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Remote Work Q&A, Part 2

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This is the second part of a two-hour live Q&A on remote work that Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson held last week. Part 2 covers questions about interruptions, mental health, hardware and software tools, and building culture as a remote company. You can find Part 1 on our feed in your podcast app or on our website. If you’d like to watch the Q&A session in its entirety, you can do that on Periscope. You can also check out Basecamp’s Guide to Internal Communication.

  • Question 1: How do we get aligned with coworkers without interrupting them through chat/phone calls and while respecting their time? - 4:03
  • Pings (direct messages) in Basecamp - 6:34
  • Hey is Basecamp's upcoming email product - 7:23
  • "Interruption Is Not Collaboration," our episode where we discuss Office Hours - 8:45
  • It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy At Work - 10:48
  • Question 2: How would you encourage leaders to prepare (or how has Basecamp prepared) for an eventuality where large numbers of workers will be sick for extended periods of time? Adding more buffers to time estimates? - 14:15
  • Question 3: How can we best nudge our bosses in the right direction with this stuff? - 18:39
  • The Guardian published an article that mentions DHH's efforts to shame companies whose employees aren't allowed to work from home - 18:57
  • David's tweet asking for stories of companies - 19:08
  • Denver Post article about Charter Communications' remote work policy - 19:41
  • REMOTE: Office Not Required - 21:23
  • Question 4: Where do you put ideas that are mostly about code? Do you have discussions in GitHub for that? - 25:06
  • Tuple - 26:58
  • Question 5: What can you do for taking care of the emotional well-being of the work community that’s going to be remote for weeks in the middle of such unprecedented crises? - 27:32
  • You can send reports of companies to - 30:36
  • Question 6: How do you each spend your typical days at Basecamp? How do you balance team collaboration and meetings with more solo, “deep” work? - 34:33
  • "Wait, other people can take your time?" (Signal v. Noise) - 41:36
  • Question 7: How do you set up a culture and understand cultural fit when building a fully remote organization? - 41:54
  • "Introducing the 5x12" (Signal v. Noise) - 43:48
  • "The books I read in 2019" (Signal v. Noise) - 45:10
  • The Basecamp Employee Handbook - 46:51
  • Question 8: How do you help first-time WFH employees to ensure we are getting the most out of them? - 48:38
  • Question 9: How do you manage boredom, anxiety, and isolation while working remote alone? - 51:25
  • Question 10: What technologies (hardware included) are you excited about (outside of Basecamp) to help support remote? - 55:45
  • A photo gallery of Basecamp employees' work-from-home setups - 57:30
  • "Big Brother at the Office," our episode about employers surveilling their workers - 59:36
  • REMOTE on IndieBound (currently on backorder) - 1:01:44

The Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.

Shaun: [00:00:02] Welcome to Rework, a podcast by Basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Shaun Hildner.

Wailin: [00:00:06] And I’m Wailin Wong. We’re still technically on hiatus while we catch up and adjust to producing this show from our homes. How’s your shelter in place going, Shaun?

Shaun: [00:00:16] It’s going well. My home office is almost completely set up. How’s yours going? You hanging in there with the family.

Wailin: [00:00:22] Yes. I no longer know what day it is.

Shaun: [00:00:25] Right.

Wailin: [00:00:25] And we did one week of e-learning at home and that went okay. This week as we’re recording this is spring break for my kids’ school so now we really are at loose ends because we’re not even getting a sliver of a worksheet emailed from the teacher, so.

Shaun: [00:00:45] Right. Wailin: [00:00:45] Yeah, it’s a lot of screen time. The advantage of having to set up our home office and our home recording studio is that I have a mountain of cardboard.

Shaun: [00:00:56] Ooh, yeah, that’s fun.

Wailin: [00:00:56] I’ve been saving all the cardboard, because I’m like, well, we can do something with this. We can make a cardboard city or maybe she wants to make some creepy dioramas or something. And it’s gotten to the point where I keep holding up stuff and showing it to my husband and being like, should we save this for a craft project. And he’s like, no, that’s garbage. Please just put it in the garbage.

[00:01:17] The other day, I had a bottle of creamer. An empty bottle of creamer, like a Coffee-Mate bottle and I was like, oh, if we get ten of these, she could make a set of bowling pins. And he was like, put it in the recycling bin.

Shaun: [00:01:31] Who doesn’t want a set of bowling pins.

Wailin: [00:01:32] He’s like, we can’t just be—we can’t just have a mountain of garbage in our house on the off-chance that maybe she’ll want to up-cycle it into a craft project that then we’ll have to get rid of later anyway.

Shaun: [00:01:41] Right. That’s—a craft project is just garbage glued together.

Wailin: [00:01:46] Correct. But you know, if it’s going to fill up two minutes worth of time, I’ll take it.

Shaun: [00:01:49] Sure, sure. Work-wise, I have noticed that the days are flying by.

Wailin: [00:01:56] Okay, opposite issue for me.

Shaun: [00:01:56] Really?

Wailin: [00:01:57] Well, yeah, because I’m like home all day trying to keep a very extroverted seven year old from going off the rails.

Shaun: [00:02:05] That’s fair. Well, you and I get to play Dungeons & Dragons this weekend, so you have something to look forward to.

Wailin: [00:02:12] That’s true. How many other games do you have going?

Shaun: [00:02:14] Three, now.

Wailin: [00:02:16] Wow, okay.

Shaun: [00:02:17] It is the quarantine activity of 2020.

Wailin: [00:02:19] Well, I did download Animal Crossing on your and other peoples’ advice.

Shaun: [00:02:23] Oh good, yeah, we can go visit each others’ little islands. So, work from home has been going relatively smoothly for us. But we also put a call out for our listeners to send us their work from home stories. If you would like to share your work from home story, you can give us a call and leave a voicemail at (708) 628-7850. In fact, here’s Chris from Colorado.

Chris: [00:02:45] Hey, Basecamp. My name is Chris and I work for the federal government as a contractor. I was on a vacation recently to Spain, actually got back mere hours before the Spanish government locked things down. But my agency, my contractor is one of many currently who have enforced full-time work from home policies and it’s just been an interesting perspective to see what you can get done while you’re working throughout the day. I’m constantly online, of course. I stay in contact via phone which… and we have many meetings that were in person previously, but now can be converted to email or to a conference setup by web [inaudible] and whatnot.

[00:03:30] So for those fortunate enough to be able to work from home, good luck to them and carry on as we get through this.

[00:03:35] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.

Wailin: [00:03:36] Last week Basecamp cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson hosted a two hour livestream Q&A all about working remotely. They shared a lot of really helpful tips for folks who may have suddenly found themselves working from home. We split the Q&A into two parts so if you haven’t heard part one, you may want to go back and catch it. Now here’s part two of the Q&A.

Jason: [00:04:02] Next question. Leonardo. “How to get aligned with coworkers without interrupting them through chat, phone calls, and respecting their time?”

[00:04:08] This is a great question and to me this is not about local or remote, this is just about working together. Respecting other people’s time and attention is the most valuable thing you can begin to practice right now. And the number one thing I would say is, you don’t need to be aligned all the time, first of all. You should be able to slide past one another. Sometimes you need something from someone else and you ask, but you don’t want to have an expectation of immediate response. When you have expectations of immediate response, you end up driving other people crazy.

[00:04:41] And it’s actually quite arrogant to ask something of someone and expect them to get right back to you. That’s saying that whatever you’re working on is far more important than what they’re working on. Who knows what they’re working on. So the idea is to relax your expectations of one another. Build a little bit more self-reliance in effect and if you’re going to ask a question, before you ask it perhaps see if you could figure it out yourself. If you can’t figure it out yourself, ask the question but don’t expect people to get back to you immediately. Expect them to get back to you when they have time. And you can encourage that by telling people that. Saying hey, I’m stuck with this, whatever. I know you’re probably busy. No rush, get back to me when you have a chance.

