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Remote: Office Not Required

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The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating new book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits.  Most important, they show why – with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo -- more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution's "under one roof" model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together.  Today, the new paradigm is "move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace."  According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommutes frequently and nearly ten percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend.  A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages.  In Remote, inconoclastic authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea--and they're going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.

256 pages, Audiobook

First published October 29, 2013

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About the author

David Heinemeier Hansson

6 books463 followers
David Heinemeier Hansson is a Danish programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework. He is also a partner at the web-based software development firm 37signals based in Chicago, Illinois.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,125 reviews
Profile Image for John.
211 reviews44 followers
December 4, 2013
I've decided that the Freid/DHH writing pair are the Michael Moore of business literature.

If you need to learn something practical about what is a pretty complex topic, this book is useless. If you need something to fight off the "conservatives" in the business world, this is your goto.

I've two main gripes with the book.

The first is about the pacing and chapter lengths. Reading this you feel like you're being shown a second hand car in dodgy yard. You end up revisiting the nice things over and over, and move very quickly past any areas that have problems.

The second is the reliance on a bunch of strawman arguments. The main takeaway I got was because most meetings in most companies suck and that caring about which hours bums are in seats instead of caring about results means remote is better. They're pretty separate issues - and trust me, I know from experience, meetings with remote staff can be just as terrible. Same with switching from clock-watching to being more result oriented - having the staff remote is a bit of a psychological hack to make the switch easier - but it doesn't address the issue directly.

Profile Image for Rod Hilton.
150 reviews3,126 followers
May 14, 2019
This book was a little disappointing, not because it's bad but because it wasn't quite what I was looking for. The book advertises itself as a collection of solutions to problems people encounter when embracing remote work, but more than anything else the problem it solves is "how do I convince management to embrace remote work?"

Most of the book is structured as a work of persuasion, something that's intended to convince people to go remote. A lot of it seems geared toward executives and managers, or giving lower-level employees ammunition and counterarguments for common objections. That's all well and good, but as someone who is already on-board with remote work and pretty experienced doing it for over 5 years, I don't personally need any convincing - I need help.

Going remote poses unique challenges and difficulties, and I thought the book might help give me some practical solutions to issues I've had with remote work as someone who prefers it and wants to be more successful with it. There's a little of that in the book, but it's mostly meant to persuade. I decided to read the book because I'm joining a new team that is fully distributed and having some struggles, and I was hoping this book would help me help them - but that's not really what's in here.

That said, since reading the book by total coincidence I've found myself involved in multiple conversations with people skeptical of remote work, and I used multiple arguments and examples I got directly from the book during the section of the book I felt like I wasn't getting much from, so maybe it's better than I give it credit for.

If someone is on the fence about remote work, this book is great. If you want to go remote and you need help convincing your team, your manager, or your company executives, this book is great. If everyone is already on board with remote work and needs practical solutions to issues that arise, the book is... fine? I guess? It's mostly fine.
Profile Image for John.
407 reviews398 followers
November 19, 2013
This is a very tricky book to review.

Let me note first that I work remotely as a technology leader at a Boston-based medical startup . . . but I'm based in the Twin Cities. I know remote work very well. I use every tool in this book. I've been remote since the beginning, and my managers and colleagues understand the dynamic, but it's still hard, and not something that is fully embraced in our work.

I'm going to have to divide the readership up into categories:

(1) If you work remotely and have company that tolerates or promotes remote working, this book gets three stars.

The reason is that you will be hungering for more patterns and stories regarding the nitty gritty of how remote work actually . . . works. For instance, the book says (I paraphrase) "use Skype" . . . "you can work in a coffee shop" . . . "your manager needs to take extra care catching up with you" . . . "overwork can be a big big problem for remote workers - don't let them kill themselves with work" -- well, you know all this already.

The book is not really for you. To be sure, you will still learn things, and the book confirms a number of things you have suspected but not really articulated. For instance, it is very good on the paradox that workers in two fairly different time zones frequently get more done collectively: One reason is that because of the time shift, the team can't interrupt itself with random meetings: You always get 3 or 4 hours to get the core work done. Smart.

(2) Your company thinks remote work is insane.

