Working naked – principles and origins

At the company, I founded and managed as CEO for 20 years, we used, and perhaps coined, the phrase “Working naked”. It was an amalgamation of our values statement which focuses on individual freedom and responsibility along with our unique work-life experience which included

  • Flexible schedule
  • Flexible work location
  • Decentralized management aka No bosses

Work naked Values

Our value statement is at the bottom but the 6 key points are as follows

  • Everyone thinks: Intelligent, intellectually curious, logical, and systematic
  • Everyone leads: Proactive, assertive, principled, and confident
  • Everyone grows: Intellectually curious, ambitious, energetic, and motivated
  • Everyone serves: Proactive, informed, constructive, and focused
  • Everyone shares: Outgoing, communicative, engaging, enthusiastic, and helpful
  • Everyone strives: Productive, focused, driven, and motivated (1)

These values accentuate independence, initiative and freedom … ala working naked

Work naked Work places

Freedom is just a word unless you back it up with how you treat people in the work place

There is no true freedom if

  • You enforce captive employment in an office or otherwise restrict their freedom of movement
  • You make people work by a rigid schedule or otherwise restrict their time
  • You micromanage and boss people around

Instead offer …

  • a Flexible schedule – Let your teamwork wherever the Hell they want
  • a Flexible work location – Let your teamwork whenever the Hell they want
  • Decentralized management – Get the Hell out of their way

Make it happen

It’s not that hard to implement and it will be the single, biggest and most impactful thing you do for work place morale, motivation and productivity. Here are 3 simple steps

  • Flexible location – Go remote. Ok, have an office. I love offices as long as I’m not required to work in them. They are great for meetings, interviews, getting corporate mail, hanging plants etc. But otherwise let people work remote.
  • Flexible Schedule – Focus on the results, not when or how long people work to achieve them. That allows your team to work a flexible schedule
  • Decentralized management – Empower your people to solve problems, implement solutions. Once empowered, let them do their jobs. Let them figure out how to solve business problems themselves, while you focus on facilitating them. If they need help, be there for them. If they don’t, get out of their way.

If you don’t know how to manage remote workers effectively, you will need to learn. Enterprise SCRUM and other AGILE approaches will help you

Where did the term “Working naked” originate?

I was working as a consultant at Bank Boston in the late 90’s. During my tenure, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet and they began laying everyone off. Despite my temporary work status I was the single remaining person on the floor on my last day. They had cut the air conditioning, earlier in the week, and it was quite hot. I remember saying, “Hell, I could work naked and nobody would even know!”. Whether I ever acted on that impulse or not will not be disclosed lest I be accused of over-sharing …  but I thought to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if I could be at a job where I COULD?”. Thus, the seed of this concept was planted in my head

I had already created some software, that in its nascent form, would go on to become some of the first ApexSQL tools. I still had 3 years left of consulting, though, before I would create my company and give myself, and later my team, the work-life freedoms that I had dreamed of in that hot, empty floor in a downtown Boston skyscraper.

How can *I* work naked?

Many and soon most companies will offer these same benefits. If you don’t work for one, quit and go work for the ones who do.

If you are reading this from Serbia, apply for a job at ApexSQL/Quest. These freedoms are still being offered and in some ways, even accentuated. For example, they purchased everyone a top of the line, Dell laptop to allow people to work anywhere they want. Vrlo dobro!

Working naked values statement

Everyone thinks: Intelligent, intellectually curious, logical, and systematic

We are all knowledge workers. Our primary tool is our brain and the power of our thought drives our actions and produces results. Don’t look to “bosses” to think for you; think for yourself; think outside of the box to achieve the best results. Think critically, objectively and with full information before you answer, act or deliver. Lack of thinking blinds us to obvious problems. Critical thought allows us to bake elegance and simplicity into everything we do

Everyone leads: Proactive, assertive, principled, and confident

We are all leaders of the company, of our team, of ourselves and of our tasks. Proactively identify problems and solve them. Don’t ask questions but make recommendations. Perform duties with minimal supervision. Don’t just worry about issues or ignore them, but express your concern through direct action. Ensure you are aligned with goals of the company and your team at all times and your actions promote tangible and measurable progress towards those goals

Everyone grows: Intellectually curious, ambitious, energetic, and motivated

Professional development is a cornerstone to our success. Constantly work to increase your knowledge, skills and efficiency. Don’t wait to be told to learn or grow; make it a daily habit. Don’t seek to learn by asking questions. Become an expert in your competency and share with others; add value to our processes and organization via actionable, well researched, and informed recommendations

