Working remotely: 8 books that address the rewards and the challenges

Vannessa Cronin on March 13, 2020
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As terrifying as the pandemic unfolding across the world is, one of the interesting aspects is that, as we self-quarantine in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, working remotely full-time—a relatively recent phenomenon for many—may be about to come into its own. As a former sales rep for a publisher, I spent about six years working out of the spare room in my apartment, so this last couple of weeks has felt like a homecoming, not a brave new world. But for those who are new to this and trying to get the lay of the land quickly, we've put together a selection of books about working remotely that we hope you find helpful.


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Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote is the soup to nuts guide to working remotely, from deciding when the time is right for remote work (workers already work remotely in order to get quality work done; talent is not limited to the hubs; saving on overhead) to the issues around working remotely: from the personal (cabin fever, ergonomics, staying motivated, and working with clients), to the management issues (one-on-ones, removing roadblocks remotely, being on the lookout for overwork).

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Work Together Anywhere by Lisette Sutherland, Kirsten Janene-Nelson et al.

It's easy to talk about collaborating remotely as though all workers/managers are on the same page as to what that looks like. Work Together Anywhere starts by identifying how organizations can decide if they are ready for remote-working, but moves quickly to what collaboration looks like: offering instructions and a template for a remote team agreement, plus tips for conducting online meetings, for both facilitators and participants. There are also useful tips on hiring remote workers and teams.

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Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams by Teresa Douglas, Holly Gordon & Mike Webber

Working Remotely bypasses all the questions about why and when to take your company remote and zeroes in on the fact that for any worker, working remotely necessitates a headspace change as well as a workspace change. It offers tips for staying engaged and motivated, tells you how to get what you need from colleagues you can't see, and gives you remote networking tips so as not to let working from home keep you from developing in your career.

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The Work From Home Survival Guide by Michael Wexler

This reads like the What to Expect When You're Expecting of books about working remotely. Acknowledging some of the benefits of wfh (not getting out of your pjs until dinner), Wexler also warns that "there's a fine line between sensei and senseless" and he offers practical advice for not crossing that line too often. This is a fun, philosophical guide to setting good work-at-home habits and making them stick.

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The Remote Worker's Guide to Excellence by Eryck Dzotsi

If what you want is a quick and dirty primer on the day to day concerns of working remotely, this short (72 pages) book may be right for you (and it's free for those with a Kindle Unlimited subscription). In 2011, Dzotsi took on a telecommuting position and he quickly identified the issues he had to solve, issues that went beyond technology: communicating with his boss and his team, personal finances, work/life balance, and establishing a daily routine.


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The Long-Distance Leader by Kevin Eikenberry

Many of the books on this list are aimed at both workers and managers working remotely. Eikenberry and Turmel identify another audience for books in this category: leaders. Managers, they tell us, are about processes, budgets, and forecasts. Leaders, however, are about vision, influence, direction, and development. Though the two groups overlap, this book focuses on how to apply timeless principles of leadership when people are working in different places and even in different time zones.

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Martha Stewart's Organizing by Martha Stewart

You can get so caught up in the philosophical aspects of working remotely for weeks or months that you overlook the practical aspects, and your remote workplace—the physical set up and the organizational set up—can get in the way of your success. Even if it's just for a month or so, setting up a workspace that works for you, in the right location in your home, will set you up for success. Martha Stewart is here to help.


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The Home Edit by Clea Shearer

The aim of The Home Edit is right there in the title: this book will help you carve out space for your new office by editing those items you like or things you collect, leaving only what you need, what will make your workspace function efficiently. Like a less drastic Marie Kondo, this book will also reshape your thinking on organizing your home, encouraging you to think in terms of groupings, specifically which groupings will ease congestion in your home and/or office and facilitate greater flow and function.


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