Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

How To Work Remotely | Livestream Q&A with Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Key Takeaways

  • The silver lining in the coronavirus: Companies and employees will reevaluate the way they work
    • “This is one of those unlucky, lucky moments when we get a chance to rethink the way we’re working”– Jason Fried
      • After the coronavirus pandemic ends, lots of businesses will move into a hybrid mode–Have both office workers and remote workers
  • “If work can be done at a computer, it can be done anywhere you can put a computer”Jason Fried
  • You shouldn’t need to look over an employee’s shoulder to see if they’re working or not–You should be able to give them work and trust them to do it
    • “The lack of trust is a projection of someone’s own insecurities as a manager” – DHH
  • Hierarchy of communication importance (if it doesn’t work, move to the next level):
    • 1) Write it out (text, email, slack)
    • 2) Talk it out (phone call)
    • 3) Meet Up (talk in person)
  • Level the playing field when it comes to meetings–Have everyone dial-in individually
    • Instead of having a remote worker dial-in into a conference room of 4 people, have everybody dial-in from their desk. That way everyone is one the same level.
  • At Basecamp, there are no shared calendars, that way no one can easily take someone’s time
    • “When it’s really easy to take up someone’s time, you end up taking more of it” – Jason Fried
  • If you treat your employees badly during these hard times, as soon as things get better, your workers will leave the company to work elsewhere

Intro

Coronavirus’ Impact on Remote Work

  • The silver lining in the coronavirus: Companies and employees will reevaluate the way they work
    • “This is one of those unlucky, lucky moments when we get a chance to rethink the way we’re working”– Jason Fried
      • After the coronavirus pandemic ends, lots of businesses will move into a hybrid mode–Have both office workers and remote workers
  • “If you’re a manager, now’s a good time to be a leader” – DHH
    • Step up to the plate and set a good example for your team

Best Practices For Moving Your Team To Remote Work

  • Everyone can work remotely, it’s a skill anyone can learn
    • It will take some time to adapt to working remotely in the beginning, but you can get better
      • Give people time to set up their home office and adjust to the new lifestyle
  • Reading Jason and DHH’s book Remote: Office Not Required, is a good place to start
  • Have employees read blog articles about remote work and discuss what they think would work best for the team
    • Emphasize good writing–Teach employees how to write clearly and concisely
  • Respect your coworkers’ time–You can send them a message but don’t expect an immediate response
    • Before you ask for help, try to figure out the problem by yourself
    • Instant messaging doesn’t mean instant responses–Tell people “no rush, get back to me when you have a chance”

How Do You Make Remote Workers Not Feel Left Out From Office Events?

  • You can’t all connect physically, but you can connect virtually
    • Basecamp has an optional feature that asks employees every Monday what they did over the weekend (non-work related answers only) so that any employee from around the world can join the conversation if they want to connect or talk with someone
  • Level the playing field when it comes to meetings–Have everyone dial-in individually
    • Instead of having a remote worker dial-in into a conference room of 4 people, have every individual dial-in from their desk. That way everyone is one the same level.
  • Have one central source of truth–You don’t want to say different things in different places
    • Whenever Jason has a company announcement to make, it won’t share it in the company’s HQ. Instead, he’ll write up a memo and share it will all of the employees at the same time.

How Do You Trust Remote Workers?

  • You should vet how truthful and honest a person is during the hiring process 
    • Basecamps spends MONTHS interviewing candidates
  • You shouldn’t need to look over an employee’s shoulder to see if they’re working or not–You should be able to give them work and trust them to do it
    • If you trust your employees, they’ll trust you–You must give to get
      • “The lack of trust is a projection of someone’s own insecurities as a manager” – DHH

 Dealing With Meetings of 20+ People?

