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Review of “Remote: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Lenin’s quip, that “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen" seems spot on. A shift that has been a long time coming has suddenly become an enforced reality.

I have long admired the work of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founders of 37signals (Basecamp, Ruby on Rails). Their books are well written, full of common sense, pragmatic with non-preachy actionable guidance. And whilst they are based on the authors’ experiences of building a successful software business they also contain many examples from other companies, including very large organisations.

Little did I know that a few years after first reading Rework I would be revisiting it as we are now operating our Merkle EMEA business of over 2,200 people in 15 offices, 7 countries, entirely remotely. The second read didn’t disappoint.

Over the last twenty years I have personally enjoyed working from home one day a week. Well, this week, after two days of forced remote work I have found myself longing to cycle to the office, see my colleagues and generally be around people.

The book spells out the many benefits of remote working as well as the potential pitfalls.

Key benefits include better quality work, happier employees, satisfied clients/customers, and reduced physical infrastructure costs.  On the downside, the well known ‘cabin fever’ effect, home ergonomics, as well as the counterintuitive advice for managers to look out for overwork not underwork.

There is a lot more to learn from reading Remote. Notably:

  • Dealing with excuses
  • The importance of seeing people and seeing their work
  • Effective team work
  • Hiring & managing people
  • Building a routine & staying motivated
  • Security when working remotely
  • Disaster ready
  • Writing well

The book would be improved with a simple “Plan, Do, Check, Act” based checklist although most readers would benefit from having to draft their own tailoring it to the specific needs of their organisation and market.

As a CIO with a knowledge, experience and scars of designing change management programmes in order to realise the benefits of investment in technology, the arrival of the Coronavirus has resulted in the change being enforced with little notice. We now simply have to realise the benefits of remote working. Our people, clients, and communities are depending on us to do so.

When this storm passes, many organisations will look at flexible and remote working differently, enabling access to talent all over the world and not just in the cities where they have offices. The ones that don’t, will be left behind.

As we all look to work as effectively as possible from home, this provides a great guide for best practice. Get your copy here.

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