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Chapter 3 - I have a future?

Can - No Office - be the future of work?

Now you know my story and how my dream of a “No Office” lifestyle became a reality. I am thrilled to have a team that doesn’t have to commute to a central office to get their work done. The only question that remains is about the future – is this only my future or is this the future of work?

Do we really have to live in a large city?

Cities are growing. When you look at the top 20 most populated cities in the world1, you can see that all of them have continued to grow in the last decade, even cities in a developed country like the United States of America. Of the cities listed, only Chicago grew by less than 1%. Some cities such as Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Seattle grew by double digits – some by more than 20%! Is this really necessary?

By 2030, we’re expected to have 43 mega-cities across the world2, with more than 10 million inhabitants in each… why would we do that to ourselves?

Don’t we finally have the technology to work in a different way and not have to live confined in a large megapolis? Some people may thrive in large cities, but the lifestyle it provides doesn’t fit everyone. And in 2020, we should be able to choose our lifestyle without having to sacrifice our career. I used to live in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, but I chose to move to a much smaller city of 300K people and I love it here.

What’s with commuting in traffic to an open office?

This is 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 one hour each way) to work. Countless studies have shown how stressful it is to be stuck in traffic every day. And why do we do this? 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. It’s also where your supervisors believe your creative ideas are flowing around and infecting each other through shared physical proximity.

Essentially, you get stressed driving an hour or so just 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.

That’s the modern standard of knowledge work. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, many talented people have started to realize this and don’t want to work this way anymore.Now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has sped up the process of transitioning to remote work.

Hopefully with the advice in this book, you will be able to increase your productive time, cut back on your meetings and make the meetings that remain much more effective.

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 works there. There are many other companies like ours with teams of all different sizes. Nozbe has close to 30 people, meanwhile Buffer, a social media company, is more than double our size. Zapier, a software automation company, has more than 250 people on payroll. And there are companies like InVision, Automattic (the makers of Wordpress) or GitLab that have more than a thousand people in a completely geographically-dispersed team.

The advice in this book doesn’t apply to only companies that are completely remote. Some companies may work in a hybrid system – maybe they have a small office and a small production facility, while the rest of their staff is distributed. There are some companies that already have offices in many cities, so they’re already kind of a “No ONE Office” business, but they hate the idea of letting their team members work remotely or even take a few days to work from home.

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 geographical coordinates are. There is no office – there is only work.

There is no spoon

I’m a big fan of the movie The Matrix. It has quite a few memorable scenes, but one of my favourites is when the little boy is bending the spoon.

In this scene, a young 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.

I find it comical that the modern expectation to completing your work is being in an office. It’s like people think there is an equation between the two: work = office!

In truth, 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.

Is an office indispensable?

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, such as:

  • A requirement for the business to exist and have a physical address.
  • 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.

Please keep an open mind. 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, however…

Yes, running a modern “No Office” company has its own set of challenges. There are many questions and issues.

  • How do you set up your home office?
  • How do you communicate internally?
  • How do you get stuff done together?
  • How do you run meetings, finish projects and work effectively?
  • How do you reconnect and maintain team spirit?

And many many more.

In this book, I aim to answer most of these questions, written from the perspective of a small, remote, global company that’s been around for more than a decade, and supplemented with examples from other “No Office” businesses.

We don’t have all the answers, and other “No Office” businesses may do things differently, but we all have a common goal of creating a great work environment and a thriving business.

While the recent pandemic of COVID-19 may have sped up the work on this book, I believe I’ve learned enough for it to be useful to many businesses that are accustomed to working in a more traditional manner.

A modern book for modern times

This book is open-sourced – I’m writing it openly for everyone to read and to suggest improvements and amendments. I’m learning as I go, so many things in this book might change and undergo revision. It’s an ongoing process.

Just like software, this book will never be finished.

“No Office” is a modern way of running a business, so it deserves a modern way of writing a book

In Nozbe, with our latest software product of Nozbe Teams, we’ve introduced a weekly release schedule. Every week, we ship a new version of our software. When a bug is fixed, a feature is introduced, or 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, plus a quarterly revision of the paperback. You’ll also be able to track all changes on Github in real time. 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 working on daily operations, I’m addressing this book to both sides of the table:

  • To all business owners and managers who are open to embracing not only remote work but also modern techniques of effective work and team productivity.
  • To employees and team members who are experimenting with remote work or want to try it themselves and convince their employer to keep an open mind about it.
  • To everyone on your team who feels there’s a better way to work but can’t quite put their finger on it.

I hope the next few chapters will inspire you to try a new way of doing things and to find a solution that takes your team to a whole new level.

The one thing: an office is just a tool!

Remember that an office is not a requirement for work; it’s just a tool that you can bend any way you want – because the only requirement is the work that needs to get done.

Next: Part 1 - You are using your office wrong!

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