Remote: Office Not Required

Jason Fried


  • If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond “the office.”
  • Smart people in white coats have extensively studied commuting—this supposedly necessary part of our days—and the verdict is in: long commutes make you fat, stressed, and miserable. Even short commutes stab at your happiness.
  • The big transition with a distributed workforce is going from synchronous to asynchronous collaboration. Not only do we not have to be in the same spot to work together, we also don’t have to work at the same time to work together.
  • Furniture maker Herman Miller’s knowledge and design team is entirely remote, working from ten different cities around the United States.
  • 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.
  • looking to big business for the latest productivity tips is probably not the smartest thing to do. The whole point of innovation and disruption is doing things differently from those who came before you.
  • if working remotely is such an obvious good thing that everyone would want it, why shouldn’t we let everyone do it?
  • having people work remotely forces you to forgo the illusion that building a company culture is just about in-person social activities. Now you can get on with the actual work of defining and practicing it instead.
  • Questions you can wait hours to learn the answers to are fine to put in an email. Questions that require answers in the next few minutes can go into an instant message. For crises that truly merit a sky-is-falling designation, you can use that old-fashioned invention called the telephone.
  • At 37signals, we’ve found that we need a good four hours of overlap to avoid collaboration delays and feel like a team.
  • Meetings should be great—they’re opportunities for a group of people sitting together around a table to directly communicate. That should be a good thing. And it is, but only if treated as a rare delicacy.
  • 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.
  • The old adage still applies: No assholes allowed. But for remote work, you need to extend it to no asshole-y behavior allowed, no drama allowed, no bad vibes allowed.
  • Being a good writer is an essential part of being a good remote worker.
  • in hiring for remote-working positions, managers should be ruthless in filtering out poor writers.
  • Here are a few books to start with if you’re serious about becoming a better writer: On Writing Well by William Zinsser The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White Revising Prose by Richard Lanham
  • The best way we’ve found to accurately judge work is to hire the person to do a little work before we take the plunge and hire them to do a lot of work. Call it “pre-hiring.” Pre-hiring takes the form of a one- or two-week mini-project. We usually pay around $1,500 for the mini-project.
  • 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.
  • Just because you don’t have a permanent office, or not everyone is working out of one, that’s no reason not to get together every now and then. In fact, it’s almost mandatory to do so occasionally.
  • it’s just easier to work remotely with people you’ve met in so-called “real life”—folks you’ve shared laughs and meals with.
  • As a company owner or manager, you need to create and maintain a level playing field—one on which those in and out of the office stand as equals.
  • 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).
  • If you’ve read about remote-work failures in the press, you might think that the major risk in setting your people free is that they’ll turn into lazy, unproductive slackers. In reality, it’s overwork, not underwork, that’s the real enemy in a successful remote-working environment.
  • simply reserve one computer for work and another for fun.
  • 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.
  • In thirty years’ time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed. —RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER OF VIRGIN GROUP
  • Harvey Dent from Batman said: “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you the dawn is coming.”

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