In the time that I have been working for my current employer, my workspace has changed several times. When I started, I was working in a sort of glorified hallway. But there was not a lot of traffic walking by, and I was interested in getting to know my coworkers (and glad to have a job), so I didn’t mind that much.
After about a year, I moved to the floor where I currently work. There are some private offices, but most people work in an open office area that is divided into four sub-areas. The longer I have worked on that floor, the more people have been hired, and the closer we have gotten squished together. About a year ago, I reached a tipping point: there were too many visual and auditory distractions in my workspace to do excellent work on a consistent basis. Since then, I have been reading the occasional debate or hit piece on open offices to make myself feel less alone—and also working from home more. Because, you know, I actually like to get things done.
That last development is what drew me to the book Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of the Chicago-based software company 37signals. Their company has extensive experience with remote employees that work all over the United States and all over the world, and this is their argument for why more companies should jump on the remote bandwagon.
The book is a quick and enjoyable read. It is divided into numerous chapters that are about the length of a blog post (2–3 pages each), with each chapter prefaced by a full-page graphic on the subject of that chapter. Most of the book, as I mentioned, is devoted to presenting a case for why traditional companies should allow more of their employees to work remotely, and dealing with potential pitfalls along the way. For example, in the chapter “Great remote workers are simply great workers,” they argue that the work of remote employees stands on its own better than with traditional employees. You can tell right away if a remote employee is doing good work in a timely manner, whereas with a traditional employee you are more likely to be misled by their personableness and punctuality into thinking that they are actually doing a good job.
The authors do give a few tips in the last section of the book on how to live life as a remote worker (like building a routine and separating work and personal clothes and computing devices). In skimming through a few other reviews, I noticed that the negative reviews seemed to focus on the fact that so little space was spent in this area and so much was spent on convincing employers that transitioning to remote employees was a good idea. If you know that this is what the book primarily focuses on, you’re less likely to be disappointed.
As for myself, I thought it was a fun read. I am not planning on going 100% remote anytime soon, since I do like my coworkers and enjoy being in the office when I don’t really need to concentrate. But for the times when I absolutely must focus, I’m going to stay home, change into my work sweatpants, and get after it.
Note: Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.