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Think Tank

Working from Home is the Way of the Future

The modern workplace makes us all work longer, less focused hours, Jason Fried told Big Think back in 2010. That is because the workplace is optimized for interruptions which are the enemy of work, the enemy of creativity, "the enemy of everything." 

Fried, along with 37Signals cofounder David Heinemeier Hansson, wrote a bestselling book about how to change all of this, with sensible prescriptions such as don't treat your employees like children and send them home at five. In the broadest sense, Rework was a declaration of war against the culture of work that produces workaholics and infuriatingly inefficient meetings. 

Now, Fried and Hansson have come out with a new book, Remote: Office Not Required, a full-throated embrace of the practice of working remotely. Their timing could have been a little bit better, as they missed the publicity firestorm caused by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's dismantling of her company's remote-work program. 

"We would have appreciated Yahoo!'s CEO Marissa Mayer waiting another six months for our publication date," the authors joke, but nonetheless, "her move provided a unique backdrop against which to test all of Remote's arguments."

Indeed, the authors benefit from the way the national conversation has progressed since the Yahoo! controversy. Furthermore, the practice of working remotely, Yahoo! notwithstanding, is on the rise, and Remote remains one of the most anticipating business books of the year. 

So what do Fried and Hansson have to say?

"The future, quite literally, belongs to those who get it," the authors write. "Do you think today's teenagers, raised on Facebook and texting, will be sentimental about the old days of all-hands-on-deck, Monday morning meetings?" In addition to laying out the most compelling arguments for remote work, the book also provides employers and employees a road map for how to do it - from creating a virtual water cooler to designing an ergonomic home office environment. 

"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea in general, but it wouldn't work for my industry."

To this objection, Fried and Hansson point out that remote working is not some cooky brainchild of software developers, but a trend that has taken hold in industries ranging from finance to accounting to government. NASA is doing it. HSBC UK is doing it. Mercedes-Benz USA is doing it. Companies with fewer than 1,000 employees are doing it as well. 

And to the extent that big business has not fully embraced remote working, Fried and Hansson have this to say:

Once a corporate behemoth has built a big fat moat around a herd of cash cows, who cares how many cow herders they have or how little they get done? That's a roundabout way of saying that looking to big business for the latest productivity tips is probably not the smartest thing to do. The whole point of innovation and disruption is doing things differently from those who came before you. Unless you do that, you won't stand a chance. 

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