Tips From Jason Fried for a Stronger, Smarter Office

A few weeks ago, the Harvard Business Review featured a podcast with Basecamp CEO Jason Fried on the topic “Restoring Sanity to the Office.” This is a great “lunch listen” and definitely worth the 30-minute investment. If you prefer to read it, they’ve posted the transcript, too.

There is so much here that I agree with. I’ve written in the past about the dangers of digital distraction and suggested a way to break free from the tyranny of email. Fried has some pretty cool ideas about communication and collaboration using email in a new way, or even trying some newer tools instead–all with the goal of respecting everybody’s time and improving productivity.

I like his argument for the “quiet office,” or at least quiet days at the office. As an easily distracted guy, I can really see the value in finding ways to cut down on office interruptions.

Remote work–doing it, managing it–is also one of my favorite topics, and Fried talks about how working remotely can be ideal, especially for those working in creative fields. He also has some good suggestions about how to introduce this practice in your own office.

And here’s a big one: Fried thinks that meetings are, for the most part, a huge waste of time.

(Meetings are) really very inefficient. People think it’s efficient to distribute information all at the same time to a bunch of people around a room. But it’s actually a lot less efficient than distributing it asynchronously by writing it up and sending it out and letting people absorb it when they’re ready to . . . meetings are very expensive not just in time but also in money. If you have four or five people in a room for an hour, it’s a four or five hour meeting. You’re taking four or five hours of productive work from other people in total and compressing it into an hour of very unproductive–mostly unproductive work. Where you’re spending an hour talking about something that probably could have been handled without having to have this meeting at all.

For a humorous (and short, for a TED talk) approach to the meeting issue, see David Grady’s “How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings.”

So what do you think? Has your office tried any of these (or other) innovations? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, or send me an email at Scott@doubledareyou.us if you want to talk about updating your own office culture.

photo credit: Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits NY Public Library via photopin (license)