Jason Fried, the CEO and co-founder of remote software startup Basecamp, believes remote employees are more productive than those who work from conventional offices. As many Americans transition to remote work because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fried offers his tips for improving leadership, communication, and your home office.
"If you have more time yourself, you're going to be more productive," Fried said during an installment of Inc.'s Real Talk: Business Reboot on May 6 with Inc. editor-at-large Tom Foster. "Because that time is going to be better spent versus splitting your day into smaller chunks where you have to multitask."
Fried is an expert on remote work: He's managed the Basecamp team remotely for 21 years and is the best-selling author of several books, including Rework; Remote: Office Not Required; and It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work. He emphasized that it takes dedication to make the transition from in-person offices to remote settings.
"If you haven't done it before, you're not going to be good at it," Fried says. "It's like if you threw me a guitar and I'd never played before and you expected me to be great."
Even so, with time, it'll come. Here are Fried's top six tips for improving remote working right now.
1. Change your meeting cadence.
The biggest mistake companies make when transitioning to remote work is trying to simulate office behaviors, says Fried. For example, managers might want to host frequent Zoom meetings instead of the in-person ones that occurred at the office.
Fried suggests considering other ways to communicate with staff instead of just having meetings, which can decrease employee productivity. Meeting hosts could instead write their thoughts in an email, which would also give people more time to craft a thoughtful response. Additionally, he believes shared calendars should be abolished so employees can protect their time.
2. Don't spy on your employees.
Fried abhors the use of surveillance software to monitor remote employees. He calls the tactic "a mistake" and says it shows employees that their managers don't trust them.
Fried says companies should scrap these policies and instead monitor an employee's quality of work. He believes that's a better indicator of whether someone is performing.
3. Build a culture of community.
At Basecamp, Fried established weekly automated check-ins to go out to all employees. The program asks workers what they did over the weekend or what they're reading to spur connection between Basecamp's remote team. Participation is optional, Fried says.
He suggests companies set up something similar to break down cliques and create an easy way for employees to bond over similar interests. Since workers aren't in the office, and perhaps lacking social interaction, this is a good way to connect people who otherwise may not communicate.
4. Rethink communication patterns.
People tend to overcommunicate after initially transitioning to remote work, Fried says. That's because they feel pressure to be constantly in touch and show their managers they're working, he adds.
"People should have time to do their work and not feel like they also have to keep one eye on this chat that's scrolling by all day long," Fried says. "It's really distracting and really damaging to company culture."
Fried suggests using email, which allows people to construct more organized thoughts, rather than continuous one-line updates in communication platforms like Slack. However, he believes phone or video calls are useful for more nuanced conversations or debates.
5. Find your dedicated workspace.
Many Americans are working in shared spaces and balancing other obligations, like child care, which can make it hard to stay focused, Fried says. If you're able, find a dedicated space with a closed door and few distractions--even a walk-in closet will do, he adds. Additionally, remove any distractions that will interrupt your workflow and build some physical separation between your work life and home life.
6. Establish rituals.
Instead of rolling out of bed and opening your laptop, establish routines that help you prepare for the day, says Fried. This can be something involved, such as exercise, or as simple as splashing cold water on your face, he adds. The idea is to mark the end of one period of time and the beginning of another.
Additionally, he suggests doing something similar to signal the end of your day. That could be a walk outside or reading a physical book to cut down on screen time.