On the Yonder Bookshelf: Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

On the Yonder Bookshelf: Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

"Remote work is about setting your team free to be the best it can be, wherever that might be."

Welcome to the “Yonder Bookshelf,” which is our team’s anthology of great books that we read to enhance our distributed management strategies and inspire our remote work.

Our pick of the month for August was Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. As founders of 37signals, a company with a central office in Chicago and thirty-six remote workers, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson contend that although there are challenges with remote work (for both the company and the workers), the advantages often far outweigh the drawbacks.

This book was an obvious choice for us because it has become a well-known guide for remote workers everywhere. Many of the folks in our untethered community have either read it already or have it on their list to read. So, if you haven’t read it yet, we encourage you to earn your “remote work” patch and do so asap.

Published in 2013, Remote quickly became a guide for distributed companies and remote workers. It highly popularized the term "remote" over the previously more common terms, such as "telecommute," "virtual," and "work from home."  Prior to the release of this book, "From 2005 to 2011 remote work soared 73 percent in the United States—to 3 million workers total."

With the growth of remote work, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson cover topics intended to help companies and employees navigate the changes that come with starting to work from home (or from a coffee shop, co-working space or wherever) versus showing up and being present in an office from 9-5. The authors make a compelling argument that once you escape the 9-5 mentality, what it really comes down to is "the work" — productivity/output. While this should also be true for an on-site job, people can really get away with more "theatrics" in an office environment, such as, staying late every night and appearing busy at the right times. These things simply aren't possible with remote work. You gotta deliver. And those who can deliver make great remote workers.


Important Bullet Points:

  • Being open to candidates beyond your local area drastically opens the talent pool.

  • Writing is a skill that is very important for remote workers to have.

  • "Management" in a distributed company means focusing on the work, rather than presence.

  • Remote workers need access to information. Unnecessary roadblocks should be removed.

  • If you're going to give remote work a try, go all in. More on this in the Action Items section below.


Action Items:

If you're going to give remote work a fair shake for your company, don't just pick one person to be remote and carry on with business as usual. This is a recipe for disaster. If you want the transition to remote work to be successful for your company, try these steps.

  1. Set "remote days" for the entire company (or a pilot group), management included. Start with two days a week and build on that when you're ready.

  2. Set a timeline for the transition, i.e. the whole company is going remote two days a week for a three month period. Then, we will add a third day for another three month period.

  3. Ensure all technology and infrastructure (access to information) is in place before rolling out the program, so team members are set up for success from the get-go.

  4. Don't overlook remote workers’ need for non-work related breaks from the more focused work time. Make sure people have some sort of virtual water cooler, like a chat room, in place.

  5. Allow opportunities for remote workers to provide candid feedback so they can share both the challenges and wins they experience.



"People go to work all the time and act as though they’re working remotely: emailing, instant messaging, secluding themselves to get work done. At the end of the day, was it really worth coming to the office for it?"

If you're considering allowing your team to go remote or you’re on the fence about hiring remote workers, you will probably find Remote helpful in your research phase. There are a number of things that every company must consider when thinking about making this transition. Whether or not remote work is right for your company is ultimately up to you, but the arguments for remote work are compelling and Remote will help you think through how to make that transition as smooth as possible.  

On the other hand, if you already work in a distributed company, Remote may not go as deep into the topics as you would like. However, it’s a quick and easy read, and you will probably enjoy it nonetheless.


What about you? Have you seen success in implementing the action items listed above? Or maybe you have a new book recommendation? We would love to hear about them! Tweet us @yonder_io or comment on our Facebook Page.


If you would like to read along with us, September’s pick is Influencing Virtual Teams by Hassan Osman, which we chose because it came highly recommended by our Twitter followers.


Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored and contains no affiliate links.