[00:05:17] We need to be able to practice reminding people that they don’t need to get back to us immediately. And a lot of tools today that are instant tools and we have these in Basecamp, there’s direct messages, there’s chats in Basecamp. Just because you can write the question quickly and you can send it instantly doesn’t mean that you should expect a quick, instant response on the other side. And while some of us might recognize that, I think it’s important to reinforce that by sort of over explaining that in your question. Say, get back to me when you have a chance. No rush. Not ASAP.

[00:05:50] And of course, if it truly is, then it is and you say that. But I would practice that. And remember that asynchronous work, which means not making things realtime which means not requiring people to be on the exact same schedule, is actually far more productive work in the long run. Because people get to have long stretches of uninterrupted time to do their work, then they’re going to take a natural break and a natural pause and that’s when they might check their messages and go, oh, okay, Adam needs me to get back to him about something. Kris needs me to get back to her about something. And so that’s kind of how you do that.

[00:06:21] So, don’t put people on your schedule, let them stay on theirs and it will all work out fine in time.

David: [00:06:27] So, a couple of tactical ways of doing this. In Basecamp, we have all the tools, right. There’s direct messages and the Pings and there’s a chat. And it always seems like that’s the easiest way to do. Right, it always seems like it’s the easiest. I can just type it out. I’m just going to type Jason one thing. We need to remind ourselves at Basecamp even, over and over again, is this right for chat? Is this right for Ping? Because if we do a Ping, it’s unrealistic to expect that the other person is going to just ignore that Ping until it’s the right time for them.

[00:06:58] Some people are very good at that. I’m not one of those people. If I get a Ping, a direct message from someone, I’m going to look at it, right now. And I’m going to want to help them. So what we encourage people often is put the question or the request or whatever you’re doing for alignment in another tool. For us, at Basecamp, often times it’s To-Dos. If I find, oh there’s an issue here in the product, we’re working on this Hey product right now, so I’m finding shit all the time. Oh, I just noticed this thing. And my first instinct, every single time is let me tell Zach about it. I just found a thing in the iOS app where it comes up with the wrong thing. Let me just ping Zach about it and every time I have to stop myself. No. This does not have to be a Ping. This is not an emergency. I can file a To-Do item, I can assign it to Zach and he will see it when he sees it, and I’ll get an answer back maybe later today, maybe tomorrow. And if it’s not urgent, maybe next week and it’ll be totally fine. The work has been captured. It’s not lost. This report I have is not lost, it’s right there.

[00:07:56] The same thing with a new idea, right? A lot of times what happens is you get a new idea into your head. You’re so fucking excited about it and you feel like, I must share it with someone and I must get some immediate gratification back from that. So you do a Ping or you do a chat. You just throw it into a chat room, what do you guys think about this? And all of a sudden, you’ve not just disturbed one person. You’ve disturbed five people and you’ve pulled them all into an ad hoc discussion where they’re just shooting from the hip about this grand idea you just had.

[00:08:22] Post a message instead. A message, you write it up, a couple paragraphs. Again, people have this natural expectation that they can read a message on their own time and they will. So a lot of this is picking the right tool for the job, and most of the time the right tool is not chat. That’s for emergencies.

[00:08:42] And final tactical thing I’d say, a thing we do at Basecamp is call it office hours. So a lot of times, the request when you need help it goes to the same number of people. At Basecamp, we have two people who are our JavaScript experts, for example, it’s called our R&F team, Research & Fidelity. They field a lot of questions about JavaScript from designers, from other programmers. People are trying to figure stuff out. And oftentimes when you’re dealing with JavaScript as with any other type of programming, you hit a wall, like aaah, I can’t figure this out. I just need this one thing. And you think, oh, it’s just me. I can just ask Sam. It’s just one question. But it’s never just one question, right? Because even just at Basecamp, we’re a tiny company. We have 15 people who could potentially have a JavaScript question during the day. So it’s just three of those initiate a conversation with Sam or Javan during the day. You’ve shot that whole day for Sam or Javan.

[00:09:36] So what R&F does at Basecamp, they reserve one day. It’s Thursdays, and I think it’s from… maybe it’s from 10 to noon, they have office hours. And you put your name on essentially like a little schedule, and say, I would like some of your time during that time and then we can discuss it. And it’s so much nicer because first of all what happens is a lot of people… that’s a bit of friction. You actually want friction.

[00:09:58] The problem here with a lot of modern tooling is it has no friction. Chat has zero friction at all. The ease—it’s a chat box to someone else’s brain. You type it in there and boom! It’s in their consciousness. There’s a horrible lack of friction, actually, in that. And that’s great in those tiny circumstances where it’s truly an emergency, blah blah blah. Most of it is not. You want some friction. You want to say, oh man, office hours are two days away, let me just try to figure this out. And you know what? Nine out of ten times you fucking figure it out. And then if you don’t figure it out, you have a glorious 30 minutes with some experts who feel like they’re being valued with their time because you took the effort to schedule with them. Who feel like this is the most important thing for them to spend time on right now, and quarantine time is just for this and it’s so much nicer to work that way.

Jason: [00:10:45] By the way, little quick pitch here. In our latest book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work, there’s actually a whole chapter on this topic, called office hours. And it explains how we do it and why we do it. It’s a really valuable thing to do and it’s actually been kind of a game changer for us. Every different group in the company sometimes establishes office hours. R&F, like David was saying is typically the most prominent one but Strategy has had them, I’ve had them. David’s had them. Different groups in the organization have had them. Data’s had them in the past, as well.

[00:11:14] And some people might go, well, I can’t wait ‘til Thursday, it’s Monday. Well, do something else. There’s something else you can do. There shouldn’t be these blockers that you can’t move forward on. There’s always ways around things. There’s always things you can put on hold for a moment and switch to something else for a while. So anyway, the office hours thing has been a great help for us.

David: [00:11:32] Let me make one last point about here is the power dynamics. If you are a manager, this applies 10,000 times more to you than to anyone else. When you Ping someone and you’re their manager, they will drop everything to answer you right now because there’s an implicit understanding that their job depends on pleasing you. So you have so much more obligation to not use these tools unless it’s an emergency. And I feel this every week. Every day I feel this, because, again, the instinct is, ah, I’ll just type it into chat. And every time I do, people mysteriously have all the time in the world to help me figure this shit out. Of course they do, because I’m their god-damned manager and at the end of the day, I could fire them, right? So, just have that in your head every single time you think, oh, I should just ask John about this. John knows, right? Yeah, John knows, but respect John’s time, or Jane’s time and put it on their plate.

[00:12:26] This is another thing we do. So, sometimes you think of to-do items as, hey, do something for me. It can also just be a question. We have Jane that works in data analysis for us. A lot of the work is just a question. Oh, I’m curious, like, I don’t know. What was the sign-up rate last month, or something, if we don’t have it on the dashboard. Let’s say, it needs some computation. It’s just a question. You put a question on a plate. Everyone can see what the plate is. Everyone else can see what the plate is. You’re not just fielding this question that I’m putting a question on Jane’s plate that only Jane and I can see. A lot of times it’s actually helpful to see, you know what? Jane might not get to my question because there’s five questions ahead of me that are probably more important. I can also see whether they’re more important, right?

