Remote-First Company

Austin Morgan

Table of Contents

Do you know the difference between remote-first and remote-friendly workplaces? Working with either involves tactics, methods, and practices that allow the organization to operate efficiently despite employing remote workers. Rest assured this article will answer your questions and guide your team to continued success.

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What Is a Remote-first Company?

Remote-first is not just a work arrangement or setup that allows employees to work outside the office. Remote-first is a set of best practices that describe how remote employees have just as much access to information, participation in discussions and decisions, and the ability to collaborate as their in-office peers, regardless of their location.

Remote-first vs Remote-friendly

Remote-first companies embrace remote work and view it as a necessity rather than a perk. Often the entire operation of the company is planned around how to achieve goals and fulfill needs from a remote setting.

Remote-friendly companies allow employees to work a portion of the time remotely, but they have a physical office where most of the work gets done. In some remote-friendly companies, remote work may be viewed as a perk or condition of a specific position granted to those permitted. In other remote-friendly companies, the dynamic can differ, allowing all to participate in a hybrid arrangement that allows remote work for a few days per week.

Advantages of a Remote-first Company

Large and small businesses benefit from a remote-first approach.

  • Large talent pools. Having a remote-first approach allows the organization to tap into talent pools across the globe, employing top talent wherever it’s located.
  • Global collaboration. The ability for asynchronous (not at the same time) communication and work style allows for collaboration across several time zones.
  • Diversity-led results. Deploying a remote-first approach allows the company to tap into a diverse team, leveraging their skills and experience to create desired results.
  • Employee Value Proposition (EVP) enhancement. Small companies can compete with larger competitors by leveraging the remote-first approach, which also enhances the EVP.

Disadvantages of a Remote-first Company

While a remote-first approach may seem beneficial in many areas, there are also some disadvantages to this style.

  • Lack of opportunity. Employees in a remote-first company can feel as though there is a lack of opportunity and experience with their team/company. This stems from the lack of in-person interaction, the inability to collaborate on a project, and the inability to make small talk to increase social capital with team members.
  • Communication. A remote-first approach needs to include several forms of communication, both formal and informal. Employees who don’t receive both can feel left out, singled out, and unclear of the direction of the company.
  • Culture-building challenges. Companies using a remote-first approach can find culture-building to be challenging. Finding time to host a virtual event for teams spread out across time zones can be a challenging feat.
  • Distractions. Remote-first employees can feel distracted by the environment around them. This includes watching television as they work, caring for pets, getting ready for the day while a meeting is going on, and many more activities that people comfortably perform at home in comparison to the workplace.
  • Change management. Rolling out new initiatives is more challenging. When employers fail to create meaningful participation during a company announcement, support from employees can be limited. Without in-person body language and regular interactions, it can be difficult to truly understand employees’ opinions.

Best Practices for Managing a Remote-first Company

In terms of how employees feel supported, develop relationships, and communicate, managing a remote-first company entails several of the same practices as being in person.

Communication 

Communication in a remote-first company is largely asynchronous. This tends to lead to the best results as individuals can contribute to the goal/topic when they are available. However, some may feel disconnected from others.

To make up for the missed interactions held in traditional or remote-friendly companies, synchronous (or real-time) communication should be offered. This can be done through scheduled team video meetings, virtual happy hour sessions, and general gatherings. These structured, scheduled meetings help bridge the gap of what’s missing in person and foster a sense of belonging, inclusion, and collaboration.

Support

Remote-first companies can show support for their employees in several ways.

First, provide remote employees with the technology and resources they need to succeed while working in their home offices. Traditionally, in-office employees are equipped with high-quality computers, chairs, desks, etc. Why would you treat remote employees any differently?

Remote-first companies pay for remote employees’ desks, monitors, cables, and more. Some companies provide a monthly stipend to cover internet and supply expenses to offset incurred costs. These stipends range in amount but are becoming a common practice.

Secondly, it’s more common for remote employees to feel increased stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and isolation. Providing infrastructure and resources to help them address those problems when they occur shows that you care about them individually. Remote-first companies can pay for mental health resources to help with stress and implement wellness initiatives that reward healthy behavior.

Relationship Development

Companies need to overcome the lack of face time that in-person settings naturally contribute to relationships. In-person interactions occur during meetings, through small talk while passing co-workers in the hallway, dropping items off to people’s offices, or eating company-provided meals. These interactions quickly add up, and without them, employees feel disconnected from one another. In a remote-first environment, companies need to plan and execute meaningful relationship development opportunities so teams feel connected.

Examples include providing shout-outs to employees for birthdays, assigning an activity to do outside of work and sharing those experiences during a virtual meeting, having different employees provide training to the team, and sending care packages to all employees. Moments like these allow employees to get to know one another and enjoy shared experiences in the workplace.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Remote-first Companies

Remote work means that most or all of the company works away from a shared company location. Hybrid work means that most or all of the company spends a combination of time in a remote setting and at a shared company location. Hybrid companies often define a set number of days in a week that employees are required to be present in person. This allows employers to take advantage of both in-person work positives, such as meaningful relationship creation, and the flexibility of remote work.
Until recent advances in technology, companies did not have an option to be remote-first. With faster internet speeds, virtual meeting platforms and collaborative software, companies now have the choice to start or become remote-first. This can range from a smaller central administrative team that meets in person with several remote employees to an entire company and its employees spread across a geographical area. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to consider how to operate remotely, and many committed to staying that way.
“Great question – you need to determine what their local laws are first to ensure you can comply with them easily. States like California are harder for smaller businesses since there are a lot of employer requirements. Once you know that you can comply, go to the Department of Revenue site for the state and register your business for Income Tax, and then go to the Department of Labor site to Register for Unemployment Tax. Once you get these accounts set up, make sure you input the withholding in your payroll system. Then make sure to contact your workers’ comp company to register the remote address as a work location to be covered. Most payroll systems report taxes for you and have a step-by-step process to help you set it up. If you are doing payroll manually then these are the first steps to take.” – Kelly Loudermilk
Austin Morgan

Austin became the HR Director at Discovery Connections in 2021. Before that he worked as an Account Manager for a Section 125 benefits and COBRA administrator. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Exercise Science in 2019 and from Southern Utah University with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership in 2021. At end of 2021, he became certified with SHRM-CP.

Originally from Oklahoma, Austin enjoys trying new foods in new places he travels to, watching college football, and snowboarding the local resorts in Utah. He has been married to his wife since 2019 and owns a cockapoo named Hershey.

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