  • In almost every meeting, there are several people who shouldn’t be there
    • Address the root of the problem: Limit the number of people who are involved in meetings
      • Try not to have more than 5 people in a meeting, the best meeting usually have only 3 people
        • If someone is checking their phone during the meeting or not interested in the meeting’s content, they shouldn’t be in there
  • Minimize meetings
    • Hierarchy of communication importance (if it doesn’t work, move to the next level):
      • 1) Write it out (text, email, slack)
      • 2) Talk it out (phone call)
      • 3) Meet Up (talk in person)

Balancing Team Work With Solo Work

  • At Basecamp, there are no shared calendars, that way no one can easily take someone’s time
    • If most of the time on your calendar is blocked off by someone else, that’s a problem
      • If someone wants your time, they should negotiate for it
        • “When it’s really easy to take up someone’s time, you end up taking more of it” – Jason Fried
          • “Shared calendars are some of the worst inventions made by software companies in the past 20 or 30 years”

 How Do You Prioritize Tasks?

  • This is the main job of a manager: to identify which takes have the highest priority
    • Basecamp has a free book about this topic, it’s called Shape Up
  • When working on a new project, Basecamp focuses on how much time it will take to complete rather than how much money 

 Can Everyone Work Remotely?

  • For the most part yes, with the exception of retail workers, people in the restaurant industry, and blue-collar jobs
  • “If work can be done at a computer, it can be done anywhere you can put a computer”Jason Fried
    • It doesn’t matter what desk you’re sitting at or what country you’re living in
  • Lots of introverts prefer to work remotely

 How Do You Handle Large Layoffs?

  • Be empathetic with people and don’t give them false hope
    • Do the layoff in person and have a document ready with helpful information
      • Unless the employee has been abusive or is physically dangerous, you don’t need to have security escort them out

 How To Adjust When Team Members Are Sick

  • When employees are sick, you must relax your project expectations
    • Basecamp was planning on releasing their new product Hey in April, but is pushing the release to a later date because it wants employees to focus on their health right now
  • Because of the virus, for the next couple weeks all your full-time workers will become part-time workers
    • People need to take care of themselves and their family
  • Most project deadlines are made-up, you have the power to change them

 How To Take Care Of Your Team’s Emotional Well-Being During This Crisis

  • If you treat your employees badly during these hard times, as soon as things get better, your workers will leave the company to work somewhere else
    • Push back deadlines and scale down your ambition with projects
    • Understand most of your employees will only be able to work part-time since they have to care for their family
    • For the next few weeks, employers are not going to get 100% effort from your workers–They need to adjust their expectations accordingly
    • Continue to pay your employees if you can
    • Don’t lie to your employees during this time

 Building Culture In A Remote Organization

  • Culture is the byproduct of consistent behavior
    • It isn’t words on a wall, it’s how people act
      • It’s how you treat people and work with them
  • Basecamp has a 5 X 12 meeting: Jason and David video chat with 5 random people every month and talk for an hour about anything except work
    • It’s meant to mimic common conversations that would normally occur in an office 
      • “You can really make sure people know one another even if they don’t see each other” – Jason Fried
  • To learn more about culture and how Basecamp built their remote organization, read their book It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

 Managing Boredom, Anxiety & Isolation While Working Remotely

  • Tell your manager how you’re feeling
  • In normal times: Get out of the house, take a walk, grab a coffee
    • Do something that breaks the daily routine
    • Go to a co-working space, coffee shop, or public library

Additional Notes

  •  How Do You Have A Brainstorm Session Remotely?
    • Have people brainstorm ideas individually and then have a group discussion and bounce ideas off one another
  • If your company is still forcing you to come to the office even though it’s possible for you to work from home, consider: 
    • Educating your boss about the seriousness of the matter and the importance of social distancing
    • Educating them about how people can work from home
    • Leaking the news to an investigative journalist
      • Make sure you don’t use your company email and leak the information anonymously so that you aren’t fired
  • David loves using GitHub for pull-request reviews
  • Don’t try to get the most out of your employees, aim to get the best out of them
    • To get the best out of people: 
      • Create a positive environment
      • Give people time to do deep work (at least 3 hours a day)
      • Treat people well (pay, benefits, vacation days)
  • Tools needed for working remotely: Basecamp, Zoom, and a laptop with a webcam

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