[00:13:09] And making that visibility around the work and who has the requests and so on is a really helpful thing. Office hours does the same thing by allowing everyone else, they’re putting the dates on there on the office hours. Everyone else can see that, so, if you’re signing up for Basecamp now, this is the division between teams and projects. Every team in Basecamp, like data has a Basecamp for themselves, R&F has a Basecamp for themselves, and this is the teams. This is the first block up at the top, this is where we put these things, and we usually called it requests or the plate or something like that. Or triage where someone, they just add the to-dos and then the team will go through these things.

[00:13:44] And they’re separate from the projects, right? The project is like, we’re working on this specific feature and we’re doing this. The teams are these long-running things that each team, like data analysis, they have their own Basecamp, and they’ll field ideas and questions on it.

Jason: [00:13:55] What’s nice, too, is you can subscribe to a to-do list, so if you care, if you’re Jane, and you want to know whenever a new request has been added, you can subscribe to that list and get a notification. Meanwhile, I don’t have to be bombarded with notifications on that to-do list because I haven’t subscribed to it. So there’s those little things.

[00:14:13] Yeah, this is a great question. “How would you encourage leaders to prepare, or how is Basecamp prepared to eventually, when large parts of workers will be sick for extended periods of time, adding more buffers to time estimates, et cetera?”

[00:14:24] I mean, look. Reality is what it is. So it’s completely unfair. If people are out sick, literally, or if there’s someone in their household who’s sick or whatever is going on. You can’t expect them or the rest of the team to deliver what you thought they would be able to deliver in the same amount of time. You just simply cannot do that. So you must relax your expectations. And the best way to do that is to get out ahead of it. We haven’t posted this internally yet, so we’ll make some little news here in a sense. But we have this product called Hey coming out in April. Well, it’s not going to come out in April anymore. It’s going to come out later than April. Now, there’s a few reasons for that. It was gonna come out in April, but we have to slow down a little bit right now. We have to let people spend some more time at home, especially people with kids at home who are now in charge of childcare because childcare’s closed down and schools have closed down. Our full-time workers who have kids are essentially going to be part-time workers for a while. So we have to say, that’s the reality and we have to support them. And the way to support them is not by piling more work on them or demanding that they get the same amount of stuff in a shorter period of time. They simply can’t and we don’t want them to do that.

[00:15:29] So we have to relax that a little bit. Also, of course, launching a new product in the middle of a pandemic is probably not a very thoughtful thing to do as well. But part of this is also that. But part of it is getting out ahead and making an announcement internally which we’ll be doing later today. That, let’s keep working on Hey, as we’re planning on working on Hey. But late-April is not our target anymore. Let’s not work as if it is and let’s not make you feel anxious about hitting that deadline when all of a sudden you only have—you have 15 hours fewer a week to work. That sort of thing.

[00:16:02] So I think it’s very important to just be very clear and to be very understanding and show as a leader, as an owner or whatever it is to your team, that you understand the reality on the ground. And it’s not about, you need to buck up. I mean, look. Let me just say this, too. There are certainly industries where people probably have to put in more time now. People who are researching a vaccine? People who are creating masks. There are some industries probably where we need all hands on deck right now. It’s a national and a global emergency. Okay. Your start-up is not that, probably. Our software company is certainly not that.

[00:16:36] Even though lots of use Basecamp, Basecamp works just great. Hey doesn’t exist yet. We can decide to push Hey off a little bit here to release the pressure valve. That’s on us as leaders to release the pressure valve. So anyway, that’s my quick spiel on that.

David: [00:16:50] I’d say the number one thing to remember here for all product companies, all deadlines are made up. We made them up. We invented them. We can reinvent them and we can change them. Now, if you’re working with clients where you have contracts and so on, maybe that’s a different story. But in a lot of places, the deadlines you’re stressing out about? They’re made up and you made them up and you can un-make them up. You can change them.

[00:17:16] And I think that that comes back to this notion of, or misunderstanding of what accountability is. Accountability is not killing yourself to make made-up goals, made-up targets. That’s the other thing. Sometimes it’s deadlines, and sometimes it’s goals. Oh, our goal was to call so-and-so many customers this week or this month, or grow so-and-so much or publish so-and-so much. These are all made up and you can just change them. And you should.

Jason: [00:17:42] Now that’s because facts have changed on the ground. I think that’s the important part. What we’re not arguing for here is deadlines that no one believes all year round. You can’t just keep moving your deadlines out, that’s not going to work, right?

David: [00:17:54] Yes. No.

Jason: [00:17:55] This is about like, when you set the deadline, there was a reality, and there’s a new reality. You have to also adjust the deadline given the new reality.

David: [00:18:04] Yes.

Jason: [00:18:05] Yeah. So that’s kind of the important point here. And if that doesn’t—if that’s not the case then you should stick to those deadlines. Deadlines are very useful, important tools. But if the ground shifts you’ve got to shift the deadline as well. Or eliminate the deadline, or scale way back. Scale your ambitions way back. Whatever it takes. Something has to give here. You cannot ask people to do more work in these kinds of times unless the work is critical life and death work and yours is probably not, is sort of the answer.

[00:18:33] All right.

David: [00:18:35] Yep.

Jason: [00:18:36] Ooh. David, you want to take this one?

David: [00:18:37] Yes. “How can I best nudge our bosses in the right direction with this stuff?”

[00:18:42] Yeah, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few days because I don’t know if nudge is the right word as much as beat with a stick is what I’ve been trying to do on Twitter for a while. I started this weekend with companies that are failing to realize the gravity of the situation and are not allowing people who could work from home to work from home. One tactic I’ve used, and I’m not saying this is the right tactic for all cases, it certainly is not. But it’s to call that shit out publicly. Leak it. Get it out to journalists. I’ve talked to a ton of investigative journalists who are thankfully working on stories right now calling companies to account for their shitty practices if they’re forcing people who could work from home to come into an office. You could leak to some journalists.

[00:19:27] Hey, some safety tips here. Do not use your company email address to do this. Use your personal device. Figure out a way to do where you can keep anonymity. There was just a story, I think it was this morning or yesterday that a worker at Charter Communications was fired for bringing up this stuff to management, like why they weren’t allowed to work from home when they could. You’ve got to keep safe and it’s reasonable to be afraid that you would lose your job if you work at a place where they have still not got the memo despite everything that you should not be working from an office if you can work from home. Because those are not considerate and kind people and you should take your precautions accordingly.

[00:20:07] Now. Let’s say. That’s at one end of the spectrum. I’d be blunt here and say, that’s the shit-head end of the spectrum, right? You’re calling people into the office who don’t need to be in the office just because you’re a shit-head. That’s the most extreme end. Then there’s another end of like, someone’s not a shit-head, they’re just not educated yet. They’re trying to be kind they just haven’t understood it. You can send them resources and there’s a lot of information out right now. There’s a lot of great write-ups of what happens with social distancing. I’ve seen some wonderful simulations that show how much we can do here if we do social distancing early. What the fatality count is going to be if we don’t. Send those things. This is just science. This is science and projections. Facts. To people who are willing to listen where they’re not stonewalling because they’re shit-heads. They’re stonewalling because they’re uninformed.

[00:20:59] That’s absolutely a thing, and I would start here. Don’t assume that someone’s a shit-head until they have proven to you that they’re a shit-head. Then you go full bore public shaming. Leak to investigative journalists, the whole nine yards. But let’s start with something milder than that. And then also, some people may also just not know how to do this. This was actually the whole reason we wrote Remote: Office Not Required in 2013. It was born directly out of Jason and I having conversations with other technology executives who seemed to simply be a) uninformed and b) under-equipped to figure out how to do this. They didn’t have the skills, they didn’t have the knowledge. They didn’t know how to do this.

