The idea of working remotely came into sharp focus a few months ago when Marissa Mayer dictated that Yahoo would be ending the practice of allowing employees to work from remote locations. Suffice to say there was a lot of hullabaloo over this, especially from the tech industry. Interestingly enough, the fine folks at 37Signals were working on a book titled REMOTE: Office Not Required, and I purchased it as soon as it was released into the wild. Here are some of the things I found interesting and insightful, or otherwise thought were worth sharing.
First and foremost, it is the work that matters
The best way of evaluating an employee is through the work they do, which is what you are paying people to do anyway. Anything else is most likely fluff.
Work does not happen at work
This is a statement that I agree with wholeheartedly. While I am productive when I’m in the zone, my most productive hours tend to be when I am in an environment free of ringing phones, calls to meetings, and other assorted distractions. While these are necessary in their own right, they tend to zap away productivity. This is why people have resorted to methods such as not signing into email accounts for a certain number of hours to get work done. It might also explain Apple’s introduction of the Do Not Disturb feature in iOS devices.
Commuting is a b*tch
Let’s do simple math. 30 minutes spent commuting and another 15 spent getting to your car and into the office amount to approximately 300-400 hours per year spent in your car. Adding up the numbers makes this really really painful.
Remote work is a luxury
Every time I talk to people and mention the fact that I work from home or from Starbucks at times, they immediately say how much they wish they could work from home. So yeah, it’s definitely a luxury that some of us have.
The employer benefits from remote work as well
IBM saved/made billions by selling and leasing property when they instituted telecommuting. So the argument that only the employee benefits from having the freedom to work from anywhere is a dud.
We have the technology
Instant Messengers. Google Hangouts. WebEx. GoToMeeting. Even email. This is obvious. Need I say more?
Talent is out there
Talented individuals live all over the world. Limiting yourself to the city where your company is based does not allow you to tap into the creativity and genius that exists out there in the world.
The book also raised some interesting points on work culture itself. Instant gratification is something that features prominently in an office environment. This manifests itself in the ability to bother anyone at anytime without regard to their personal productivity. This is referred to as being addicted to ASAP. Not everything is time-sensitive as it is made out to be, and it is important to recognize this and channel the query appropriately to elicit a timely response from the person with the answer. Equally important is understanding that interruptions can be costly, as indicated by this study.
The only question I have after reading the book, and one which I posed to co-author Jason Fried is how to approach mentoring younger employees if most workers are in remote locations. Hopefully we’ll see a blog post about that soon.
If you are interested, there are a number of excerpts available from the book for your reading pleasure, listed below. But I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of the book. Not only will it change your perceptions on working remotely, but it will have you making changes in your life you thought you could never make.