Remote Working
December 18, 2020

Remote Work + Deep Work = a Productive Company

Remote Work + Deep Work = a Productive Company

We’re not quiet about our disliking of Slack. It’s disruptive (but not in a good way). It’s like taking part in a dinner party while trying to concentrate on work.

It creates a constant FOMO - the need to be online all day.

This expectation leads to stress and mental health issues.

Instant messaging has been scientifically proven to cause anxiety. And yet we allow it in our workplaces?


Probably because it’s easy to set up and a great way to stay connected. And that’s what we thought at first. But something felt wrong. We noticed a lot of information going missing. Employees who weren’t as active missed key information. And we didn’t want to change their working habits (they know what works best for them).

It’s also a very bad way to discuss difficult problems. And we have a lot of those while building a fintech startup.

So we had to make a change. For our sanity. For our employees’ mental health. And for the quality of the work we produce.

That change came when we adopted Basecamp, as our all-in-one project management and communication tool.

Basecamp founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), are the godfathers of running an effective remote company. So there was no other option for us.

And with the adoption of Basecamp came a new way of working. An adapted version of the way Basecamp (the company) works.

Here’s an excerpt from our company handbook:

Many remote workers are suffering the marathon long, all-day communication of Slack. Basecamp refers to Slack as “an all-day meeting without an agenda”. We detest Slack for the same reasons.

Basecamp Campfire acts a little like slack. It’s a real-time chat room where communication is mostly synchronous. And that’s fine in VERY small doses and for specific types of communication.

Campfire is only used for:

1. Hashing things out quickly.

2. Red alerts (like a server down) - in reality, there are very few real emergencies inside any startup.

3. Having fun (emojis, jokes)

4. A sense of belonging (somewhere we can say good morning to each other)

Campfire makes up around 1% of our internal communication. Everything else is completely asynchronous and without the pressure of an immediate response.

You can read more about our approach to internal communication here.

Why are we so strict on avoiding real-time chat?

Because we’re a remote company.

We have the distinct advantage that our employees are all separate, working in their own unique way on their own unique time schedule. They know when they work best, so how dare we tell them otherwise.

And when our team has long stretches of uninterrupted time, they can easily commit to what - author and computer scientist - Cal Newport calls Deep Work.

Deep Work = Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit.

He quantifies his method in a neat little equation.

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

“Our work culture’s shift toward the shallow is exposing a massive personal opportunity for the few who recognize the potential of resisting this trend and prioritizing depth,”
says Newport.

What happens when you don’t do Deep Work?

Your workday is chopped up into tiny little sections of five minutes here and there.

People interrupt you with questions that help them without thinking about you and what your priorities are.

Your manager, teammates and executives have access to your calendar. Nothing is secret. No time for deep thought or contemplation while you’re on their clock - you must focus. 

This is ridiculous.

And it’s this broken culture that many modern companies operate in that has spawned the rise of employee tracking software. As if the real-time, always-on, FOMO-riddled culture wasn’t enough to stress employees up to the eyeballs.

If you want to get anything great done - to put a dent in the universe - you need to find long stretches of focus time - 3 to 5 hours every day, at least.

So, what happens when you do Deep Work?

Neal Stephenson, author and advisor to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, said “If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. If I instead get interrupted a lot, what replaces it? A bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons.”

Deep work, done remotely, and with some asynchronous communication gives a company and its team the chance to create something special.

It reduces stress. It increases enjoyment. It gives your team a sense of deep fulfilment and ownership. It proves to them that you trust them and they will deliver better work for you in return as a result.

At Fellow Pay we speak on a video call once or twice a week, tops. That is so different to most of the companies adopting remote work right now.

Many companies who are used to working from an office have taken their bad habits, including all-day meetings, into the remote working world. 

It doesn’t work that way!

An hour-long meeting with 3 people isn’t a one-hour meeting for the company. It’s a 3-hour meeting.

Deep work + remote work gives those wasted and redundant hours back to employees to work on something that (actually) matters.

All of a sudden the day feels longer. It’s still just 8 hours but it’s not broken up into tiny chunks anymore. And it’s in these long stretches of time that the magic happens.

We truly believe that we will be able to achieve more than the average company in our industry with less than 50% (or possibly many less) of the employees. All because we adopt this approach.

Why should you adopt this approach?

Since COVID-19, the world has changed forever.

We now all work remotely. And it’s clear that many companies who resisted it have seen how possible it is.

But most of those companies are continuing with the poor working habits that have become deeply ingrained into our working culture.

Remote work removes those barriers. With an effective remote company, we no longer need so many full-time managers. Managers of one, as Basecamp calls them, where management is merely a part-time task alongside your more important work of producing, reduces costs and makes companies’ a lot more efficient. In Basecamp’s case, this allows them to pay their employees a lot more money.

We must now all adapt to this new world. One where many more people will be working alone, from home, in their own way.

And that’s the right way to do it. Micromanagement should become a thing of the past.

It’s time to adopt a new approach. And we believe wholeheartedly in this one.

Remote work + deep work = a productive company.

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