Review of Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
(This is just my take on the book. Feel free to read it yourself and let me know what you think in the comments to this article)

  1. Key Take Aways
    1. Even if a company leverages remote working heavily like 37signals, a company cannot be 100% remote. 37 signals still has an office. Actually a fairly large office in downtown Chicago.
    2. Project status meetings and deliverables must be strictly observed. Some people will consistently missed their deliverables. These people should be let go. Trying to change them is only a waste of time.
    3. Show the client work often. Be very available. Involve the client with the project.
    4. Ideally remote workers should start at the company headquarters to learn about the company culture, to meet others in the company on a personal level, and to let others in the company see they’re working habits.
    5. Pay talented workers in low cost areas wages higher than the local market to reduce turnover.
    6. Filter out poor writers.
    7. Start new people out with a test project.
    8. If possible meet the person in person before hiring them full time.  It’s a good idea to hire people as contractors first.
    9. Managing remote workers: emphasis on making sure the work gets done on time and with quality. Managers should be able to anticipate delays and unblock blocked workers. They should be experts in at least one of the areas in which the team is working.
    10. Periodical in person meetings are a must. Can be done at the headquarters or another city or an industry conference. For critical sprints it’s a good idea to bring remote workers together.
    11. Give remote workers a level playing field so they don’t feel like the man/woman left out.
  2. Advantages
    1. No commute.
    2. Don’t have to live in city.
    3. Can access talent from anywhere.
    4. Meeting in person sparks too many ideas. This can make the team unfocused.
      1. Too many distracting conversations can happen with everyone on-site.
    5. Too many interrupting insignificant questions from co-workers with everyone on-site.
    6. You can judge people solely by their work.
    7. Remote working can reduce managers and meetings, both of which are very low value-added activities.
    8. Completely personalize your work area and your working style.
    9. You can hire international workers who may be a window into their local market.
    10. You can retain migrating workers.
  3. Disadvantages
    1. Not as good for brainstorming (everyone in the same room brainstorming).
    2. Loss of in imposed structure.
    3. Distractions at home.
    4. Hard workers can experience burnout.
    5. A remote worker out of state may warrant a taxation Nexus.
    6. Small misunderstandings can snowball into major drama. To counter this you should employ the no broken windows theory of enforcement. And get rid of assholes quickly.
  4. Other
    1. If people can’t get the work done let them go quickly.
    2. There must be overlap with working hours.
    3. You need everything available to everyone at all times.
    4. Everything must be put in a central depository like Google Docs so it’s available to everyone anytime they need it.
    5. use 24 chat as company water cooler. That is, let the remote workers communicate on a social level.
    6. Weekly progress review.
    7. Make sure remote workers have ample opportunities to interact with people. This could be through hobbies or family activities.
    8. Everyone at 37 signals gets a company credit card and is told to spend wisely. There are no expense reports. Team workers email their receipts to an internal email address.
  5. My own takes.
    1. Remote working is certainly possible and a good alternative in many cases. However the culture for remote workers is different than on-site office workers. For example, there is a much more emphasis on deliverables.
    2. Remote working is not suited for every industry. It works well for people who can complete their work remotely (i.e. over the internet).
    3. The book offers good insights on this new, remote culture and it has some good points, but I think it is skewed a little towards the “it’s all about remote working” opinion since the writers also own a software firm that specializes in software for remote workers.
    4. I think a key element missing is knowledge transfer, for example, between a senior developer and a junior developer.
    5. I personally believe that
      1. The “Spider Team” is the most efficient method of working. That is, 3, 4, or 5 people sitting at a large table and working on the same project can get stuff done, lickity split.
      2. That said, balance for the team is helpful. That is, a day or two working remote can give team members the focus time they need to complete difficult tasks.
      3. That said, I completely agree that remote is a great way to utilize talent that would otherwise be unavailable.
      4. Want to know more? Read the book!

 

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