Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Fried, J. & Hansson, H. (2013). Remote: Office Not Required. Crown Publishing Group; New York.

Given my interest in work life and the work place, I picked up this book hoping to identify some of the pros and cons of being a remote employee. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37signals (now called Basecamp), do an excellent job of outlining these highlights and drawbacks in short, digestible chapters complete with original artwork by Mike Rohde.

Cover design by Jamie Dihiansan 2013.
Cover design by Jamie Dihiansan 2013.

Kira M. Newman provides an excellent summary of this book in her blog post here, and discusses some of the key benefits of remote work:

  • “Employers may find that employees (especially creatives) are more productive when they aren’t subject to in-the-office interruptions. While remote work has its interruptions, most of them are voluntary – you choose to check Facebook or get a snack” (Newman, October 2013)
  • “Employees get judged on their results, not their input (hours worked) or other irrelevant factors. Remote work cuts back on commuting and gives employees the freedom and time to pursue passions that they might otherwise put off until retirement. It allows people to work whatever hours they want, from whatever part of the country they want. Employees save money on gas and can spend more time with family” (Newman, October 2013)

As well as some of the critiques of remote work:

  • “Employers worry that remote work means less frequent brainstorming and slower communication, but that may actually be beneficial. As for worries of employees slacking off and being distracted, the solutions is to hire people you trust” (Newman, October 2013)
  • “Employers worry that remote work will harm culture, but culture is more about values and actions rather than social activities” (Newman, October 2013)

After reading this book, I agreed with many of the benefits of remote work – such as avoiding the stressful life of commuting to and from work, being able to work in a position that suits you (and is not necessarily physically close), and avoiding in-office interruptions. Living the academic life as a student, I’ve had countless opportunities to work remotely and always found that I can work more effectively when in the peace and quiet of my own space. However, I also miss the structure provided by a job.

Remote work may not suit every person, career, or business model. Remote: Office Not Required provides some excellent food for thought on both sides of the argument, however, and is a must-read for employers and employees everywhere.

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