I read Remote: Office Not Required over the weekend (it’s a fast read) to see what I could learn about working with remotely located coworkers. I came away with a simple change of perception that will likely change the way I operate in the future.

Our company has two offices which, in a sense, makes us a remotely located group. I say ‘in a sense’ because those offices are, at most, 30 miles from one another. Before reading the book, the idea that this small distance made us a remotely located organization seemed far fetched. If I needed to talk to someone face-to-face, we’d simply go to the same office. Or, more often than not, the people who I interacted with most already worked from the same office I did- nothing remote about that, right? Well, now I think differently.

The book explains the simple concept that even if you’re across the street from your office working at a cafe, you’re effectively remote. People at the office can no longer physically walk up to you. Yes, they can walk across the street, but otherwise need to make contact via some other method, many of which are asynchronous and therefore don’t require immediate attention like a physical interruption does. That’s working remotely. It’s so simple that, in hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t make the connection. Just because many of us are in the same office for lengthy periods of time doesn’t mean, as a whole, that we’re not a remotely oriented team. Just the opposite: many colleagues are not in the same office as me and therefore, each and every day, half or more of our staff are effectively remote. And then there are our clients who are hardly ever in our office.

The simple change in perception the book gave me is worth the price of admission. From there though, I didn’t get much tactical value. I found significant portions of the book covered workflow adaptations we’ve implemented and tools we already use. It was great to compare notes against what 37signals does and the other companies they highlight. I suppose some of that does have tactical value, but it seems minimal compared to the larger shift in mindset I took away.

I don’t have much more to say at this point other than a quick critique of the writing and format. Once again, 37signals has published a book that strikes me more like a collection of blog posts than a streamlined, cohesive narrative. This might leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it certainly makes for a quicker, more consolidated package. And who won’t benefit from a quick, weekend read with takeaways you can put to use the same day?

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