Remote Work Tips From Basecamp


Given all the recent interest in remote work, I spent the weekend reading Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. As the founders of Basecamp, they have been practicing remote work for over a decade now, well before the present-day excitement around it. In the book, they cover everything they have learned from their experience, including why remote work is good for a company, how to hire for remote work, collaborating effectively, managing remote workers, and more. However, what I found most interesting were the tips for how individuals could cope and ultimately thrive in a remote work setting. I wanted to share five such tips I took away from the book.

Build a personal routine
One of the biggest benefits of remote work is that you have incredible flexibility compared to the traditional regimented day spent in the office. But this also turns out to be a downside. Without the structure of the traditional workday, it can be difficult to be productive and get things done with all the distractions the home environment offers. That's why it makes sense to still put together your own personal routine when it comes to remote work. For example, even though you could hang out in sweat pants, showering and getting dressed every morning like you normally would helps to demarcate the start of your workday. You might also set up a schedule for yourself, like doing a deep work task in the morning, responding to emails in the afternoon, etc. Setting up space in your home that's dedicated to working also helps to put you in the right mood to get real work done. These practices help to re-create the feeling of the work environment that you are used to in order to help you be productive doing the workday. These tactics are equally valuable for ensuring you don't overwork by helping you separate your work time routine from your personal time since you can and should leave your home office behind at the end of the day and carry on with your personal life, without the incessant checking of work email and group chat messages.

Change your scenery
Cabin fever is very real for remote workers and something that needs to be dealt with directly. The nice thing is there is no reason that your home office has to be the only place you ever do work remotely, so you should learn to take advantage of that. Some days you might choose to go to your favorite coffee shop or explore a new coffee shop or head to a library or drop into a coworking space. You may even choose to spend mornings in the home office and afternoons out. All of these alternative options help get you outside of the home and into a new scenery. This often addresses the cabin fever, helps put you around other people who are also working, re-create some of the background noise of the typical office environment, and may even spur some creativity. Changing scenery is not required but certainly worth exploring if you find yourself with cabin fever.

Be proactive about establishing healthy habits
The modern office environment has never been very conducive to a healthy lifestyle with all the free food and snacks it offers. But the reality is that when you first settle into remote work, you may realize that it's even worse. The first thing you'll notice is that your step count goes way down. Commuting to the office and walking between meetings actually generates a decent amount of steps which all but disappear as soon as your longest commute becomes moving from your bedroom to your home office. So it's important to be proactive and establish your own healthy routine. Consider going on a daily walk in the morning, during lunch, or in the afternoon to get some extra steps, to clear your head, and to also address cabin fever. Also, take the opportunity to prepare healthy meals since you are at home and can spend your lunch hour cooking up something delicious and healthy. Consider even making time for the gym now that you don't have to waste time on a daily commute. You'll find that the investment here will both make you healthier but also more productive while working.

Invest in your family and friends
One of the most common reactions to moving to a remote work culture is the feeling of loneliness from no longer interacting with your coworkers in-person every day. Those simple water cooler conversations, in-person riffing, and lunch-time conversations go a long way to satisfy the very human need for social interaction, even amongst the most introverted of us. While many suggest means by which you can re-create some of this closeness with coworkers through video conferencing and group messaging, the Basecamp founders actually suggest leaning into social interactions outside of the office, namely your family and friends. Take advantage of the fact that you work from home, enabling you to see your spouse and kids more often, even during little breaks throughout the workday. Also, invest heavily in your friends. Since you no longer have a commute and more flexibility in your schedule, take advantage of it to get out with your friends for happy hour, meals, activities, and more. Jason and David are quick to remind us that our work colleagues aren't necessarily the best source of social interaction anyway.

Learn to write well
Being a good writer is an essential part of being a good remote worker. When most arguments are settled over email or chat or discussion boards, you'd better show up equipped for the task. So how do you go about becoming a better writer? The first step is to read, read, and read some more. The best writers are avid readers who learn from how good writers make their case. Then there are a variety of books that are worth your time on writing well, including The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. The best remote companies realize how essential written communication is and ultimately learn to screen candidates for it before hiring them for remote roles in the first place.

I hope these remote work tips were helpful for you and if you enjoyed them, I encourage you to explore all the tips from the book itself.
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