[00:21:40] Now, seven years later. The information is out there. So if you care about this, nudge your bosses by sending them tutorials how we could do this. Suggestions, hey, here’s a good tool we could use to do this. Here’s some resources we could do. Here’s the reasons why. Prepare the full argument. And sort of go with best intentions. There’s no blaming, there’s no nothing. Just, we’re trying to get people safe, we’re trying. Keep an open and helpful tone, again, until that’s proven not to work. Then you go more drastic from there. But you’ve got to approach this from maybe they just don’t know. Maybe they just haven’t realized. Maybe they aren’t following this stuff as closely as I am. You’d think, like, that’s probably a ding, if someone’s not paying just a baseline of attention right now, but okay.

[00:22:26] Again, the most important thing is we’ve got to get people home and start working from home.

Jason: [00:22:32] So that’s definitely the macro angle. The micro angle is like, how do we nudge our bosses to do some of this stuff, what I’m also hearing is some of this stuff, like, not having meetings all the time, or whatever. A wholesale change is going to be hard for anybody. You don’t want to give someone a list of 12 things they need to change. Try changing one thing. Try encouraging them to do one thing. Like, this video conference with 18 people on Monday morning, it’s just not working boss, or Bill, or whatever you call your boss, or Sally, or whoever she is or he is. Can we try and write this up instead? Can we just try once? Can we try this next meeting that we would normally have, can we try writing it up instead? Can we try that?

[00:23:09] And just kind of ease into some of these changes and show that, oh, gosh, that was okay. That was actually better. In fact people seemed to like that. In fact we had a different quality of a conversation. Our quality of a conversation went up. People were more thoughtful. What’s really hard about meetings, people forget about this. Everyone’s on stage and everyone has to come up with shit on the top of their head. That’s fucking hard for a lot of people. A lot of people are much better at thinking it over, thinking it through and responding an hour later. Imagine if we could do that at meetings, but you can’t because everyone’s on stage, the spotlight shines in different people’s faces and they have to say something brilliant instantly. That’s hard.

[00:23:52] If you say, let’s write something up and give everyone an hour or two to respond, or three hours, or by the end of the day? You’re going to see the quality actually of the discussion go up. That’s what people are going to want and your boss should want that, too.

[00:24:06] So, again, that’s one small little tactical thing you might want to try that I think would be effective. So. Anyway.

David: [00:24:11] And be that change. Be the change you want to see. If you want to get write-ups instead of meetings start writing things up. Start setting the example. A lot of these times, and maybe you can find a few like-minded colleagues who are also interested in that, start setting the good example. And things sometimes follow.

[00:24:28] The other thing I would say is that people in positions of power are sometimes sensitive about even nudges. Right, like, could we maybe write this up. It’s a very fine line between that and being seen as an attack as why haven’t you already done it, right? Versus here’s just me, I’m putting out my work in the format that I think it should be in. This is a writeup of a pitch. I’m explicitly telling everyone, just. Let’s talk about this tomorrow. Let’s give people time to think about it. Maybe you can just work within your group. I mean, the best is when these things come from the top, but sometimes they just can’t come from the top and then you grow it from the bottom up.

Jason: [00:25:02] Next Q: You want to talk about this, David?

David: [00:25:03] “Where do you put—” yes, I will do that. “Where do you put ideas that are mostly about code—”

Jason: [00:25:08] I’ll be right back, go ahead.

David: [00:25:10] “—[crosstalk] discussions in Github for that?”

[00:25:12] We get this question a lot and some people seem to sort of think that we must have some ticketing system or something else like Jira or… nope. We just put it all in Basecamp. Anything that’s about sort of the architecture, the approach, the scope. It all goes generally into Basecamp messages. If it’s something that a team is actively working on, they’re working on it together. A lot of—some of that goes into chat. A bunch of it is then detailed in To-Dos. But what we do use Github for in terms of discussions and what I think it’s excellent for is for pull request reviews.

[00:25:45] So Github has this feature, they’ve had for forever, where you can on a per-line basis offer suggestions or critique of code. And we do that a ton. A bunch of what I do at Basecamp is to do pull request reviews. Now, that’s a whole art in and of itself and there’s some great write-ups on how to do pull request reviews in a good manner. A good manner is not like, this is wrong, change it. A good manner is one of suggestions and one of kindness.

[00:26:14] And sometimes also realizing the limitations of the written word. If a pull request needs a substantial change, sometimes writing up 45 individual lines is not a good way to do it. What you should do instead is level that up to an actual conversation with someone.

[00:26:32] We’ve been using this tool called Tuple, which is a screensharing tool specifically built to pair programming. Two people can get to run the keyboard and the mouse at the same time. It works excellently when you do a very in-depth code review or you’re trying to hash out a piece of code together. Tuple is really great for that. We have some teams who have used it a lot, I’ve used it just a little bit over the last few weeks and I’ve been thoroughly impressed by it. It’s called Tuple. T-U-P-L-E. Use that. Write up the big approaches about anything in Basecamp.

[00:27:04] Don’t spread it out, I would say, such that you have half the stuff in Github, half the stuff in Basecamp. If Github is your tool, then double down on Github. There’s—I think there’s a wiki in Github, you can do tickets in Github. You can totally do development in that. So if that’s your jam, do that. What we do at Basecamp is we keep all the broad discussions in Basecamp, and we just do the code reviews in Github.

Jason: [00:27:30] “What can you do for taking care of the emotional wellbeing of the work community that’s going to be remote for weeks in the middle of such unprecedented crisis?”

[00:27:38] Well, this is of course up to each individual company to do so. Number one, we’ve got to be understanding of the situation. Businesses have to chill out. This is not a time for unlimited rapid growth, especially. This is a time to slow down a little bit. To understand the stresses people are under. To understand the stresses people are under at home and at home, especially parents right now. Or people with elderly relatives, or their parents who are nearby and they’re terrified of what’s going for them, and they’re not listening. All this stuff. There’s a lot of things going on in life right now.

[00:28:15] Just about understanding that and letting your employees know that you understand that and acknowledging that we’re all human beings right now. We’re literally all in this together as much as we’ve ever been. And just letting people know that you know that too. I think that is a big initial step. The other thing is, and I’m well aware that not every company can do this. But something we announced internally today is that basically our full-time employees are essentially going to be going part-time because a lot of them have kids at home. Half of them have kids. So they’re only going to be able to put in part time work, and that’s fine. We’re still going to pay them full-time salaries but we understand that they’re not going to be able to put in full-time and that’s just the reality.

[00:28:57] And we’re not forcing people to have to take personal days or vacation days to make up for those moments when they simply just cannot work for whatever reason for a day or two. If you can relax some of those policies and let people know that they don’t have to be worried about what if they want to take a vacation December, they’re going to blow through all their vacation time right now because they have to make a run to the store although everything should be delivered right now. But if you can’t for whatever reason, and you need to run to the store with your mask on, whatever you need to do. People shouldn’t feel like they shouldn’t do that right now because work’s going to ding them for being out for half a day.

[00:29:31] We need to relax those things and chill out. So that’s my general point of view on this.

David: [00:29:36] I would say the second thing is here, do not fucking gaslight people. The number of company announcements I’ve seen that start something like, the most important mission at company XYZ is the wellbeing of our employees. It starts like that, right? And then it goes down to, but we still expect everyone to do all their commitments, come into the office. Like, what the fuck are you doing? If you’re not going to be a sort of, a company that is invested in the emotional wellbeing of your employees as the question puts it, don’t pretend to be!