You really need to read this book. For you guys, it's five stars all the way.

Don't listen to people like Marissa Mayer, who at Yahoo put the kibosh on remote work -- she is wrong (they may very well have a problem with badly-managed remote work . . .). With well-managed remote work, there are huge gains to be made in productivity and the happiness of your team, as well as the basic economics of your business. For instance: If you don't allow remote work, you are limited to the people in your geographic area; if you can handle remote work, then you can hire the very best in the whole world.

(3) Your company tolerates remote work but hasn't really figured it out. The book provides a good deal of guidance. I think this is a five star book for you, too, because it's about time that you thought hard about your lack of planning and thought in this area.

The good news is that there are great advantages to remote work. The bad news that it requires a lot of thinking to get it right. There are big contradictions in remote work. For instance, the authors advise that remote workers figure out a routine (pp. 209-211). Meanwhile, they note that "Routine has a tendency to numb your creativity" (p. 228). With freedom comes responsibility.

The book is quite padded - there are illustrations that seem to be there only to boost the page count. I wouldn't waste my money on a printed version: Kindle all the way.

Aside from the over-all argument, which is breezy but sound, I want to pick out a few specific points where I think there's some good detail:

-- securing your remote workers - pp. 61-63.
-- why you don't need answers "right now" -- p. 77.
-- different time zones can be a benefit -- pp. 91-92.
-- use screencasts -- p. 95.
-- benefits of company paying for gym memberships (p. 129) and allow people to make their own sensible buying decisions with company credit cards (p. 199) and managing their own vacations and time off (p. 200).
-- you need to police snippy comments, which can be much worse in chat applications (p. 161).
-- stop thinking that by just seeing people arrive at 8 and leave at 6 that's somehow good because people are putting in "a lot of hours" (p. 182).
-- fewer meetings means better meetings, because face time is scarce (pp. 205-206).
-- remote can be good even when you're local -- pp. 213-214.
-- separate your computers; i.e., keep an iPad with no access to work email so you won't be tempted -- p. 215.

Profile Image for Mouly.
25 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2013
I like 37 signals as a company. They are one of the successful virtual companies. So I had a lot of expectations when I bought the book the day it was launched. But the book was a big letdown.

* The book reads like a collection of blog posts. I felt chapters ended abruptly and switched directions unexpectedly.

* An early chapter says that remote workers can set their own working hours and all the benefits that come with it. A later chapter, about team collaboration, recommends a four hour overlap between team-members. How can people from North America, Europe and Asia work at the same time without one of the burning midnight oil? This is a basic constraint of remote office that the book just glosses over.

* The authors seem incapable of looking beyond their experiences. In making an argument for equal access rights to all employees, the book says "Unless you work in the military, or belong to one of the very rare firms that deal with super-confidential information—information that even trusted employees can’t be trusted with—keeping these access barriers in place is just making it difficult for everyone to get their work done." Banks, hospitals are just two common firms that require access rights to protect customer privacy.

In the end the book frustrated me more than helping me. I agree with the authors that remote working will be more common in the future. There are some nuggets of wisdom sprinkled across the book. But you will have to endure reams of sloppy writing to find them.

Profile Image for Vitor Capela.
44 reviews5 followers
November 15, 2013
As a remote worker myself, I nodded my head frequently at the advantages and challenges presented, so the rating's not about a fundamental disagreement with the message or the intentions. Like the authors, I know from personal experience that commuting, facing a strict set of working hours, interruptions and living with the expectation of availability from others are some of the greatest dangers to work (and creative work especially).

I did, however, expect more than short chapters and sparse data points. Maybe it's the programmer in me misunderstanding the whole "business book" thing, but perhaps the arguments would hold more weight if they were more than anedoctal. This renders the whole thing as an account of what works for 37signals — a very small and relatively unknown company in the greater scheme of things. I understand that relying on managers and employers to be swayed by arguments from authority is antithetical to the book (the thesis being that remote work is a *rationally* better decision overall), but we cannot underestimate how many small-to-medium companies manage by emulation. Maybe stronger data and clearer research could work better against gut reactions.

