A remote-first company prioritizes a remote work policy whereby very few, if any, employees are required to perform their job on-site from a centralized workplace.
In a remote-first company, remote employees are treated the same way as in-office employees, and tools are established to facilitate remote work. These off-site locations could be a coworking space, a home office, or a coffee shop.
What is remote-first?
Remote-first describes an organizational strategy that prioritizes a decentralized working arrangement as the default.
The term is most commonly used to describe a progressive company that encourages team members to work from home or an alternate location outside of a centralized office.
What is a remote-first company?
When an organization encourages a working-from-home policy, then it’s considered a remote-first company. A remote-first company treats all employees equally, regardless of their work base.
Previously, remote workers missed out on promotions, water cooler conversations, decision-making opportunities, and relationship-building. In a remote-first company, effective communication ensures that no employees are neglected.
As globalization has widened talent pools and the pandemic enabled businesses to work remotely, more companies have adopted a remote-first policy.
Remote-first companies adopt a different approach to work by adjusting processes in the following ways:
- Emphasize asynchronous communication over synchronous communication to accommodate employees in different time zones and encourage productivity
- Keep detailed records of every meeting, question, brief and communication for reference
- Focus on socialization and virtual team-building events to prevent loneliness and a feeling of disconnect
- Invest in apps and tools that empower remote team members, such as Slack and Zoom for video conferencing
Remote-first companies may have a fully-remote structure, or simply encourage a remote-first arrangement.
A remote-first work policy is particularly effective when managing distributed teams where employees work from their workspace of choice and manage their own productivity. When real-time communication is needed, video calls and team meetings are used to streamline workflows.
What is remote-first culture?
Remote-first company culture is built on the concept that employees work from a home office in a remote location, even if some team members work together in person.
A few fundamental elements to a successful remote-first approach include communication, team-building activities, company events, and values. Remote-first organizations that prioritize a remote-first culture attract top talent from around the world, ensuring that the best work is produced.
Remote-first vs. remote-friendly
Although the terms are similar, a remote-first company follows a remote-work policy by default, while a remote-friendly company follows a hybrid strategy to promote growth and allows the remote work model as an option.
With remote-friendly companies, the option to work from home is considered a perk or a privilege. Some employees can work from home, while others must work in the office and engage with colleagues face-to-face. In a remote-friendly setup, work hours are fixed and aligned with office hours, and management relies on synchronous communication.
It’s also important to differentiate a company from remote-first to fully remote. While the former prioritizes a remote-first policy, the company may still have a physical office as a base, and employees may work from the office space. A fully-remote company has no physical location to use as a base.
What are some benefits of going remote first?
Remote-first companies offer a remote working arrangement by default, trusting employees to meet their deadlines from the comfort of their own work environment. As more companies adopt the remote-first environment, the advantages are acknowledged globally.
The most popular benefits of a remote-first culture include:
- Attract top talent from various geographic locations
- Boost inclusivity
- The company saves costs on real estate, property utilities, and cleaning expenses
- Employees save time and money from commuting
- Scalability and growth are more manageable, especially during disruptive periods such as the pandemic
- Increased productivity as employees take fewer breaks, request fewer sick days, and enjoy a quieter work environment
- Flexibility and business continuity as employees work across different time zones
- Improve employee morale by offering a better work-life balance
- Positive environmental impact by reducing gas emissions from commuting
Tips to prepare for a remote-first company culture
Many businesses moved to a remote-work setup during the pandemic and then moved back to the traditional office arrangement after the pandemic’s restrictions subsided.
If you’re looking to adopt a remote-first company culture (and begin reaping the benefits), the following tips can help you get started:
- Allow employees to enjoy work-from-home days according to a schedule
- Invest in technology and remote-first tools to streamline workflows
- Provide remote-work training and support
- Create remote work policies
- Prioritize communication — from the onboarding process to the project management process
- Organize virtual get-togethers
What are some examples of remote first companies?
Remote-first policies work well for all sorts of businesses — from startups to global enterprises. Consider the following companies that are leading the charge.
As a tool, Zapier promotes remote operations, so it’s no surprise that the team is remote-first. The tool allows you to connect different apps to automate repetitive tasks. Zapier employees can work wherever they choose — and it works.
GitLab is a DevOps platform that helps people automate their builds, integration, and code verification. The web-based Git repository manager is headquartered in San Francisco but has employees all over the world who manage their own schedules.
Buffer is a popular social media scheduling and marketing platform that follows a remote-first policy. The simple (yet effective) tool has hundreds of employees around the world who work remotely while staying productive and streamlined in their efforts.
Doist is the remote company behind Todoist and Twist, producing powerful productivity software that enables a more fulfilling way to work and live. The company has a strong culture of collaboration while remote and encourages employees to take as much time off as needed.
Coursera empowers people to learn and improve their knowledge online, offering world-class education to people in a remote capacity. As a remote-first company, Coursera understands the benefits of working remotely and leading by example.