[00:30:10] Just say the things you’re going to do and do those things. I mean, of course you should be emotionally invested, but it’s even worse when you’re being a shit-head who’s pretending to be caring at the same time. That’s really the worst. I’ve seen a huge number of the reports I’ve been fielding… So, part of this calling out companies that are not allowing people to work from home who could work from home is I set up this email address called where people are essentially leaking bad places of employment and they’re sending in these announcements. And my head is just blown. They’re full of all this fake concern. It’s all words and then there are no actions. Or worse, it’s all words and then the actions are, I still expect you to do all your commitments. Basically there’s no slack. You still have to do everything.

[00:31:01] And I just go like, “You motherfucker.” Right, as Jason said, the impulse at this time is there’s a lot of managers who like to punch you in the face. It just seems like it’s so callous, so uncaring, and it’s not going to work. That’s the thing that’s really just aggravating is that you can call everyone into the office. Do you think you’re going to get 100% out of anyone right now? No you’re not. You’re absolutely deluding yourself. And if you are calling people into the office, what are you? How many days are you away from someone saying, oh, I’ve been tested positive. And now what do you have on your hands? Someone exposing the rest of the company to this and potentially more employees?

[00:31:36] It just doesn’t even work. So even if you are just like, well, I need to maximize, or you feel you have to. I’m sympathetic with that, too. Some companies don’t have a lot slack. Their margins are very thin. They do feel like, well, we’ve got to do everything we’ve got to do. That’s fine to believe that. It’s fine to want to do that, but you’ve got to accept reality and reality is you cannot get 100% out of everyone. The reality is calling people into the office right now is just grossly irresponsible and you need to stop doing that.

Jason: [00:32:03] One of the things you can do, too, is you can simply ask people how they’re feeling. You can set up a place for people to share their own little self-care techniques at the moment. A lot of people aren’t really sure how to cope or what to do or what’s safe or how they should be feeling right now. Some people are trying to feel like they’re really strong right now, when they feel very vulnerable but they’re afraid to be that way. And I think it’s important for leadership, especially, to set those examples that it’s okay to talk about these things.

[00:32:30] Maybe these are things we don’t normally talk about at work, although I would say it’s healthy to talk about this stuff at work. But let’s say you don’t normally. Well, now is definitely a time to do that and set up a place for people, where people can do that. Or if you have an HR team, or HR, have them reach out to people and see how they’re doing. Show concern. Show legitimate, genuine concern for people. I think that’s a really important point right now. Some of the things that we’ve seen internally is when we’ve posted some of these announcements, people simply appreciate that we understand the situation that we’re in. It’s not that we’re able to change the situation all that much. I mean, we can certainly give people a bit more time and not let people worry about taking some time off or whatever. But we can’t send childcare to people’s houses. I can’t fix that problem, obviously, right now.

[00:33:14] But what we can do is we can acknowledge the fact that we understand that’s a hardship right now. A real extreme, serious hardship. And many times that’s all people want to know is that you understand where they are and what they’re going through. You want to do it in a genuine way. I just want to recommend that, first of all, like David was saying. A lot of these corporate announcements are such bullshit and people can see the bullshit. It’s so obvious. There’s nothing more obvious than bullshit and when you write an announcement that shows you don’t really care, or you say one thing but you act a different way in that situation. People aren’t going to trust you anymore. And you’re actually going to damage trust which is what you really need right now, moving forward. So I would think those things through.

David: [00:33:53] And I also say, get on the same level of, you’ve got to call people in. You’ve got to think that you can ask them to work 100%. You know what, if you make it through this, people will remember. Let’s say you get through this and your business is still there. Everyone is putting in their CVs somewhere else. It doesn’t work in the short term because it’s unrealistic and it doesn’t work in the long term either because people remember.

[00:34:17] Even if you’re just focused on yourself and your own god-damned business the self-preserving thing to do is to be a kind, understanding human being because that’s what’s going to actually work.

Jason: [00:34:27] All right. You want to take this one, David, and I’ll jump in after [crosstalk]?

David: [00:34:31] “How do you each spend your typical days at Basecamp? How do you balance team collaboration and meetings with more solo or deep work?”

[00:34:39] I think this—everyone has a different routine. My routine is usually I start working around 9:15 Pacific time. That’s when I’ve dropped off kid at school. And then I spend the time before lunch on collaboration. Writing things up, chiming in on things. Reading things. Catching up. And then the four hours or so after lunch is when I do my deep work. I’m on the west coast so it’s helpful that most of my deep work actually happens when some people at the company are already off. It’s easier to focus like that. So that’s my routine. Splitting the day up in half and half.

[00:35:17] It doesn’t always work like that. Some days I’m really fired up about something I’m working on and I kind of just ignore the collaboration for a day or two. And then I do the whole day as deep work as best I can. And other days, now is a good example. Not a lot of deep work has happened just the last couple days, right? We’ve been focused on other things and then the whole day is collaboration and chiming in and getting things settled.

Jason: [00:35:42] Yeah, and mine is very similar. We don’t have prescheduled meetings so that—it just, we don’t have that as an impediment to our day. We’ll have ad-hoc discussions between two or three people sometimes will jump on a video call sometimes. Like, me and David and someone else. Jonas, lately has been, we’ve been having a call once a week, just three of us to go over where we’re at with Hey. But we don’t really have anything scheduled beyond that. So my days are kind of jumping around whatever needs to be done. I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, so that’s kind of my focused work. But there’s still ongoing projects going on with Hey and I’m reviewing all the work that’s happening occasionally whenever that’s necessary.

[00:36:19] So you just kind of bounce around but I don’t have a standard day other than I usually start around nine as well and kind of end around five, but sometimes if I take a few hours in the middle of the day to go take a walk or something, I might make up some of that time at night. So it all sort of depends but that’s how we do it.

David: [00:36:32] What I will say, though, is it is good to have an idea that it’s valuable to protect your time. If you think the entire day is for team collaboration and you’re trying to be kind and you’re trying to respond to everyone who pings you? You will end up at the end of the week having not gotten things done that you wanted to do. And that’s not a good place, either. This sort of, both the self-care and the collaborative care is that you take time away for yourself and you reserve hours where the main thing you focus on is your solo deep work and it’s only emergencies that really should burst that membrane.

Jason: [00:37:05] The other thing I want to add to that is this is maybe going to come as a shock to many people. We don’t have a shared calendar system at Basecamp. So I can’t see anyone else’s calendar and no one can see mine and that is intentional. We do that so that nobody can easily take each other’s time. If you look at your own schedule, your own calendar right now, I would bet you that the majority of the time that’s blocked off was blocked off by somebody else. Most people don’t even have control of their own day so you can’t expect people to get work done if they don’t even have control of their own day. So at Basecamp, we prevent people from taking each other’s time systematically.

[00:37:39] If you want someone’s time, you simply ask for it. It’s a negotiation. It’s valuable, so you say, hey David, are you free tomorrow morning at noon. Well, that wouldn’t be in the morning, but at 10am, I want to go over something with you. And he’ll be like, no, I’m busy how about 4 in the afternoon. I’m like, that’s cool, let’s do that. Or whatever. It’s actually a negotiation and it’s hard. It might be a hassle. Well, we might throw out three or four times, and none of them work. And you’re like, well, we should use a system for that it’d be so much simpler if we had a calendar. But there’s tradeoffs. When it’s really easy to take people’s time, you end up taking more of it. The easy things to do are the things you keep doing. We want it to be hard to take people’s time from one another. That requires everyone to be in full control of their day and they get to dole it out as they wish or they don’t wish.