I think this might be good if you need just a little push to go after this, if you're a bit on the fence and already considering/thinking this is a trend that should be studied and followed. If you want something to challenge your views with great insights, don't bother: it's fluffy and humane and beautifully illustrated, but you're probably going to leave the book mostly unchallenged.
Profile Image for Giuseppe D.
274 reviews51 followers
March 1, 2020
This had some good insights on why remote working can be good and how to be a good remote worker. Nothing beyond common sense really but it’s nice to see it condensed in a brief and informative book.
Profile Image for Anna.
261 reviews
October 30, 2013
I read this book in one sitting. I liked it, but I could not quite figure out the audience. As someone who has worked as a remote employee for over 7 years, a lot of the information was preaching to the choir - I get remote work, because I live it. If the book was written for managers who are looking to make a change, then I don't this book is strong or practical enough (a better book would be Why Managing Sucks). If this book is written for non-managing employees, then they more than likely don't have the ability to change their work environment and all it will do is make them WANT to work remotely. It is kind of like one big manifesto on Remote work, written in a clear and organized way, but not very "practical." I liked their first book - Rework - better.

I will say that even as a remote employee, there were a few good ideas that I picked up on. Lines that I liked ("Coming into the office just means people have to put on pants. There's no guarantee of productivity.") Ideas about staying connected as a team. So I got something out of it, even if a lot of the book was not "new" information for me.Rework
Profile Image for Nikolay.
99 reviews79 followers
December 14, 2013
Thin, short-paragraphed, biased, opinionated, beautifully written and illustrated remote work manifesto and a sales pitch. Every copyrighter should be jealous.

“Remote” shares the advantages and the problems of the advertisement as a literary form.

If you don't have much experience with remote working or you let your mind wander for a bit, the book is extremely
convincing. DHH/Fried know how to write well.

If you look deeper, you may notice that they offer faux acknowledgements for all the drawbacks and unsuitability of remote working. All problems seem to have very easy solutions in the book. In practice, it's a lot more complicated.

The book is great remote work sales tool, just don't forget to think of all angles if you need to put it into practice. The 37signals’ experience is not all there is.

Profile Image for Aurora.
8 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2021
Great book for remote work, but it should really be updated as it’s from 2013 and many of the references are old. Especially now during COVID it would be very beneficial with a version 2. I would buy and read that if published.
Profile Image for Derek.
158 reviews29 followers
February 14, 2017
Jul 31, 2016

Rework was an amazing book that put into words how I feel about work.

Remote was different. While I agree that remote work can be effective, I disagreed with several of the sections.

First off, I work for Accenture, one of the companies interviewed and quoted in the book. The description of Accenture in the book in no way matches what happens in real life. Do 80% of the people not work in the Accenture offices? Yes. Because they are required to be on-site, butt in seat, logging face time, at a client location. We're getting better, many people work from home on Fridays, and sometimes travel schedules allow workers to be at the client every other week. There is still a massive emphasis on face time and time in seat (rather than completed work).

The Accenture ergonomics program was not accurately depicted. Want an ergonomic setup? Get a doctor's note. Without that you don't get anything. Even with a note, the selection is very limited and, frankly, not very good. I purchased my own monitor, monitor arm, ergonomic keyboard, etc.

When Marissa Meyer got rid of the Yahoo work from home program I applauded her. I saw a similar program at a similar client, and it was a disaster. One person posted a Facebook photo of them on the beach with the caption "working from home". That person got very little done. Did the remote work program follow all the guidelines laid out in Remote? No. And I doubt Yahoo's did either. Big companies are not always made up of self-motivated and hard working people. The system can be abused, and often is.

I think remote working has a bright future. I just don't think things are quite as binary as Remote makes them out to be.
Profile Image for Andreea Chiuaru.
Author 1 book762 followers
January 1, 2021
Cred că am ajuns puțin prea tarziu la cartea asta. Așteptările mele erau să găsesc tips&tricks legate de productivitate. Am găsit de fapt o pledoarie pentru manageri legată de motivele pentru care e o opțiune de luat in calcul. Nu am simțit ca mi s-a adresat sau ca m-a invatat ceva nou, desi apreciez mult stilul celor doi si mi-a placut mult "It doesn't have to be crazy at work"
Profile Image for Ghe.
6 reviews
February 16, 2021
Not a fan of the format, but it has bits & pieces of useful information.
It is an easy to read book that offers a few ideas on how to manage our work-life and collaborations in the "work from home pandemic".
Profile Image for Willian Molinari.
Author 2 books118 followers
April 30, 2021
I'm migrating all my reviews to my blog. If you want to read the full review with my raw notes, check it here: https://pothix.com/remotebook

The interesting part of reading this book is that I'm currently living most part of it in the past 2 years. :)
The book itself is a little bit outdated as it was written in 2013 and we had a very different scenario then. They mention it in the first chapter, BTW.

