When I began teaching online courses about 15 years ago, I worked with a man whose dream was to work all day from home in his “jammies.” Those of us who knew him joked around and asked him to please, please, please spare us from that image! All of these years later, I still think of him just about every time I log on to one of my courses. Who would have ever predicted just how much the nature of work would change so much in a relatively short period?
While most colleges still have requirements for some on campus presence, many are becoming more liberal. After all, many students prefer virtual contact to face-to-face, especially if it means having to meet a teacher’s schedule. After finished Scott Berkun’s The Year Without Pants last night, I’m feeling more optimistic about the changing workplace, especially when it comes to working remotely. Below is the review I just posted to Amazon.
Having read and enjoyed Scott Berkun’s Mindfire a year ago, I ordered this book without hesitation. Although the subject matter and tone of the books are totally different, both are interesting, informative, and thought-provoking. About the only thing two tomes have in common is that the author’s style is fast, crisp, and engaging in both.
The Year Without Pants chronicles Berkun’s experiences of managing a team at WordPress for a year. I was fascinated by some of his insights on leadership and the nature of work and thought how marvelous it would be if more organizations would allow this type of “looseness” concerning schedules, locations, and rules.
Getting work done was/is the most important factor, and it doesn’t matter if it happens at two in the morning in Hawaii or three in the afternoon in Athens. What does matter is that the team is motivated, creative, and interactive, and Berkun was privileged to work with such individuals. He believes that self-motivated people thrive when granted independence and that remote work is merely physical independence. He sees “managing their own psychology” as one of the biggest challenges of people who work remotely.
There are so many “jewels” scattered throughout the book that just about every other page has a star beside some comment. Here are a few of my favorite starred statements. While I already knew their truth from earlier reading and life experiences, Berkun has a unique way of expressing these maxims:
- If you ever wonder about why a family or company is the way it is, always look up first. The culture in any organization is shaped every day by the most powerful person in the room.
- To understand who people really are, start a fire. When everything is going fine, you see only the safest parts of people’s character.
- Self-sufficient passionate people are hard to find….Every time a company settles for a mediocre hire, it becomes harder to recruit the best.
- The hardest part of work is what goes on between your ears and between you and your coworkers.
- Voice has more data. We are a text-centric culture here, but voices have more data. We get tons of information (humor, attitude, nuance) you can’t get from text. When in doubt, go voice.
Readers with an interest in the nature of innovative workplaces and practices would enjoy this book. It didn’t escape my notice that Berkun and his team are young, and as such they have a different mindset about working. And they’re so right! Why do people have to work from 9 to 5 at a certain location? And it could also be true that sometimes the best thing VPs can do is to get out of the way.
Read Berkun’s book if you want to know more about WordPress and its many innovations. In the meantime, please share your experiences and observations about the pros and cons of remote work.