[00:38:22] The tools you use, the systems you have in place have a huge impact. You can’t just say, it’s oh, well some people use it well and some people use it poorly. Systems have defaults. Software has defaults. Every feature you see is a default decision by the company that develops it and every system you use, you would essentially adopt those defaults. And so if you have a calendar system that runs your company, essentially, you are defaulting to the calendar company’s assumptions about how time should be split, shared, whatever. It’s your company, it’s not theirs, but you are defaulting to the way they encourage people to take time from one another. And you know what? They’re going to make it as easy as possible because that’s the business that they’re in. They’re in the calendar business, so they’re going to make it really easy to take other people’s time.

[00:39:07] So you’ve got to be very careful about the tools you use. And I don’t care how popular a tool is or what other people are using. What matters to you? How do you want to work? That’s what you should be looking at. So it’s very very important to be very selective and careful about the stuff you use and don’t just spin up a bunch of stuff because it’s the hot tool of the moment.

David: [00:39:24] Friction is a feature. There’s so much of software that’s about just reducing friction to an absolute minimum and juicing engagement to an absolute maximum and that is just … that’s in their interest, right, in some cases. It should not be in your interest. Man, I love not having a calendar. And it’s so funny, too, because whenever I talk to people who run on calendar systems at their company, they’re sort of just assuming that that’s how the whole world runs. I’ll just send you an invite. I never… I very rarely click on those invites that you send. Those little ICS thing or whatever and say yes or no. I’m manually typing that thing into my calendar because I want it to feel annoying to me, too. I don’t want it to be a one click for me to get someone on my calendar because it’s so easy a week in advance, you say, eh, sure, I’ll do it like click, right? I want the friction of having manual data entry to remind me, actually do I want this?

[00:40:22] And the number of times where I’ve started typing out call with whatever at 10:30 and then, eh, fuck it. Escape. No. Right, it’s just helpful to just have some cool-down period there. If you don’t have any cool-down period on saying yes and it’s just a click and you’re going to do the thing that has the least social friction, right? You don’t want to say no. You want to be kind. If you have the calendar that’s visible to all, and there’s a gap, are you going to be the person who says, no. I don’t want to talk to you. No, that feels awkward, right? Why would you want to invite that awkwardness and you can just not do it by not running your company on a calendar.

Jason: [00:41:00] The other thing about that is it’s your calendar. It’s your time. And what David was just saying makes a lot of sense because it’s like, if you want to put something on your calendar, you should put it there. Even if someone asked you for your time. You should put it there. You should not let anyone else put anything on your calendar. It begins to create a gulf between your time and your actions and pretty soon before you know, it eh, people fill up my calendar all day long and I have no fucking time to do anything else. So anyway, we can go on this rant forever. We’ve written about this in a bunch of our books. Shared calendars are some of the worst inventions made by software companies in the past 20 or 30 years. There are some good ones that don’t have all this invite stuff going on. And calendars are wonderful things in general, but things that make it easy to take other people’s time, not so much.

[00:41:51] Anyway. Let’s move on to the next one.

[00:41:53] “How do you set up a culture and understand cultural fit when building fully remote organization?”

[00:41:58] This is a good topic to talk about, which is culture. What is it, first of all? Because we can’t talk about fits or building one without understanding what it is. And it’s my view that culture is not something that’s created. Culture is something that exists. It is the byproduct of consistent behavior. It is what you simply do. That’s what culture is.

[00:42:21] So when you hire people to fit into your culture, what does that even mean? Do you even know what it is? Is it what you say it is, or is it what you actually do that is what it is? And it’s what you do.

[00:42:31] And so I think that’s the first step here, is understanding that. And I’ve seen a lot of companies with long lists of missions and statements and whatever. Who we are and what we are. And if you secretly pulled every employee into a room and said is that who they are, they’d go, no, that’s not how it is. That’s not how it is here. Let me tell you how it actually is. And how they tell you it actually is, is the culture. That’s what culture actually is.

[00:42:53] So that’s the baseline thing I want to start with. As far as like, remote or local, again, in my opinion, and I know this is just my opinion here. There’s nothing that magical, or let me put it to you this way. Seeing people in person doesn’t create a culture either. It’s just that they happen to be there. It’s not that anything is magically created because of that. Culture is how you treat people. How you work with people. How patient you are with one another. These are the things that you actually do. How you ask for feedback. How you give feedback. How understanding you are when people have to be out for a few days or whatever it might be. Those are the things that you actually do.

[00:43:33] So, that to me is independent of location. Now, that said, let me give you a few tactical things that we do here because we are pretty much fully remote. We do something… we haven’t done it for a little bit. But we typically do something once a month called the 5x12. Meaning five people and 12 meaning one month per year. 12 months. One day a month, we pull in five random people. They get an invitation about an hour or something before this event. And then it’s also, plus me and David, so it’s really 7x12. But anyway, we do a video chat once a month with five random people across the company. It’s about a one hour chat and we cannot talk about work. There’s no work discussion whatsoever.

[00:44:15] And this is about mixing people who often don’t work together, because there’s pulled from every different department. People who don’t often work together and we just talk about life. Talk about things that are on our minds. Talk about the shitty bread in the United States, that’s David’s favorite topic. Talk about air quality. Talk about [inaudible] global warming. These always get really morbid and terrible. But they’re fun and the point is is that that’s something we do just so people can get to know each other in a way that maybe you might get to know each other around lunch if you are physically in the office. These are sort of conversations you might be talking about in a physical proximity but you might not talk about remotely. But we kind of encourage people to do that.

[00:44:51] So we do that once a month. And we transcribe that call and then everybody in the company gets a copy of that transcription. It’s a really nice thing to get to know people and get to talk to people. Get to see what’s going on with people’s lives, on top of the fact that we also do that Automatic Check-in every Monday morning which is what did you work on this weekend. Once a month we also ask everyone what have you been reading? And people share book reviews and topics that they’re interested in and there’s other things you can do there. And I’ve heard from a number of employees who’ve never worked remotely before who work here now who say they know their co-workers far better than they did at their other job even though they barely see anybody. You can really make sure people know one another even if they don’t see each other.

David: [00:45:30] I think the other thing here is that example I was just giving earlier where this announcement comes out, like, we are a company that cares the utmost for all our employees’ wellbeing. And then they essentially detail all the ways they do not care about the wellbeing. This is how you create culture. A culture of mistrust. A culture of management is full of bullshit. I think that’s, a lot of the times is there’s this sort of, the active statement. Right, action statement is we care about our employees’ wellbeing. And then there’s what we actually do, and then the active thing serves. If you just said, hey, you’ve got to come to the office, we expect everyone to do everything all the time. You would have at least a culture that’s consistent or cohesive or congruent. It’d be a shitty one, but it’d be congruent, right?

[00:46:17] 10x worse is to do that and then add on top this culture sprinkles where basically it’s gaslighting everyone by saying, we care about you even though here are the ways we don’t care about you. This was why, for a very long time, we haven’t focused very much at Basecamp about the writing it out. In software, we often talk about frameworks are extracted. First you write the [inaudible] code and then you extract the lessons from that and put them into sort of a tool kit. Culture and writing up about culture is much the same way. We’ve written up our company handbook after like, what? 15 years? What was the company handbook? Was that just us sitting and brainstorming what it should be? No. It was an extraction of what we actually do.

[00:47:02] And one of the things that I tell all new employees that start at Basecamp that I get a chance to talk about this stuff with is hey, you are in a uniquely valuable position right now. You can tell us all the bullshit that we pretend is true. Read our company handbook. Tell me what’s not actually true. Because the other thing is, is you get marinated in not just in your culture, but your misconceptions—

Jason: [00:47:28] Mythology.

