Posted by: Tony Shannon | October 31, 2013


Change usually involves a mix of people, process, information and technology.

So it is with remote working, a new way of work that is gathering pace around the globe.
In their new book “Remote: Office Not Required” , the founders of 37 Signals discuss this phenomenon that is changing how we work in important ways.
Some of the key points to take from the book are;

Remote is already happening and there is no point denying the deep change it heralds, the challenge is to positively embrace it.

Remote means that your colleagues may not need to be in the room/building with you… they may be down the street, down the city or down the other side of the world. One of the key principles is that if folk live and work where they want to be…. they end up with a better work-life balance and can be a more productive member of a team. To achieve that may involve less managerial control, less meetings face-to-face but should involve more trust and more real work done. In recruiting such a team one naturally needs to hire well, keep an open mind for international talent and skills, look for good communicators (i.e. people who can write well) and who want to be judged by the timeliness and quality of their work, not whether they can stretch their work from 9-5.

Remote is already happening in many ways already. Most of our delegate some banking, legal and other affairs to others who work outside our organisation. We can make contact with them as and when needed but we understand that they don’t need to be in the same building as ourselves to get that work done. There is now good evidence of a move towards remote working across a variety of industries, including the Government, Consulting, Design and Software industries.. amongst others. The book commends at least some joint overlap in the working day between remote colleagues (e.g. at 4 hour time lap in some part of the day) but otherwise it suggests few constraints. It makes a sensible case that a few regular meetups are required to brainstorm, team build, problem solve at key junctures, but between times there is often work to do that micromanaging and manymeetings can hamper and/or can just be wasteful. It also commends occasional team sprints to deliver on a deadline, project etc etc which can also be done remotely.

Remote is made possible by some key information and technology elements.
From an information point of view, the book makes a good case that any/all related information should be easily available for team members and  that roadblocks to getting at information mostly get in the way and make us less productive.
From a technology point of view, key developments over the last 10-15years have now accumulated to the point that has made Remote working possible. They are tools such as;

So there are many now examples of successful remote working available. The authors of the book have played important parts in the open source software movement and their very popular Ruby on Rails framework has had over 3000 contributors from hundreds of cities around the world, most of whom have never met one another..

I’ve had positive experiences of Remote working myself with examples such as a “10 Days :1 Clinician: 1 Developer” piece of agile development with Chris Casey. We delivered that project over the web/skype/phone and the work was done before we ever met.

So I’ve progressed to more Remote working this year and can recommend both the book and the benefits.


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