Book Review: Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

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I’ve long admired Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals. Among other accomplishments, Jason and David have created phenomenally useful software for better collaboration and project management (we’ve used Basecamp and Campfire at crowdSPRING for many years).

Jason and David have helped shaped my views on many topics, including remote work. If you haven’t read their blog, Signal v. Noise, I recommend that you do so.

Their prior book, Rework was a collection of short essays focusing on doing less and embracing constraints.

Their latest book, Remote, persuasively argues that companies should not restrict hiring to a small geographic region.

The book is a quick read. When working remotely, I  ride my exercise bike indoors for 75 minutes and use that time to read. I started and finished Remote during one ride last week.

Remote is directed mostly to companies that have rejected or that have only modestly experimented with remote work. Weaving through examples from their own experience with remote employees, and the experience of other big and small companies, Jason and David present  a compelling argument urging companies to ignore geographies and focus on skill and culture-fit instead.

You’ll recall the media storm when Marissa Mayer ended Yahoo’s work-from-home policy. To me and many others, Mayer’s decision seemed incredibly short-sighted. Among other things, Jason and David point out that:

  • work in an office is subject to constant interruptions.
  • commuting wastes a lot of time, energy and natural resources.
  • technology has made remote work functionally similar to being in the office.
  • people collaborate asynchronously and remote work is a perfect complement.
  • requiring office face time is often a red-herring masking deeper workplace problems.

I’m a fan of remote teams. Although we initially hired only in our Chicago office when we started in 2007, we quickly changed course and have, for the past five years, hired people from all over the world. Half of the crowdSPRING team is remote, and even those who work out of our Chicago office sometimes work remotely. By removing geographic constraints, we’ve hired the most qualified people and have made our team much stronger.

Some of the most successful companies in the world, including 37signals, leverage remote teams. But, there are many that do not. The book contains a useful section of common excuses made by companies that reject remote work – and solid responses to those excuses. If you’re looking to convince your boss to let you work remotely, you’ll love this section.

I wish Remote spent more time offering concrete advise to companies and people already working remotely on how they can optimize their workflow and interactions among team members. There’s a short discussion about this (including a very useful section on security for remote teams, plus a good section of best tools to use for remote work), but that’s not the main focus of this book.

Bottom Line: Remote is an outstanding book for companies and individuals who haven’t considered or are on the fence about remote work. I highly recommend it.

  • Christina Landgren

    This is a great review, I’d like to share it on my companies chat forum with your permission. Is there a link you can send me? Nestle is breaking into the remote world, many of my team have found strong benefits from this concept.

    • Ross Kimbarovsky

      Thanks! Yes – go ahead and share on your company’s chat forum. As for a link – to what? You can grab a link to the review in the URL box above and the book itself is linked in the review.

      Happy to hear Nestle is experimenting with remote work.

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