David: [00:47:28] —of the culture. Yeah, the mythology of what the culture is. Oh, we’re a company that cares out our employees, and then if you’re not, you kind of need someone to actually tell you. Dude, you’re full of shit. So I think this is what new employees if somehow you do have a culture where there’s honesty, maybe that’s not actually a thing that’ll happen that often if you are at a company that’s sort of gaslighting everyone.

[00:47:52] But at Basecamp, this is what we’re trying to do. Is use the fresh eyes that someone new to the company comes in with, and we’ve changed the company handbook a ton of time because this is also, it’s being read for the first time. They’re not—none of the assumptions are sort of baked in. They just take what we say and is this what we actually do?

Jason: [00:48:09] Here’s just another quick plug for the book It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. If you go to the table of contents, the longest chapter is called Feed Your Culture and there’s 16 essays in that chapter, okay? We have a lot to say about this. In fact, out of the whole book, there’s more essays in this chapter than any other chapter, so if you’re interested more in how we talk about culture and how we believe in culture and how we think about culture, pick up It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work and then check out that Feed Your Culture chapter.

[00:48:36] So, all right. “How do you help first-time work from home employees to ensure we are getting the most out of them?”

[00:48:42] Now, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t really kind of mean it that way. But, um. I’ll still address it, like, getting the most out of somebody, to me, is not ever the goal. It sounds like you’re trying to extract or squeeze. I’m not a fan of that method of management. I think what you want to do is get the best out of somebody and the best is not the most. The best is the best. And so what you want to create is an environment where people can do the best work of their lives. This is not work from home versus local. This is just, what is your environment like? How much autonomy do people have? How much trust can they feel? What size are your teams? Do you have too many people involved in a project? That makes it really hard, actually, for people to do the best work of their lives?

[00:49:28] Do you take care of people? Do you pay them well? What are the benefits like? How fair are you in certain situations if someone needs time off or needs something to deal with… Those are the things you can do to create the environment so people can give you their best. And want to give you their best. I think that’s the other thing. You might be able to whip someone into shape in a sense. There’s a lot of companies that hold carrots over peoples’ heads and bonus bonus bonus, just do your best. Yeah, maybe you can get a lot of work out of somebody, but it’s not the best work and they’re not going to stick around. That’s unsustainable. It’s totally unsustainable.

[00:50:01] I mean, you could say, there are moments that come up where you want to motivate people and [inaudible], I don’t know. I’m still not even a fan of that but fine for a moment. But that’s not a sustainable practice. It’s a mind shift. It’s not about getting the most, it’s about getting the best and that starts with you as leadership creating an environment where people even have the chance to do their best work.

[00:50:20] Anyone who’s listening to this right now. If you don’t have three or four hours a day to yourself, it’s going to be very hard to do your best work and I think most people, if they pull their calendar up right now, they’d go, like, it’s like fucking Tetris. There’s boxes everywhere. I’ve no time for myself. Oh, there’s a little small gap. Maybe I can fill that with something. That’s not an environment where you can do your best work. A great open schedule is the environment where you can do your best work. A moment or a place where people can’t take your time from you is where you can do your best work. A company that supports you and allows you to work from anywhere that you need to on your own schedule, that’s probably how you can do your best work. So anyway, it’s about best, not about the most.

David: [00:50:57] I think this comes up, too, in job openings, often. People talk about, like, we’re looking for a rock star programmer. A ninja designer. Something else like that. They’re not thinking about, like, do we have a rock star environment. Start there, first. The number of people who can be wonderful employees at your company is almost endless. It is up to you to create that environment to make that happen.

Jason: [00:51:23] All right, let’s take this one, here. “How do you manage boredom and anxiety?” And I’ll also add, isolation even though it wasn’t in the question, but I know people want to bring it up while working remote, alone.

[00:51:33] This is a real thing for a number of people, no question, even people here at Basecamp have brought this up before. First of all, talking about it is the first thing you need to do. If you feel isolated or lonely, tell your teammates, tell your manager, tell your team lead. Tell somebody. And people are very accommodating, very understanding in those situations because a lot of us have dealt with that. I think one thing that’s really important is we’re in an extreme situation right now where we shouldn’t be outside of our homes or seeing other people. I was going to say, like, you can go out and get a coffee, you can go out and take a walk. Taking a walk, I still think, is fine. But you want to stay away from people and whatever.

[00:52:08] So we’re in a different, slightly different situation than normal. But in normal times, what I would encourage people to do is to get out of the house and take a walk. Do something else for a while. Break your day up a little bit. Just make sure your team is in the loop if you’re going to be out for a while. So, like, hey, I’m out for this afternoon, or whatever. I’m going out with my kid or whatever it is. I’ll be back later. I’ll make some time later. If there’s anything you need me to do just make a list. Or whatever it might be. Just communicate. But break up your days.

[00:52:35] And that can also just mean watch some TV. It can mean whatever else makes you feel comfortable. Maybe making a hot pot of tea. Maybe making yourself lunch. I don’t know what it is. But break up your day because if the feeling of being alone working is what’s isolating, then you want to break up the feeling of working alone by not just working alone. You might want to do something else for a while.

[00:52:56] So hopefully, in a more normal times there’s a lot more things you can do. You can go to a coffee shop, you can go to a coworking space, you can go to a public library. You can go to a public event. You can do other things. You can see more people in the park. You can go jogging and wave at other joggers, whatever it is. But right now, I think we’re in a different situation. So I think you’re going to have to also—people are just going to have to cope for a while. We are all going to feel cabin fever, even those of us who are used to being at home. This is extreme. We are in our homes. Not just working from home. This is, you’re not going to the restaurant. You’re not going out. That’s what this is and that’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people. We can’t cure that because we can’t go out into public spaces right now.

[00:53:38] So I think the best that we can do is talk about it and empathize with one another and sympathize with one another and kvetch with one another and share our loneliness. And say, this sucks. I feel totally isolated. It’s weird. I’m not used to this. I don’t feel good right now. Talk about it with the people you work with or your partner or whoever, your friends, and get it out. And that’ll help quite a bit because isolation means you feel by yourself and you might physically be by yourself, but emotionally you can be with others and I think that’s the important part here.

David: [00:54:08] And I also actually give a plug here for chat. We give chat a lot of shit at Basecamp because it’s not a great way to work in many cases. But it is a reasonable substitute for human connection. The main thing we use chat for at Basecamp is the human connection. Sharing funny things or sometimes not funny things. News stories right now. We have a team on our Basecamp called All Parents where parents are sharing stories about oh, now we’re new to homeschooling. Now we’ve got to do this thing. We have an All Pets for people with pets who share pictures of their dogs, their cats or whatever.

[00:54:47] Using chat for that social connection is really nice. Don’t have it necessarily open all day long, that’s not great. But you can just check in on it a few times during the day and feel like you are, yeah, actually I’m part of something even if I’m here alone. There are other people alive in the universe. I happen to work with someone of them. We can share laughs, we can do something else. Get our minds off things and chat is actually pretty great for that.

Jason: [00:55:12] Yeah, I would just encourage you to turn notifications off for that.

David: [00:55:15] Oh, for sure.

Jason: [00:55:15] This is more like, just go in when you have—when you want to take a break. Like the All Parents team we have here, there are some really wonderful resources being shared and people sharing their stories about boredom. We’re only essentially kind of on day two here and people are like oh my God, this is impossible. So, just to be able to say it’s impossible out loud and have other people go, yeah, it is fucking impossible. Yes.

David: [00:55:35] Yes. Yes.

Jason: [00:55:35] And that’s how I feel in Kentucky, and that’s how I feel in Portland, and that’s how I feel in Chicago. That really helps a lot. So yeah, I agree with David on that, so.

