As founders of web-based collaboration software company 37signals, Fried and Hansson (Rework, 2010) are aggressive promoters of the work-from-home employment model, a subject they feel is responsible for a “heated global conversation.”
Drawing on their experience as technologically savvy trailblazers, the authors outline the problematic nature of the hyperactive corporate office environment (“interruption factories”) versus productive, home-based aloneness. Using their software company as a prime example, the authors detail the many ways a “distributed workforce” is becoming the true future of the 9-to-5 office and hardly the “outsourcing” movement many compare it to. Still, the at-home environment has its own set of obvious distractions, from “cabin fever” to immobility and social deprivation. The authors assume that the responsible, professional telecommuting workforce will surely avoid these hazards by taking full advantage of newer innovations like file-sharing software and real-time communication tools and use a graduating scale of urgency and importance with regard to pending tasks. They also recommend interactive, company-specific chat rooms for telecommuters who miss the interpersonal “mindless breaks” enjoyed by those in the physical office. Obviously not applicable to every work environment, the book applies strategies and guidance to corporate sectors where telecommuting would have the most positive effect on employees and company overhead. Fried and Hansson stand firm in their assertion that working remotely increases productivity for business operations, but their book, while congenial and galvanizing in tone, unevenly favors the positive aspects of the telecommuting experience. The brevity of their take on the subject and the cartoonish graphics also tend to vitiate its credibility. Overall, however, Fried and Hansson present a convincing, if imbalanced, argument in favor of remote production, provided those embarking on it carefully skirt the pitfalls of a lifestyle that is technologically dependent and at the mercy of daily personal distraction.
A somewhat diluted discourse on how modern technology continues to reshape and revolutionize the contemporary workplace.