I found it to be a little repetitive as well, they are not very pragmatic about the content and decided to mention things over and over again so you can open the book in any particular chapter and use it as a reference (at least that's what I felt).

Considering all of this, the book is not bad at all. I got some interesting thoughts about my current working environment after reading it. :)
Profile Image for Veronica.
11 reviews45 followers
January 9, 2016
As a remote worker, I felt very connected with the stories in this book. TBH, I was already familar with most of the recommendations, because I have been working remotely for a year, but that's actually a good thing, because it means that we're all on the same channel and there's a common path to success for remote workers.
I really liked it. I would have given 5 stars if I had learned many new tricks or recommendations that I didn't know before.
Profile Image for Alex.
113 reviews
December 2, 2020
This book makes a great case for remote working. It probably could have used a few more research citations - a lot of the recommendations are justified with "it worked at 37signals, therefore it will work for you!" - but that might have been overkill. It still serves as a good eye-opener for both managers and employees who haven't yet embraced the idea of remote work.

The one thing Remote needs is an update. It was published in 2013, and as far as I can tell, there haven't been any subsequent editions released. They talk about things like WebEx, Skype, Hangouts, and Dropbox like they're brand new technologies, and they fail to mention more current technologies like Slack, HipChat, Zoom, or OneDrive (which are probably becoming outdated as I type this). But the most important thing this book needs is a 2020 update; a number of suggestions simply don't hold up in a global pandemic. "Getting bored of your home office and need a change of scenery? Too many distractions at home? Head to your local coffee shop or co-working space!" Can't. They're all closed. And even if they were open, it's probably not worth risking your life for a change of scenery. "Fly job candidates out to your corporate headquarters. Have a big, face-to-face company meeting periodically." Flying isn't really a thing in 2020. "There are so many technologies to help you stay connected and productive!" Many companies are simply trying to stay afloat; optimizing the work-from-home experience for their employees is not really their top priority.

I certainly wouldn't have expected Hansson to include a crash course in remote work for people who have been suddenly forced into it - it wasn't relevant at the time, and the current situation was impossible to predict in 2013 - but that would make for an excellent additional chapter. Something like: "How to Work Remotely When You Have No Choice and Your Company Isn't Set Up For It and Neither Are You or Your Family and on Top of That Everyone is Quarantined". (I'm workshopping the title.) I really hope there's something like that in the works.
9 reviews1 follower
November 7, 2018
Great book. A compreenhensive review of the pros and cons of remote work, addressing some of the miths about working out of traditional offices. The only thing I would point out is that it needs to be understood in a skilled work environment. While I believe that most people deserve the benefit of the doubt, I think the authors are sometimes a bit naive in their assessment of people's commitment ti their work. All in all a great read and a must for managers. A lot of us are already working remotely from our big distracting offices.
Profile Image for Rocky.
17 reviews1 follower
May 18, 2021
Innovative by the time of the release, however, there's nothing new to learn from the book nowadays. Remote is the new normal.
Profile Image for Maria.
536 reviews42 followers
March 6, 2022
для 2022 года, конечно, дико устарело
Profile Image for André Gomes.
Author 3 books108 followers
November 1, 2013
Very objective book, direct to the point!

They are very experienced in remote work so the could discuss the problems of working at an office (transportation, interruptions, commuting, etc.) and present the benefits of remote working as well as what you should be careful when trying to change to remote working.

Lot's of good advice.
Profile Image for Sergey Shishkin.
157 reviews41 followers
February 23, 2015
A very good book with practical tips and a clear message: Value work produced over time spent.

