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Book Review : Remote – Office not required

A worthwhile investment of your times and money.

Office not required

Jason Fried

The classic guide to working from home and why we should embrace a virtual office, from the bestselling authors of Rework

Buy Now

The entire world going into to enforced lock-down due to the Covid-19 pandemic and many people being forced into remote working and many organisations being forced to adapt to what possibly could be considered the new normal approach to work.

I have been mostly Working From Home, for at least past 10 years, barring a couple of assignments where clients have thought they required me to work in the office because they thought this would be more Agile and they would benefit from the co-located experience. Personally, I found it absolutely non-beneficial to me or the clients because in reality it made absolutely little or no difference at all. Due in part, that once you prepare and adjust yourself or your organisation to be able to work remotely, there should be no difference.

I ended up just commuting to an office, to sit at a desk next to other people that I would literally have the bare minimum of communication with other than a bit of banter and the odd discussion about completely unrelated to work subjects. Although, somebody might have been content to see me sat at a desk and therefore I must have been working!

The commonality between all these offices is that they were Open Plan offices, which I am lead to believe are designed to foster and enhance collaborative work experiences. Personally, I find them to be nothing more than distraction zones. Personally, I find it really hard to concentrate in open plan offices, the noise and movement just throws me right off.

The other thing I personally hate, is the pointless office ceremonies work places tend to have. Like the 15 minute stand up meetings, and other contrived collaboration enhancing rituals. My personal view is that they are just pathetic pointless charades designed to fool people into thinking they are collaborating. They do provide some value, if your organisation hasn't taken to implementing an online workflow ticketing system, or if activities are still managed by notebooks etc.

The tooling for collaborative remote working has come along in leaps and bounds over the past few years and in my opinion have surpassed conventional thinking that systems like Scrum dictate. I can recall a time in the early 00's when I first come across Scrum and the Agile way of doing things, that the 15 minute stand up meeting, at the time was pretty revolutionary, however in my personal opinion it has just become Box Ticker Exercise - as defined in David Graebers book Bullshit Jobs

Bullshit Jobs

A theory

I originally made the decision to engineer my lifestyle, so I could work from home on a permanent basis after reading Rework - Change the way you work forever and 4 Hour work week : Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich .


Change The Way You Work Forever

Read it and you'll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don't need outside investors, and why you're better off ignoring the competition.

Why I read this book ?

The primary reason why I read this book, is primarily down to the fact that Rework - Change the way you work forever had such a profound impact on my life, and really has transformed the way I work!

Sure I have had my challenges, and have written a few posts detailing some of the challenges I have faced in Challenges of remote working. but on the whole I really love remote working and really can't see that ever changing for me.

What I like about this book

This book does not necessarily give you a soup to nuts guide on how to be successful as a remote based company or employee. Rather it just details what issues were on the authors minds and how they overcome them when they were establishing their successful remote based company.

They do offer some advice based on the lessons they have learned, but the authors are also quick to point out that just because it worked for them it doesn't mean to say it would work for you or that it is the only way it will work.

A lot of the success they have achieved, is just primarily due to what success is based on - lots or trial and error. However, the core theme of this book is that Trust is an essential component to making remote work a success.

A second theme is culture or what I characterise as knowing what's expected. A good remote worker or telecommuters must produce good work. The authors also argue that half-hearted efforts at remote work will likely fail.

Over the past few months of enforced Covid-19 remote working for everyone, I have noticed a sudden surge of Remote Working Gurus on LinkedIn and other Social Media platforms all peddling their snake oil on how to make your organisation successful as a remote working work force. After watching a few of their videos or reading a few of their blog posts, I can promise you that the vast majority of them a talking a load of shit!

From what I can tell, most of them offer nothing more than trying to convert pointless office based ceremonies like meetings etc into pointless Zoom or Skyped based waste of times.

Successful remote working takes a lot of hard work and in truth it takes completely re-evaluating a lot of common working practices. This book offers some great explanations of resources, potential obstacles and innovative solutions for getting things done, and still feeling connected.

Dispell the myth of the remote worker

Many people seem to want to believe the myth and illusion that Remote workers or companies that have set themselves as remote based businesses. Are basically people who only work from from exotic locations and travelling the world and only working the hours that suit them.

I can testify that the reality is completely different, although I have managed to travel and work in some great places and I still manage to do some travelling and carry on working. That, is more of then exception rather than the rule. A vast majority of my time is spent working from my home office, which I built inside my Double Garage. I have it equipped with all the things I need, but most importantly I have it designed to ensure that I am productive and comfortable.

It's far less, idyllic and probably not to everybody's taste but I love it and the fact that my commute is less than 30 seconds and I can walk away from it and close the door at any time, is what matters to me most.

Sure I do have experienced some pretty sporadic work patterns over the years. For instance I have had customers based in really difficult time-zones, but I have managed to adjust my work-times to overlap with theirs. Which is, as you'll discover in reading this book is one of the most crucial elements to making remote working a success, is that you are able to have at least some portion of the day where there is some overlap in the working day.

Successful Remote based businesses

The authors of this book, know what it takes to build a successful remote business primarily because they have actually built a successful remote based business. The have successfully created products that have not only made their lives easier but also those of other remote businesses.

The same authors of this book, have also just released another product, a new approach to email, which is consent-based.

All their products, services and support have been developed by their 100% remote based team.

Why I recommend this book

This book provides the road-map to embrace the best parts of having to work from
Home so it can continue in the future.

Although this book does mention a few tools etc, one has to bear in mind that tools don't ensure success of remote working they merely facilitate it. What makes remote work a success is complete change in culture within the organisation.

I recently read an extremely long blog post by a typical Management Consultant type person, who basically just ranted and rambled about why Remote Working will never be successful. However, all the issues he was complaining about were actually all really simple to fix , but all they needed was a mind shift change and that change just required them to make it.

Remote work can either be successful for you or it could be a total disaster. It's entirely up to you! This book just provides some background as to how a small web development company based in Chicago transformed itself in a multi-national success story just by implementing remote working.

The basic principles in this book can be summed up in that if anyone or organisation wants to Remote Working to succeed, then there is a responsibility for all concerned to re-evaluate and possibly re-engineer all business processes and methodologies to be adapted for remote based work. It is highly likely that a number of current processes or methodologies need to completely axed and that is to be accepted, because you just can't just do everything you currently do and move it to an online world. There are a whole host of current management best practices that just don't work in an online connected world, and its OK.

Gary Woodfine
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