate the candidate's work, as the main way you'll communicate is through the work itself.
- If the quality isn't there, it will be apparent from the moment the person starts – and you'll have wasted everyone's time by hiring on circumstantial evidence.
- For positions that don't lend themselves to portfolio accumulation, pose real-world problems as part of the application.
The cost of thriving
- Companies that offer equal pay for equal work across geographies have an almost unfair advantage in attracting and keeping the best people anywhere.
- If with regard to compensation you accept being treated as a second-class worker based on location, you open to being treated poorly on other matters as well.
Great remote workers are simply great workers
- Remote work gives back the edge to quiet-but-productive workers who often lose out in a traditional office environment.
- When work product is out in the open, it's easier to see who's actually smart as opposed to who simply sounds smart.
- But in an office, we take a mental shortcut: In the office from 9–5 + nice = must be a good worker.
On writing well
- The first filter that really matters is the cover letter explaining why there's a fit between applicant and company.
- In hiring for remote-working positions, managers should be ruthless in filtering out poor writers.
- Focus on clarity first, style second.
- The best way to accurately judge work is to hire the person to do a little work before hiring them to do a lot of work.
- Make the pre-hire project meaningful. Make it about creating something new that solves a problem.
Meeting them in person
- Before hiring someone to work remotely, meet them in person. This allows you to get a feel for their character.
- The prospective teammate is going to be working with their teammates a lot more than their manager, so it's important for them to get a good feel for this person.
Contractors know the drill
- Contracting is an excellent way for both a company and the person being hired to ease into remote work and try it on for size.
- Someone who's had a chance to taste the dysfunction of several companies as a contractor is more likely to appreciate a company that actually gets remote work.
Last modified 02 June 2023