What Remote Friendly Businesses Can Learn from a Remote-first Approach

The situation around covid remains in flux, as companies are wrestling with how to continue working remotely in the future. But as with hybrid working, simply saying that you’re taking a remote friendly approach isn’t enough. This guide will highlight what it means to be remote-first or fully remote so you have the best information to help determine the right remote work strategy for your business.

What Remote Friendly Businesses Can Learn from a Remote-first Approach
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There are actually 3 types of remote work organisations: remote friendly, remote first, and fully remote. Remote friendly is a solid strategy for continuing remote work while having the option to reintroduce employees back to the office. In contrast, remote first companies start with the assumption that employees will primarily work remotely. The final variant is “fully remote”, which means companies are working only remotely, often across different countries and time zones. 

While remote friendly is the preferred option for many businesses, fully remote is becoming increasingly popular for companies that aspire to hire internationally and build a working culture that focuses on their employees’ needs. 

Understanding the different strengths and weaknesses that remote work can bring out in your company’s work structure will help you assess which one is right for you.

Remote friendly, remote first and fully remote - what are  the differences?

Remote first and remote friendly are both variants of working remotely, each with their own flavours and variations. The difference is mainly a shift in priority of the on-site workplace. 

What is “remote friendly”?

Unlike remote first, remote friendly signals an acceptance of remote work, but it is not the primary way of working. Companies that are remote friendly will have dedicated office spaces and employees working from specific locations. Unlike fully remote companies, employees will be expected to spend some if not most of their working hours on site. Remote work is permitted, but there will be defined rules as to who can work remotely, how, where and when.

What is “remote first”?

Remote first companies have prioritised a remote work structure. While these companies may have an office space or provide access to designated co-working spaces, remote is their primary mode of working. Any available office spaces can be used by employees as and when needed, but staff are never required to work from there. 

What is “fully remote”?

Next to remote first and remote friendly, there is a third option: fully remote. Fully remote means a company most likely doesn’t have an office space for their staff. All employees are working remotely. Often this means remote workers are based all over the world. Companies working fully remotely also aim to work across locations and time zones, including the leadership team. Think of fully remote as the next step up when it comes to remote work, after remote first and remote friendly.

Which is best for your business?

Remote friendly is the more common option right now. The majority of managers believe the physical worklace still has an important role to play, so offering a remote friendly environment provides companies and employees with the security of the workplace and the flexibility to work remotely for better employee wellbeing and engagement. However, it’s important that you ask the right questions to get to the answers most relevant to you: 

  1. Can all your teams’ roles be completed remotely? Don’t assume that all jobs need to be done in the office. Many people also assume that remote first is only possible for companies and roles in particular industries, like tech and SaaS. But remote first and its perks are accessible to far more companies than you might expect.
  1. What types of work require your employees to work on-site? Often, it’s not entire roles but particular functions that require being on-site. Maybe they need to run creative workshops with clients which are more practical in person so that physical designs or prototypes can be shared? You’ll want to consider whether you want certain employees or teams to remain fully on-site, or whether you want to give them the flexibility to decide when coming into the office is necessary and useful.
  2. Is asynchronous work an option for your team? Asynchronous work can be really beneficial. For example, if you have sales reps working in different time zones, there’ll always be somebody around to answer client queries quickly. If you’re worried about going fully asynchronous right away, having a few overlapping hours amongst your team could be the best way to go.
  1. What are your business’ growth and international expansion plans? Being fully remote or remote first can allow you to hire outside of your company’s primary location. Even better, it can allow you to grow your team globally. Companies that hire remote workers can tap into a global talent pool, enriching their services, products and teams along the way.
  2. What kind of company values and culture do you want to build for your team? All great employers nurture their teams and want to find the best talent no matter where they are based or what their circumstances are. Though unconscious bias can still be a problem when hiring remotely, remote work opportunities are more accessible to people with disabilities or those working out of locations where their job roles aren’t in high demand. Remote first can provide teams with much greater diversity.

The nature of hybrid work models is that each company has to craft approaches that are relevant and sensitive to their teams. So instead of looking for a single remote friendly formula, it’s better to discover the level of flexibility that allows you to meet your business’ needs. 

At Omnipresent, we’ve been remote first since our inception.

“We realised from the beginning that we could build a truly global team and live the changes to work culture that we are helping our clients achieve. Remote first gives our employees lots of flexibility to balance their work and private lives, without having to relocate. Our team is thriving in a remote set-up and we now have 100 employees in 26 countries!” - Matthew Wilson, Omnipresent Co-Founder. 

What factors make the best remote companies work?

There are a number of notable remote companies, like Atlassian and Juni, providing innovative solutions that are driving the future of work. These companies have created remote work models that help them meet their objectives, as well as support their employees. We’ve noticed that such remote companies have these 5 things in common:

  1. The right communication tools: some popular options are Slack, Zoom, Donut, Airmeet or Hallway. Find out what works best for your team by observing and asking your staff directly. With the right communication and collaboration tools, you can help your team connect, share, and stay transparent.
  2. Relevant and attractive benefits packages for all team members: this will help ensure some degree of equity amongst team members no matter where they are based. A clear benefits benchmarking strategy could help your company remain accountable for your remote team members,help sustain employee engagement, and reduce employee turnover.
  3. Relevant and attractive salaries: like benefits benchmarking, having a transparent salary benchmarking system can help ensure equity amongst team members and support your company in remaining a compliant global employer.
  4. A remote work policy: this will help your employees understand how they are expected to work remotely. More than a rulebook, companies hiring remote workers need a resource to support employees, particularly new hires, in working across countries and time zones.
  5. Flexibility and openness: the remote work environment is constantly evolving, as are the conditions around it. While the global covid19 pandemic continues today, it is not the same as it was a year ago. The best remote companies need to be responsive to these changes, adapt their working practices when necessary, and be open to the voices of their employees in creating a positive remote working environment.

Making remote work successful for your business

Whether you want to take the leap and go fully remote, or take it slow and develop your remote friendly strategy, you will need to address the same challenges. However, clearly communicating your approach is just one piece of the puzzle if you’re looking to build a globally distributed remote team! Make sure you think about how you’re attracting the right talent and can employ them compliantly, or get in touch with a provider that knows how.

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Priyanka Hutschenreiter

Meet Priyanka Hutschenreiter, one of our talented contributors. Check out Priyanka’s articles to learn more about global employment and remote work.

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