>REMOTE, the new book by 37signals, shows both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any space, in any place, anytime, anywhere.
Maybe attacking Microsoft for the exposure works as a marketing strategy, but it's a particularly bizarre one considering their own take on remote work. Scott Hanselman had an excellent take on the whole thing yesterday:
Bingo: it's straight out of their book:
* 37signals believes that empowering employees to work remotely is a good thing (see Remote and We Work Remotely).
* 37signals also believes that a live/work balance is important and it's critically important to confine work to work hours whenever possible (see Rework and various blog posts[4,5]).
* The problem with the Office365 campaign is that it sells remote access to managers with the promise that they can increase productivity by expecting their employees to work from dawn to dusk, and even while in the bathroom or eating meals.
Remote work and employee availability are orthogonal concepts. While remote work may enable more flexible work hours, granting remote access to employees should not come with the expectation that they are available 24/7.
I'm surprised that more people cannot grok this distinction, and if that's true here at HN then I really worry that Microsoft's Office365 campaign may turn out to be prescient.
Edit: Fixed grammar issue. Added references.
Microsoft's campaign quite obviously shows 9-5 office workers getting things done while away from the office outside of office hours, when -- in 37signals' view -- they ought to be living their lives.
The full quote from your URL: "As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can. REMOTE, the new book by 37signals, shows both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any space, in any place, anytime, anywhere."
Watch and learn. I just got more exposure to the 37signals brand.
"but it's a particularly bizarre"
Bizarre gets plenty of attention. Hence why something like this would be known as a marketing ploy. The irony of it all is very attractive.
Might also be that some people actually like to work. I'm sure many hackers reading HN and/or spending time on side projects don't consider that work (although their significant other might).
Likewise some people do like to work and are interested in trading short term enjoyment for (what they think could be) future gain.
Nothing wrong with that.
Guess what? I don't find it enjoyable to be at a sports even (some people do of course and I recognize that) I'd rather be "working" (if you want to call it that). I'm not suffering at all.
A few excerpts from the paper:
"While two in three office workers believe there is a clear line between when their professional life stops and their personal life begins, the data from Microsoft's Get It Done survey suggests quite the opposite – that in 2013, the barrier between personal and professional is not only blurry, but in fact may no longer exist at all. In reality, more than three-quarters of office workers say they work at least occasionally at unconventional times, either on weekends or outside of normal business hours and more than 1 in 2 office workers say they are now expected to be available no matter what time it is."
"As mentioned, more than 1 in 2 office workers say it is now an expectation and a necessity to be able to get work done whenever and wherever they are."
"In fact, 44% have multi-tasked by working while watching television; 36% while eating a meal at home; 19% while going to the bathroom; 9% while taking a shower or bath; and 4% while having sex!"
"In thinking back over your career, we would like to know how technology, that allows you to work outside the traditional office, has changed your work life: 74% responded with, 'I work more hours.'"
It seems that this is the employer driving the culture, rather than the employees. I mean, if the expectation is there, then of course the culture is going to shift toward "always available" accommodations. Also, speaking as a developer here, I cannot imagine being productive in many of the described scenarios. I need quiet, large (4 to 8 hour) blocks of time to solve the type of problems that I am working; that's not going to happen at a recital, at a soccer match,
while watching a program, etc.
Moreover, if I was at one of those events, then, wait for it... I'm there to enjoy that event.
I also recognize that this is part of our culture (speaking as an American here). But, personally, I don't work on vacation. I've never understood it. Vacation is that sacrosanct time when you get to breathe that rarefied air of truly unplugging and dropping out.
In the view of management, remote is becoming synonymous with always available.
Please, Microsoft, those "20% of people working while at their kid's event" and "27% working while out to eat" numbers are way too low. Let's build a world where I can never get away from work! You don't have to put off making love to your girlfriend when you can work anywhere! You don't have to put off having that stress-induced stroke when you can work anywhere!
