I’m back on a reading kick as of late having knocked out 3 books in the last few weeks (Web Performance Daybook Volume 2 and Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising) including the latest from 37signals, Remote: Office Not Required.
I’ve been a fan of the previous efforts by Jason Fried and company having read and reread both Getting Real and Rework on several occasions. Not to mention the eye roll and head shake whenever someone mentions meetings around me based on the material. I don’t necessarily consider the books to be the holy grail of reading material, but I’m enough of a fan to have pre-ordered Remote and read it within a few days of it’s release.
My initial thoughts were that I wasn’t necessarily going to get much out of it based on my current working conditions. I’m already heavily vested in remotely working, in fact in the last month I’ve worked from both my home and my office in Tampa, FL, my favorite lunch spot / bar, the French Quarter in New Orleans and from the deck of a Disney cruise ship en route to and from the Bahamas! The other reason I thought I wouldn’t get much out of the book is the fact that I’m still a one man wrecking crew with neither a team to manage nor someone to manage myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In the same vein as the previous 37signals books, Remote is quite concise and broken up into very short chapters. You can knock it out in a few hours, but if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself revisiting it from time to time. One of my favorite things about the 37signals books is their reread value, whenever I feel like I need to be inspired, I can pick one up (well pick up the Kindle ;) and read a few chapters to get my head back in the game. Remote is no exception to this.
My major take away from the book (without spoiling much) is the fact that limiting yourself to job hunting in a single area or hiring from a single pool is well, ignorant. We live in a global community and the fact is there are talented people everywhere. The flip side of that is, if you’re a talented individual, job hunting in a single area may not leave you as fulfilled as if you were to get a job at a company half way across the state or country or globe! If I were actively seeking employment right now (especially after reading this book) I’d be looking for a job outside of Tampa, FL. Not because I want to move (I do, but that’s for another blog post), but because I know the job market and I know how unhappy I would be at most of the stagnent companies around here.
Something I didn’t expect to get out of the book was the discussion on company culture. Not just how to cultivate it in a remote worker environment, but what culture really is. It’s not always about playing video games in the office or having Nerf guns at everyone’s desks, it’s about the core values and having everyone on the same page with them. This can be things like how you treat your co-workers and how you speak with your customers and having everyone on board with doing great work and not just settling for good to mediocre efforts. I still believe the fun aspect can and should be there, but I now have a better understanding about what else goes into a company’s culture.
A lot the book discusses trusting employees to do their jobs (and doing them well) and that a lack of trust in this is the reason that remote work generally isn’t offered at most places. I’ve been on both sides of the coin, I’ve been denied the ability to work from home by an employer and was flat out told that it’s because no work gets done when people work from home. Joke’s on him, we were playing Unreal Tournament at the office while he wasn’t around ;) Being on the other side of the coin was a bit harder, I have given folks the opportunity to work flexible hours and from home and was burnt by it. The proof is definitely in the pudding when it comes to getting work done and I’m fortunate enough to have a decent enough skill set that you can’t necessarily bullshit me when it comes to coding efforts. Two to three days without any progress, c’mon now!
This brings me to my only negative critique of the book, there wasn’t much discussion about the actual deadbeat workers that are out there. I understand the part about trusting employees to do their job and do their job well, but what are you supposed to do when you run into an employee that really takes advantage of working remotely? Sadly, those people do exist and my thought is that you probably hired the wrong person (I know I did) and should “fix the glitch” immediately. Perhaps the next 37signals book will be titled Manage and will discuss some of the finer intricacies of how to deal with shit employees, or is it just all about slow to hire quick to fire?
All in all a great read, I’m glad I pre-ordered it and I look forward to giving it another read in the future. Who knows, maybe they did discuss deadling with bad employees and I blocked it out :P