Everyone serves: Proactive, informed, constructive, and focused

Recognize that empathy and a desire to serve are the foundations for a stellar customer experience. Proactively engage your customers to seek their feedback, take personal ownership of their issues and dedicate yourself to making sure it is resolved. Treat everyone as a customer, internal or external, and make responsiveness part of your personal brand. Build effective working relationships with a focus on being positive, informative, actionable, and helpful. Prioritize team success over personal achievement

Everyone shares: Outgoing, communicative, engaging, enthusiastic, and helpful

Communicate widely and effectively to the team, customers and community; educate your customers, peers and product owners. Volunteer self-criticism for failures proactively and be thankful for feedback, positive or negative. Mentor, advise and help others as they seek to grow and develop. Project value beyond your personal contribution by empowering others with your knowledge and experience

Everyone strives: Productive, focused, driven, and motivated

Focus on results. Expend the effort required to meet deadlines under pressure or at least go down with a fight; use time efficiently and demonstrate strong and consistent productivity; prioritize effectively to goals aligned with stakeholders; identify risks early and work to overcome roadblocks vs making excuses. Single task with a focus on daily deliverables, completed thoroughly to a high level of quality. Set expectations realistically and expend the effort required to meet them (2)


(1) (2) ApexSQL


Coffee – your once a day power perk. Don’t blow your buzz

I remember a good friend of mine once remarking, “The first beer always tastes the best” and it is the thing that pops into my head every time I have one.

But the same is for your cup of coffee. It will give you a powerful pickup that gives you a boost that you can use to power through “Eating the frog”. Think of Popeye and his can of Spinach. For me, my first cup is a power up that allows me to cut through most challenging tasks like a hot knife through butter, even though a few short hours later, I might be staring at these same tasks like they were mission impossible.

So when I stumbled on this article, it really resonated with me. I would strongly recommend you read it as well

Your First Cup of Coffee Does These 5 Surprising Things for Your Brain Each and Every Day

Aligning work and energy flows

Managing your energy flow during your day is critical. You need to align your energy levels with your most powerful tasks and use perks (forgive the pun) like coffee to power-up, when you need them most. What reminded me of this article was that I took a shower after my coffee this morning. I was extremely meditative, but by doing so I squandered some precious value from my limited-time power up. But this was a good reminder to evangelize this article, at least


Most people are high energy in the morning. That is also the best time to Eat the frog, which means to do your most difficult task first. Add some coffee into the mix and you can power through the most challenging task and put it in your inbox, setting your day up for satisfaction and success

Morning meetings are death to productivity, which is one reason why daily SCRUM standup meetings should be 15 minutes only, not one second more. In this way they won’t eat into your most productive time.


Don’t check email when you first log in. It will distract you, taking up valuable time and energy that you will need for proactive tasks. Reactive tasks like responding to email can be done in lower energy cycles along with the bulk of your remaining tasks, after you have Eaten the frog.


As you go to the end of the day, if you worked hard you will begin to tire. It becomes difficult to make decisions and even process simple tasks. This is the perfect time for those mundane chores that need to be done, but don’t take a lot of mental energy. In fact, in a lower energy state you may actually be more proficient at these types of tasks and less likely to miss things by going over them to quickly.

During my low energy cycles I love to do Quality Assurance. I would block off 15 minutes every day to review things like our website, templates etc. People thought I QA’d all day because I constantly found bugs and issues, but the majority of them were during this low energy period of my day. This demonstrates that you can maximize your results even when your input is minimal

Some other things I would do during my low energy cycle, that you could as well

  • Re-read inbound emails. I guarantee you have missed some details and perhaps even important ones
  • Engage with your company’s internal discussion forums to catch up on topics of the day. Also it is a good time to nurture your reputation on Stack Overflow, Slack, Experts-exchange, LinkedIn etc with comments, shares
  • Read one article the will help with your professional development
  • Organize your desk, office, documents, file folders etc and generally prepare yourself for tomorrow
  • Take care of work related errands, tasks etc like upgrading to a new version of a software program

Working naked

The good news is that when we are allowed to Work naked, we can freely align our work day with our natural energy flows, however they may exist for us vs being forced to adhere to a schedule that works against our natural bio-rhythms

For example, if you are a really early morning person, you can work to your peak productivity before anyone else comes in. You may instead be a night owl who does your best work after hours. Often, people find a segmented work day works well where they can step out of the office to do some regenerative activity i.e. taking a walk, going to the gym that keeps productive time aligned with peak energy but can also maintain and even boost energy levels. When you work naked, you are empowered to work when you are most productive. A frictionless, Work naked environment offers no barriers to team members disengaging during low productive states.

