- Do we really have to all live in a large city?
- And what’s with commuting in traffic to an open office?
- The office can be a great tool… if used wisely.
- There is no spoon.
- It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows…
- Who is this book for?
- The one thing: an office is just a tool!
Now you know my story and how my dream of a “no office” lifestyle became a team that doesn’t commute to a central office to get their work done. The only question that remains is about the future - is this just my future or is this the future of work?
Do we really have to all live in a large city?
The cities are growing. Even in a developed country like the USA, when you look at the top 20 most populated cities, you can see that in the last decade all of the cities kept growing. Only Chicago grew by less than 1%, but some cities like Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin or Seattle grew way in double digits, some more than 20%! Is this really necessary?
I also read on Twitter the other day that in 15 years we’ll have 50 mega-cities all over the world with more than 10M inhabitants each… why would we do that to ourselves?
Don’t we finally have technology to work in a different way and not have to live confined in large megapolis? I’m sure some people thrive in large cities but I don’t think we all do… and now we should be able to choose our lifestyle. I used to live in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland. I chose to move to a much smaller city of 300K people and I love it here.
And what’s with commuting in traffic to an open office?
That’s the heart of the matter. Many knowledge workers - people who work with their brains on computers - live in the suburbs and commute every day (usually 1 hour each way) to their work. Countless studies have shown how stressful it is to be stuck in a traffic jam every day. And why? To get to an office in the city center with glass windows and an open floor plan.
Yes, the “open office”. Where it’s loud, where people constantly disturb each other, where you feel like a cog in a wheel… where you can hardly get any work done. But where your supervisors believe your creative ideas are flowing around and infecting each other through share physical proximity.
Much like Coronavirus. Sorry. Bad joke. But couldn’t help myself.
Anyway, what my point is that you get stressed driving an hour to sit in front of a computer in a crowded and noisy room. And to add insult to injury your capacity for productive work is drastically reduced by the sheer number of meetings you’re being asked to attend to.
That’s the modern standard of knowledge work. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact many talented people start seeing it and don’t want to work this way. And now due to the Covid-19 situation the world has sped up the process.
And hopefully with the advice in this book you will get much more of your productive time back, cut your meetings and make the ones that remain much much better.
The office can be a great tool… if used wisely.
Our company is very extreme, because we literally don’t have an office. We have an official address, but nobody goes there. And there are many companies like ours. We’re close to 30 people. Buffer, a social media company, is more than twice our size. Zapier, a software automation company, has more than 250 people on payroll. And there are companies like InVision, Automattic (makers of Wordpress) or GitLab that have more than a thousand people in a completely geographically dispersed team.
Advice in this book applies not only to companies that are “all remote”. Some companies need to go hybrid mode - a small office, a small production facility… and everyone else distributed. On one hand there are companies that already have offices in many cities… so they’re already kinda “no office” or “no ONE office”… but on the other hand they hate the idea of letting their team members work remotely or even take a few days working from home.
Anyway, the truth of the matter is that any knowledge worker can work from literally anywhere. If you work with your brain, it really shouldn’t matter where its geo coordinates are. There is no office - there is only work.
There is no spoon.
I’m a big fan of the movie Matrix. It has quite a few memorable scenes. One of the best ones is when a boy is bending the spoon.
In that scene the boy is telling Neo, the main character, that bending a spoon is impossible… but as they are in the Matrix, the truth is that there really is no spoon, and the only thing they can bend is themselves… not the spoon.
It’s so funny to me that the modern pre-requisite of getting job done is the office. It’s like there is an equation between the two: work = office!
When you need to get your work done, you don’t have to do it because of the office. The office is optional. The office can be bent. Because what really matters is this:
There is no office. There is only work that needs to be done.
Later in this book we’ll explore all the valid reasons why people might believe an office to be an essential part of their work and how a “no office” company solves these needs, like:
- A requirement for the business to exist and show off address
- A proof to their clients that the business is real
- A place for their team members to do their best work
- A way for them to collaborate and be creative
- A means to have great and productive meetings
- A venue for meeting with clients
- A measure to compare against the competition
These are all valid concerns and needs.
So please keep an open mind and we’ll deal with all of them throughout this book, because even though something used to be done one way, doesn’t mean it cannot be done differently and with better results.
It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows…
Yes, running a modern “no office” company has its own set of challenges. There are many questions and issues, like:
- How to set up your home office?
- How to communicate internally?
- How to get stuff done together?
- How to run meetings, projects and work effectively?
- How to re-connect and take care of good team spirits?
And many many more.
This book is trying to answer most of these questions, written from a perspective of a small, all-remote, global company that’s been around for more a decade. With additional examples from other “no office” businesses.
Yet we don’t have all the answers and we do many things differently with a common goal of creating a great work environment and a thriving business.
On one hand the recent pandemic of COVID-19 sped up the work on this book, but on the other I believe we’ve learned enough to be useful to other companies and businesses which are used to a more traditional way of doing things.
The book is open-sourced - I’m writing it openly for everyone to read and suggest improvements and amendments. I’m learning as I go, so many things in this book might change and get revised. It’s a process.
Just like software, this book will never be finished.
In Nozbe, with our latest software product of Nozbe Teams, we’ve introduced a weekly release schedule. Every week we keep shipping a new version of our software. When a bug is fixed, a feature is introduced, a text copy is improved, it gets shipped to the customers next Monday. We love this quick and iterative release cycle.
Once this book is finished I’ll try to introduce a monthly release cycle to produce a new PDF and eBook format. And a quarterly revision of the paperback. And you’ll also be able to track all the changes on Github in real time. This way this book will be like a great software product - evergreen and always up to speed of the modern business.
Who is this book for?
This book is for you if you’ve come this far. :-)
As the founder of a “no office” company and as an active part of the team who still works day in and day out and contributes to what we’re doing, I’m addressing this book to both sides of the table:
- All business owners and managers - who are open to not only embrace remote work but also modern techniques of effective working and team productivity.
- Employees and team members who are experimenting with remote work or want to try it themselves and/or convince their employer to keep an open mind about it.
- Everyone on your team who just feels there’s a better way to work but can’t quite put their finger on it. I hope the next chapters will inspire you to try new way of doing things and find your solution that takes your team to a whole new level.
The one thing: an office is just a tool!
Remember that office is not a requirement for work, it’s just a tool that you can bend any way you want, because what’s really required is the work that you need to do.