[00:55:43] This is interesting, “So what technologies are you excited about outside of Basecamp to help support remote?”

[00:55:48] I believe in the simplest possible stack that you can have because I think that… I know I’m a little bit different here than most, but I have a 13 inch laptop and that’s all. I don’t have an external monitor. I don’t have two computers. I have one. Because I want my situation, my setting, to be the same no matter where I go and not feel like I have to adjust to something else because I don’t have this or I don’t have enough room at home to have two monitors. But now I’m so used to working with two monitors. So in general, almost like a personal, technical hygiene thing. I prefer to keep my setup as simple as possible.

[00:56:19] I mostly use these Apple plug-in things. Sometimes I use AirPods. We’ll use Zoom for videos most of the time. Sometimes we’ll use Skype. It’s mostly Basecamp and Zoom for us. And hardware-wise. I’ve seen some things. We’ve tried some stuff in the past where we have this—I forget what the name of the camera was. It’s like a camera that shoots 360 degrees. We put it in a meeting room and you can see everyone but it’s like, all the stuff is just. It’s not really that important. And for example, when we were in the office, there’s all sorts of technical white-boarding things that will record your white board to some online thing. Just take a fucking picture of it. And upload it to whatever. We don’t need to make this a technical exercise. You probably have everything you need right now if you have a laptop and you’re watching this video, or a desktop computer and you’re watching this video. Or an iPad or an iPod or an Android phone. You have everything you need to work remotely.

[00:57:09] It’s more of a question of software and the right software and the right methods and the right techniques to work together. But you have everything you need. Don’t go out and spend—I mean, we need to support the economy right now, but don’t feel like, “I don’t have enough to do what I need to do.” You probably, almost certainly do.

[00:57:23] David, you have a different technical setup than I do. But that’s kind of my [crosstalk].

David: [00:57:28]Yeah. It’s not even that different. What I’ve come to realize is I like a computer that lives on a desk so I don’t use laptops that much anymore. I have a 27-inch iMac. Phenomenal machine. The longevity of those things is amazing. I work out of a couple different places, and one place I have an iMac from 2013? Whenever the 5K screens first came out. I think it’s ’13. It’s still wonderful. The longevity of an iMac is incredible. And you know what? The fucking keyboard works. For all the years through I’ve used the iMac, the Apple magic keyboard 2 is the best keyboard I’ve ever used. I know there’s a lot of programmers that use these tactile keyboards that really clackety clack. What a great hobby. I cannot—I’m almost envious I’m not into that because it’s just cool. There’s lights on some of them, and you configure them yourself. But I just… I use just the standard Bluetooth keyboard and it’s great.

[00:58:21] And the iMac, for me, is useful because it helps me separate the work and the home. The computer where I have all my stuff set up on is in my office and when I close my office door, I’m kind of away from that, right. I’m still on my phone, perhaps. Or on an iPad or something. But it doesn’t have all my stuff and it’s just good for separation. I think one thing, especially when you start working from home, if you just have one laptop and you use that laptop both for all your Netflix and you use it for all your work, and you have all of your notifications, when you’re done with work, work is still sort of just piling in, and it’s piling on top of you. So you need a little more discipline, I think, if you do Jason’s style. If you use your laptop after-hours for home things.

Jason: [00:59:02] Yeah, I should have mentioned, I tend to use an iPad once I’m done with work. I’ve got the 11 inch whatever with the keyboard and it’s wonderful.

[00:59:10] The other thing I want to—this is actually a good way to bring it all home here, because when we first started this conversation two hours ago, we’re talking about not trying to simulate the office when you’re working remotely. This is not about setting up remote offices where everyone works the same way they used to. And some trend that I’m seeing, that I’ve heard about. I talked to a journalist about this yesterday and I mentioned this earlier in the show here, is this notion that companies are trying to. They’re going to actually notch up on surveillance right now. Which is, I want to know where everyone is all the time. I want to see everybody. I want to take a picture of everyone every ten minutes to make sure they’re at their desk. I want to turn on presence so everyone knows, like, is this person available or away or yellow dot or red dot or green dot.

[00:59:49] Because I don’t trust anybody and we have to see each other all the time or things are going to fall apart and the whole thing. And I wonder, for the leaders out there, who are able to make these decisions about technology, whatnot. I would really encourage you to not go that route. Do not implement things where you’re watching people all day. Do not expect people to be available all the time. You don’t want people to feel like they’re being watched. You don’t want people to feel like someone’s looking over their shoulder, virtual or digital or physical.

[01:00:18] You’re not going to, to get back to the cultural thing, or to the best out of people. You’re not going to get the best out of people if someone’s thinking they’re looking over their shoulder all the time. This stuff adds up and it seems like it’s cool. Oh, it’s so cool to know where everyone is all the time and to see everybody’s face and the whole thing. But it’s really awkward and it’s especially awkward for people who are working at home who might be working out of their bedroom because they don’t have any other fucking space to work and now the camera is shooting their family photos or the stuff on the bed or whatever because they went to the bathroom and now their face doesn’t cover up the screen. It’s just a very uncomfortable thing to do and to require people to do.

[01:00:51] So I would pare back on that. Don’t try to simulate the physical experience. Take advantage of the advantages of remote work which means distance, time, space, attention, autonomy, trust. These are the things to invest in now and when you get back to working in an office, perhaps, those things are going to pay off. Those are the things that are going to really pay off.

[01:01:13] Anyway, that’s my sort of way to wrap up the tool talk and also the general talk. I don’t know, David, if you have any final thoughts. But I feel like two hours is probably enough for people to deal with us.

David: [01:01:22] Yeah, I think this is great. So, the Rework podcast is currently taking a little bit of a break, but there’s a long back catalogue of great stuff where we talk a lot about these issues about culture and how we work and so forth. And then of course, the Remote book, I heard is out of stock right now at Amazon. When I checked on, which pulls from independent booksellers, it’s selling stock there, so you can buy it from there. The publisher’s doing a second run so it’ll hopefully be in stock soon. And of course, there’s always the digital version. You can buy it on Apple books or Kindle.

Jason: [01:01:59] By the way, the Rework podcast is at if you want to find the podcast. You can also, of course, find it on wherever you listen to podcasts, but that’s the website with all the show notes as well, and that sort of thing.

[01:02:10] Thanks for sticking with us for two hours, especially the ones who stayed from the beginning all the way through the end, and I hope it was useful, and good luck to everybody and stay safe.

David: [01:02:17] Oh, thanks a bunch.

Jason: [01:02:19] Thanks everybody. Take care.

[01:02:19] Broken By Design by Clip Art plays.

Shaun: [01:02:21] Rework is produced by Wailin Wong and me, Shaun Hildner. Music for the show is by Clip Art. We’re still on hiatus for one more week so the next episode will be another rerun. But after that we’re going to be doing episodes about how small businesses and other people are adapting to our new reality. If you have a story you want to share, either about your small business, or about working remotely, leave us a voicemail at (708) 628-7850.

[01:03:03] All right. Pretty good.

Wailin: [01:03:03] That went very smoothly I would say.

Shaun: [01:03:08] CO2 levels are now at 1,429 ppm.

Wailin: [01:03:12] Oh no. Is that like a big jump.

Shaun: [01:03:15] Yeah. It’s a very small office.

Wailin: [01:03:19] Right, and you’re basically just spewing CO2 into the air because you’re talking.

Shaun: [01:03:22] I’m talking, right.

Wailin: [01:03:24] Oh, gosh. And breathing.

Shaun: [01:03:24] Oh, it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.