Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, remote work has become the new normal for much of America’s workforce. But as the pandemic persists, many companies have to choose how they’ll proceed.
Should the industry continue working remotely, or should management bring people back to the office? Would it be better to assign people to specific days to work from home and alternate which colleagues come into the office?
How companies handle this change determines whether they emerge from COVID as remote-first versus remote-friendly companies.
But what are remote-first vs. remote-friendly companies, and how do they differ?
The meaning behind remote-first vs. remote-friendly companies
Remote-friendly companies are companies that facilitate working remotely. Typically, remote-first companies do more than encouraging remote work–they actively expect it.
Conversely, a remote-friendly company is a company that expects you to come into the office where possible but can enable remote working if the occasion arises.
What do you need to run remote-first or remote-friendly companies?
One of the primary differences between remote-first versus remote-friendly companies is the tools you need, and some of these overlap. For instance, both remote-first and remote-friendly companies need an email service or calendar application. Once you eighty-six the brick-and-mortar, however, the necessary tools diverge.
Some tools are more useful for remote-first companies. For example, as a remote-first company, leadership can benefit from a virtual business address to receive correspondence in the absence of a physical office. You can browse this site for more information about the benefits of virtual business addresses.
Remote-friendly companies can rely on the mailbox at their brick-and-mortar establishment, but fully work-from-home groups will appreciate the ability to check mail without leaving home.
Team chat apps
In remote-friendly companies, there are enough workers in the office that, when questions come up, it’s possible to walk down the hall and put them to someone with answers.
That’s not an option for remote-first companies. That makes having a good team chat app a must. These platforms encourage communication and build rapport between workers without forcing everyone to occupy the same workspace.
Video conferencing is another essential tool for remote-first companies since scheduling meetings in person isn’t an option. Video conferences are helpful for remote-friendly companies too because they allow colleagues working temporarily from home to contribute to the discussion.
Like video conferencing, remote storage is another valuable tool for remote-friendly and remote-first work environments. But, whereas having multiple people able to access the same document simultaneously is a bonus for a remote-friendly company, it’s crucial for remote-first companies.
That’s because, in a physical office environment, you can work around an inability to access a document using flash drives or looking over someone’s shoulder. In a remote-first workspace, an inability to communally access important information can cause unnecessary delays.
But tools aren’t the only distinguishing feature between remote-first and remote-friendly work. Here are a few other vital distinctions.
Remote-first work is more autonomous
Because remote-first workers are all working from different places, they have a higher degree of independence than their contemporaries in remote-friendly work environments.
Without a manager on hand to defer to, remote-first workers have to make more decisions more often. That requires a high degree of employee-employer trust, but it also can increase worker productivity and satisfaction.
That’s partly because employees in a remote-first environment can dictate their hours, provided they get their work done. That, in turn, helps achieve a better work-life balance.
Remote-first work has fewer meetings
A second key difference in remote-first vs. remote-friendly companies is the number of meetings.
Remote-friendly companies schedule more meetings, more often, usually at the convenience of the office-based workers.
Conversely, remote-first companies keep their meetings to a minimum. These workers combat the challenge of timezones, so appointments are typically scheduled and infrequent. Instead, remote-first companies find other ways to communicate and keep each other up-to-date.
Remote-friendly environments may emphasize promoting in-person workers
Another critical difference between remote-friendly and remote-first work environments is that promotions work differently.
In remote-first working conditions, promotions are more widely distributed between office and remote workers.
In a remote-friendly environment, because remote work isn’t expected, there can be an unintentional bias towards promoting the company’s in-person workers. One consequence of this discrepancy is that remote-friendly companies may accidentally discourage remote work.
Both have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to remote-first vs. remote-friendly companies.
Remote-first workers may miss the social aspect of a remote-friendly company, while remote-friendly workers lack the flexibility of their remote-first equivalents.
Choosing whether to proceed as a remote-first or remote-friendly company is a decision that will depend on the needs of your company and your employees. How you meet those needs affects your priorities and, in turn, whether you become a remote-first or remote-friendly company.