I'll play the devil here --
The people this campaign is trying to reach are the decision makers and managers in companies; the people that will be writing the check to Microsoft...
So with that in mind, when they see these ads and think "Sweet, I can get a hold of my team anytime, anywhere, and have them do a quick bit of work, this is awesome" the message is clear.
Argue all you want about how terrible this seems, but these ads will definitely plant that seed in the mind of management.
Percentages appear to be validating this behaviour: others are making their resources to work in the bathroom, on vacations, in their free time. Why not you?
Microsoft isn't advocating that you should work 24/7/365, rather, that you can work 24/7/365. It's a pretty big distinction, and frankly, despite being the average marketing rhetoric, not a bad one.
I would posit that DHH's message and Microsoft's are in total agreement. If you can work whenever, then sure, that means you can work more, but it also means that you can work more flexibly. The implication strikes me as one in which I can pause work to go to my daughter's piano recital, then resume work later -- not one in which I have to work from my daughter's recital.
I think you're missing their point. Their point is that it isn't okay to be on the phone blabbing away about business during your kid's soccer game. It isn't okay to be on your laptop editing work spreadsheets during family movie night, and so on.
Ads are used to shift perceptions to control an audience. In this case, the message is that you should be working more and that it's ok to integrate work into family/personal time.
It just isn't okay. At least in the world I do live and want to live in.
The ads are ridiculous because no one wants to have to work at their kid's soccer game. But there are, I'd suggest, a fair number of people who'd like to attend the game but don't have that choice. Framed that way, remote work is freeing. The trouble with the ads is that they frame that work as some kind of virtuous shackle-extension rather than an arguably-necessary evil. That's a frame well worth pushing back on.
Even more nefariously, I've worked (mostly in DC) with a large swath of people who would prioritize a work meeting over their kid's soccer game. Something like this allows them to add in some work-life balance to their (ahem) lives without forcing them to miss a business opportunity unnecessarily.
In the field of IT though, companies are frequently seeking out more and more ways to entice workers, and offering to chain them to their desk is seldom an appealing offer in isolation. Chaining someone to their desk for triple the market rate might work, but if it ever stops working as incentive, the employees are free to leave.
I've worked in environments where the work was put first, and the demands of the job are indeed intense. For that sacrifice, I was paid very, very well. When I realized the impact it was having on my personal life, I was no longer willing to make that trade, and opted for a change. Now, I still work hard, but I'm better able to dictate the 'when' and 'where' of it, and am overall more productive. That is a choice that everyone is free to make.
For what it's worth, even in the 'evil' corporation I described, nobody would have bothered to force me into working harder than I wanted. The expectation was just higher, and, I might even dare say, commensurate with the pay. Had I not wanted to work as hard, they wouldn't have pushed it, they would have just lowered expectations of me, and those lowered expectations would have resulted in lower bonuses, lower pay, and perhaps a lower overall regard for my work ethic. It was rather easy for me to just take the pay cut initially rather than draw it out and ruin my reputation in the process.
For a fact, there are times when it is better to listen in on a meeting from your kid's soccer game, if the alternative is missing it altogether. For sure, a day working from the park is better than working from the office.
For as much as the negative interpretation could be true, in that Microsoft seeks to engage in wage slavery whereupon all its workers are attached to the company with Office 365 as the tether, it speaks equally to the notion that those decisions don't need to be as hard any more, and that you're now free to work an appropriate amount of time from a now increased bevy of places.
Is it poorly delivered? Yes. Is Microsoft really advocating slavery through software? I think most reasonable people should be able to agree that they aren't. Is it perhaps pandering to the Type A workaholics that would rather miss their kid's soccer game than an important meeting? Yeah, I think that it is. I also don't think that's evil.
Ironically 37Signal's moto can be also be re-interpreted:
"Making collaboration productive and enjoyable for people every day." 
Sadly, this whole stunt makes them come across as a smug.
