Thinking like a “business of one,” allows remote workers to achieve flexibility and autonomy
Cambridge, Mass., April 27, 2021—Some days the dilemmas you face as a remote worker are pedestrian: Should you check email prior to your morning smoothie, or carve out personal time before logging on? Should you keep your camera on for this Zoom meeting, or can you listen while quietly folding laundry? Other days the challenges are more profound: What’s the best way, in a remote environment, to combat feelings of isolation? And how can you strike a balance of home and remote work that makes you truly happy and fulfilled?
To help workers answer those questions comes a new book, REMOTE, INC. How to Thrive at Work . . . Wherever You Are (Harper Business) by , a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Alexandra Samuel, the data journalist. The book arrives roughly a year after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down offices and turned millions of white-collar employees into remote workers almost overnight.
The book is aimed at workers across the spectrum—from junior employees early in their careers, to middle managers overseeing teams, to self-employed freelancers. It encourages readers to think of themselves as a “Business of One,” which entails adopting the mindset, habits, and independence of a small business owner.
“Seeing yourself as a freestanding enterprise means thinking of your boss as your client, and you as a vendor or supplier,” says Pozen, who is also the author of the best-selling Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. “This requires approaching your work as a series of deliverables—desired outcomes rather than hours clocked. As long as you fulfill those deliverables, you can organize the pace and timing of your work around your own priorities and needs. Under this approach, you’ll have the responsibility and accountability of a business owner, but also the flexibility and autonomy of running your own shop.”
REMOTE, INC. offers practical tips and techniques to help readers become more productive remote workers, and more valuable to their colleagues, bosses, and clients. These strategies include:
Creating a set of daily routines by selecting a couple of recurring decisions to simplify by turning them into habits such as wearing the same “uniform” every day or exercising daily at the same time.
Scheduling shorter online meetings with breaks every hour, together with advance agendas, actively managed debates, and closing procedures that make clear what has been decided and the next steps to be taken.
Beating information overload with a system of filters that prioritizes the most important emails and messages, in order to spot and reply to urgent emails quickly while responding to other messages at a later time.
And tapping into the benefits of punctuated collaboration—alternating periods of solo work with periods of team meetings—so that individuals can get more concentrated work done on their assigned tasks, with regular team meetings for creativity and feedback.
Once the immediate health crisis has passed, surveys suggest that most people will want to work a hybrid model, or as Pozen calls it, a “Goldilocks plan,” that involves not too much time at the office, and not too little. The exact arrangement will differ for each person depending on his or her organization and specific responsibilities.
Pozen stresses that the Goldilocks plan will not only be good for remote workers but also for their employers. Since most remote workers want to go to the office only two or three days a week, employers will reap big savings on real estate costs. If remote workers can pursue their deliverables with a high degree of autonomy, managers can spend more time on growing business revenues than on closely supervising their teams.
In a future in which many people combine remote work with time at the office, Pozen says that achieving a balance between your professional and personal priorities is critical. “You need to find the right mix to maximize your success at work and optimize your time at home,” he says. “The ultimate purpose of REMOTE, INC. is to help you create the career and life you really want.”
The MIT Sloan School of Management
The MIT Sloan School of Management is where smart, independent leaders come together to solve problems, create new organizations, and improve the world. Learn more at mitsloan.mit.edu.