Unfortunately it only focuses on hiring ready made experts and ignores the process of talent growth. To me pairing and working with others side by side is the most effecient way to both learn and teach. Remote doesn't mention any substitute to that.
Profile Image for Karen Gale booze.
8 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2015
I loved everything about it. The book encompasses, so much truth about the upside and downsides to working from home. I believe is shows the best possibilities of the remote style of work. I suggested it to a minimum of 10 people I know who have been thinking about starting a remote platform at their company.
Profile Image for Martin.
204 reviews5 followers
June 1, 2020
Well. Its 2020. This book was published 2013? So todays remote is not the same as it is described in the book. It had its moments, but I rather recommend The Art of Working Remotely or The Long-Distance Leader instead. Mote untimely stuff (and more to my liking - towards leadership).
Profile Image for Natalie.
29 reviews
February 3, 2015
I loved learning about how this company made it work. Lots of overlap to experiences I have had / am having here at work. The no "jerks" allowed rule really resonates with me.
Profile Image for Elena Vladimirova.
63 reviews33 followers
May 22, 2020
There are many a-ha! moments in this book and it seems the current times have made it even more relevant. Recommend it to everyone, especially managers.
Profile Image for Guilherme Labrego.
22 reviews3 followers
July 14, 2019
I've enjoyed listening to this book, but I feel that the way the subject is presented by the author is a little bit incisive, this was already expected from something that comes from DHH, so nothing new here.

I've liked the format of little chapters and no defined order of the subjects, but I think that this turned the tips repetitive too.

I like the way DHH covers all the things about remote work, talking from how this change your business, culture, and mindset about work, to things like how to set up your home office. At the end of the book, there's even a list of tools that can help you to work with a remote team, tested by those who are already working remotely, though that list is a little bit outdated.

Here are some notes that I've made during the reading:
- Nobody goes to the office to do deep work.
- Office's today are places of distractions and interruptions.
- If you need to watch your employees all the time, you're a babysitter, not a manager.
- You should not hire people that you don't trust.
- The security of your devices is like putting your seatbelts before a drive.
- False equity benefits anyone. (When talking about roles that can't be played remotely.)
- In an unproductive meeting of one hour with 10 participants, the company loses ten hours, not one.
- Work with third-party employees unallocated isn't much different from working with a remote team.
- Start implementing remote work sooner than later, your company will have a better culture if you start that way.
- When you're working remotely, it doesn't matter where your co-workers are working.
- You don't have to be fully remote to enjoy the benefits of remote work.
Profile Image for Joseph Gufreda.
31 reviews
April 15, 2023
The book is difficult to rate for several reasons, some of which are not its fault. This book was published in 2013, before remote work was as accepted as it is now in no small part due to the pandemic. The book has that assumption as core part of the message for much of the content, which just is not the world we now live in. It was a product of its time and that's completely understandable.

The actual issue I have is similar to other books from the 37signals team - not enough depth. What I need is a nuts and bolts book, working with the assumption that you're already remote. Maybe it doesn't exist yet, but I'll keep looking.

That being said, the core concepts are solid and have a similar philosophy in my own remote work. It hard to recommend this post-pandemic, but there are bits and pieces that are little nuggets of inspiration.

Profile Image for Narendran Thangarajan.
49 reviews1 follower
May 23, 2022
Jason Fried and DHH definitely are authorities when it comes to remote work. In this short, easy read they share their views on where remote work wins (e.g. more personal time, efficient communication, diverse pool of candidates for hiring), where things get challenging (e.g. hiring/retaining/managing a remote workforce) and what skills are important (writing well, time management, self-discipline) for workers and leaders in a world moving to remote. I feel the authors could have shown a more balanced view by focusing a bit more on the challenges of remote work. Otherwise the book is well-written, well-structured and easy to read.
29 reviews
November 12, 2017
I've had this book lying around for a couple years. I'm about to start a new position which allows remote work, and figured it was time to read this.

I liked that it was a short book, and the writing was clear. I was able to finish this book in just a few short sessions. However, I don't think I really got anything out of reading this. It was mostly directed towards convincing business owners that they should explore allowing employees to work remotely, and most of the content seemed long-winded and/or common sense.

Personally, I think this would have been better if it was distilled into a magazine article or blog post. There was not enough content to justify a book.
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