adrift on a cosmic ocean

Writings on various topics (mostly technical) from Oliver Hookins and Angela Collins. We have lived in Berlin since 2009, have two kids, and have far too little time to really justify having a blog.

Micro book review: Remote - Office not required

Posted by Oliver on the 5th of April, 2020 in category Thoughts
Tagged with: Books

remote Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

It's probably no surprise to anybody that I just read this book, and I expect many other people have recently, or will soon, read it as well given the current global pandemic looming over us. Many people will have recently bought the book as the authors made it free (I think the tweet has now been deleted as I couldn't find it) but in any case, it was recently still heavily discounted:

Right now I've been trying to read up as much as possible on how to succeed at remote work since we have been working from home for the last three weeks or so. This book was already on my reading list from some time back so it seemed a better time than any to crack it open, and fortunately it's not excessively long. My first impression is that it felt a bit of a shallow dive into the topic, and despite only having been published in 2013, already is starting to feel a bit dated. Some of this is due to references to technologies that are clearly no longer the newest and primary choice of the mainstream. I also feel that the writing excessively demonised straw-man examples in order to make a better case for remote working.

The book seems to cover four main themes - what remote work is exactly, why you should move your company to remote working, how to get there, and how to succeed at it. Perhaps because of the time in which the book was published, it felt like most of the energy was expended in making the case for remote working and fighting that particular battle. Maybe I didn't "get it", but much of the "how to remote" parts seemed obvious to me. If anything, I feel like the greater point to be made, rather than the evils of being in an office, are that meetings and the kinds of interactions we take for granted in an office setting, are wasteful and inefficient. Speaking at least from my three weeks of experience (ok, it's not that much) I find that much of my time has still just gone into replicating the face to face meetings I already had in my calendar - now they are just done over Zoom.

Perhaps that was a more subtle point that they are making... and certainly the excessive meeting culture and other corporate evils seem to be the focus of their subsequent follow-up books, ReWork and It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work. I'll almost certainly be reading these two books as well. If I had not already started working from home (which seems like it will last for at least two to three months), I think I would find the book convincing, if perhaps not as thoroughly as Reinventing Organizations did for Teal Organizations (to me at least). In addition to the book itself, I think the combination of working in this arrangement and knowing what other industry professionals see as the benefits of it (not to mention the potential), make me believe this could very well be an ideal working situation for me - if the conditions are right. Suffering meeting death and constantly running out of time due to distractions don't accomplish any of the goals that Jason and David have in running their company and it shouldn't be the case for any other company either. So, I'll continue reading and pondering the ideal working environment.


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