Captive employment

Captive employment (e.g. fixed location, fixed schedule) tends to work against allowing team members to work to their own energy cycles by herding people into meetings and other shared activities. Forcing someone to take an early morning commute can waste up to an hour or more of their most productive time. It can corral people into work cycles and timeframes that force them to work when their energy is ebbing. These same environments tend to discourage, limit and even restrict stepping away, which is a great way to stem, and even reverse, energy loss.

People in captive work situations can drink coffee too, of course. But I see it being used often/mainly to reverse low energy flows aka get through the day, make it to 5 PM etc. This approach is not something that will generally lead to great achievements at work.



As the knowledgebase worker economy continues to transition to more agile, more remote, more dynamic and more empowered, your classic micromanager is a dying breed, for good reason. Micromanagement gets a bad reputation because of the pernicious effect is has on retarding the growth and productivity of teams and if left unchecked, how it can calcify entire organizations.

But a phenomenon that I see all the time but is never mentioned, is the prevalence of team members who refuse to think, lead, share, strive, own and want to have their hands held when doing even the most trivial task. I call them microfollowers.

Oh, so they need training? But even when you answer their questions, walk them through tasks up to thoroughly training them on certain skills they tend to not internalize this knowledge and instead just constantly ask questions. Other traits of microfollowers include:

  • When they do tasks they are often of such poor quality that they require a dedicated QA just to get the results accepted to any minimum standard.
  • They tend to not RTFM, search for answers or otherwise show any initiative in figuring things out
  • They won’t follow instructions, when they are given
  • They constantly ask questions, but often won’t listen to or at least remember the answers
  • They never take initiative in general

These people have a philosophy that a superior is actually a line supervisor that will essentially manage them as if they were a machine, inputting instructions for every task, no matter how small or trivial. They also believe they are responsible only for the effort and not the results, so that no matter the output from their labor, the quality of it isn’t their responsibility. These ideas can be deeply ingrained and difficult to change, especially as people get older.

How to spot a microfollower

  • They ask an inordinate amount of questions, often without applying basic thought or logic. Many of the questions are non-sensical
  • They tend to repeat the same questions that they had asked previously, even a day or two before
  • They don’t tend to retain information. They forget answers to questions, responses to emails, instructions that they supposedly read
  • They never read instructions, procedures, guidelines on their own
  • They tend to make the same mistakes over and over again
  • They never take responsibility for their actions
  • If a mistake is made they always “Fuck down” vs “Fuck up”
  • They constantly complain that nobody has trained them and/or their training is inadequate, yet when trained, even formally, they tend to retain very little of the knowledge
  • They don’t take criticism well and tend to personalize everything
  • Micro followers tend to use loser-words

Where do microfollowers come from?

Unfortunately, schools and universities, particularly in Eastern Europe, specializing in graduating micro-followers. I wrote an article on one such case where, when a student attempted to lead he was basically kicked out of the college.

These students arrive in the workforce and they get paired off with micromanagers, and tethered together, they weigh each other down as their careers move at a snail’s pace, if at all, while their more nimble peers who learn to show initiative move ahead by leaps and bounds. Best case, by working long enough and gaining experience just through pure attrition, they somehow move up in an organization to themselves become micromanagers, and the cycle continues.

Can they be salvaged?

Some, and perhaps many, can. Early in their tenure at an organization, you can work with them and attempt to break them of these tendencies. We created a values statement specifically designed to empower and encourage people to show initiative. It is amazing to see the reaction, when people realize that they can actually step out and think for themselves; that they are powered to take the initiative and make their own decisions. In fact, some team members who started out as microfollowers became some of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with.

Sadly, others will resist this with their every being. After much back and forth, you may determine that this person will always be a microfollower and the only recourse is to let them go. There are many companies that will be happy to have such a person and assign them to a micromanager, who will be fulfilled supervising such a willing supplicant.

Radical concepts

The opposite of micromanagement is holocracy, where essentially everyone manages themselves. I don’t believe true holocracy is possible, but we came very close. Our values statement was meant to highlight the fact that we were free of schedules, fixed work locations and bosses.

Even though I was the CEO, my internal title, and that of my COO was “Facilitator”. That meant I was there to help people do their jobs, not tell them how to do them or do them myself. This only works if you have a company full of self-starters, ready and willing to take the initiative. Microfollowers need to be quickly identified and converted to microleaders, or encouraged to find roles in more captive-employment type environments.