I submit that in the given examples of being at the kid's soccer game and family movie night that we should throw away the "you can" and instead think "you should NOT".
You should not be gabbing away on the phone about work, facing away, while your kid is scoring a soccer goal. You should not have your laptop open working on work-related spreadsheets on the couch next to your family during family movie night.
If your job somehow requires this, perhaps it's time for a career re-evaluation. And of course it ultimately comes down to it being your right and your choice, but if you do this, examine the real effect it has on your family. Don't be the dick parent who gabs away on their cell phone during their kids' soccer game.
When your other colleagues respond to emails 24/7 and only you don't, you're the slow to respond guy. It's like a 9-7 work culture. When it's the norm, it's also the expectation.
This is like the comments a couple of weeks ago on the daylight savings article. 'Why should you care what time the clock says it is. 'Just arrange a 13:00-21:00 schedule with your employer and arrange to have dinner with your friends @ 1am.'
37 Signals are making a comment about work culture. Culture is something we make together. And they're right. Working on the toilet, at your kids' football match, while watching TV is bad. Falling asleep into a spreadsheet it definitely bad.
That's not the kind of life I aspire to.
I just chose to ignore her while I continued working. Being able to work in a line while waiting to vote allows me to spend more time away from the office and with my kids. The elderly lady behind me lives in a very small world and doesn't understand people have different circumstances than her.
Reading this submission makes me put 37signals into the same category as the rude old lady that was standing behind me in line.
How about show a guy working at desk in his "office", only to get up and walk out the door of an Airstream trailer in the middle of Yosemite Valley. Maybe show someone in the zone while on the train, checking off their work to-do items, only to step off, put away the phone, and reunite with their friends happily knowing they don't have anything left to do.
But this? It just all seems a little bit backwards.
But the MS bit still sounds very much like it's selling to upper management the potential for them to grind more work hours out of salaried employees. Which still sucks but seems less funny.
The reason 37signals is going after Microsoft is because that dystopian future is exactly what Microsoft is promoting.
As remote work becomes more mainstream it's important for the proponents of remote work to emphasize to press/clients/employers/colleagues that remote access ≠ 24/7 availability and live/work balance is still important.
I work a total of 4 days a week, usually 1 or 2 days a week from home. It's such a great thing to be able to plan your day around your life, instead of making it about your job. This flexibility goes two ways: I get to spend more daylight time with my kids, but that also means I sometimes have to do some work in the evening. This arrangement works perfectly for me, but only because my employer doesn't think 'working more flexible' equals 'more working hours in a day'.
Hard to argue with "You should be at home eating waffles"
Of course attending a kids soccer game and having to check in to work is not ideal, but it's an improvement over being locked in "cell block 9-5".
I would quote Sun Tsu here, but I don't think Microsoft is really much of a direct competitor to 37signals.
So I think this is just the typical 37signals policy of "be opinionated - the more controversial the better" to increase their brand awareness.
I'll leave you with a different gratuitous quote: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” ~ Saul Alinsky
Although in my personal opinion both the matras are a bit extreme (1) Get it done and (2) Work can wait, I would anytime buy 37signals' reasoning over Microsoft's.
We all get Microsoft's point, that you're able to use their technology in all kinds of ways, everywhere, any time. The whole campaign is IMO almost (humorously) taking itself too seriously with the whole 'balance your work/life with our products'. Just silly with the examples used (soccer match, and what it looks like to me: being on a date).
When thousands upon thousands of people (maybe tens of thousands, maybe more) look at your ad and take the opposite reaction away from it, the fault isn't with the audience.
Microsoft may not have intended to produce a hilarious dystopian ad campaign, but that's what they actually did. There's no misunderstanding, only insanely incompetent execution.
But I mean, "Microsoft marketing fails to get message across and achieves opposite effect" is not even a newsworthy headline anymore.
(btw great marketing - tip of the hat to 37s)