“Remote-first” is a term that has been receiving massive recognition recently as an attractive recruitment keyword. It is usually mentioned with context to a remote-first company, stressing that there’s barely any difference between a remote worker and an office worker. However, is that it?
Except being recruitment jargon for “the ability to work from home,” ‘remote-first’ indicates a few other key aspects of how a company collaborates and operates. More importantly, it typically doesn’t define only one aspect of the remote work model. In fact, whether an organization has several offices, a single office, or is completely distributed, all can belong to the ‘remote-first’ concept.
In this blog, we discuss the essentials of a remote-first company, the norms such companies follow, and how you can establish a successful and thriving remote-first culture by hiring the best talent seamlessly.
There are various 100% remote companies out there that aren’t remote-first. So what does being a remote-first company actually mean?
Simply put, any company that puts its remote employees on a level playing field as its in-office employees is remote-first. In the past, remote workers were often neglected regarding promotions, decision-making opportunities, and key conversations. The remote-first company heavily relies on efficient communication with remote employees, ensuring they don’t feel neglected.
Here are a few ways remote-first companies do this -
Maintaining records on critical ideas and discussions can help remote workers consistently stay updated on decision-making. By establishing a centralized knowledge base, a remote-first company can remove any information or metrics that affect their remote team and only keep the necessary information to help them stay updated on what is happening in the organization.
Team members who work from home or work remotely are often located in different time zones. Asynchronous discussions ensure no one misses important meetings/conversations. Consequently, asynchronous communication is a must for a remote-first company.
As an extra benefit, asynchronous communication builds conversation records that remote teams can refer to later. For example, you can use a specific Slack channel to post current events and company-wide discussions or projects. Employees who miss these can easily use the channel to update themselves.
It’s very easy for fully remote employees to feel isolated when working apart. Remote-first companies often arrange team-building and socialization events to help such employees feel more included and have chances to connect with their co-workers. These can be anything from a weekly sync to discuss more than work, celebrate wins, and evening coffee syncs to in-person meetings arranged by the company. They help remote workers feel more familiar with the other team members in various departments and enhance team morale, simultaneously encouraging a more robust working environment.
As mentioned earlier, a remote-first company isn’t the same as a fully remote one. The key distinction has more to do with centralizing and normalizing the virtual workspace rather than focusing on offering a remote environment. While those engaged in remote work can often feel like external members hired by in-office personnel, a remote-first culture helps to eliminate this perception by keeping collaboration equal, human, and natural.
In practice, a remote company must establish the appropriate tech infrastructure and processes to foster asynchronous and transparent working and offer equal opportunities, perks, access, and inclusion for remote and in-house staff. The main pillars of a remote-first company include -
As mentioned above, team-building and socialization are key to being a robust remote-first company. It is because day-to-day human interactions like in-office workspace don’t occur when teams work remotely. A successful remote culture must focus on virtual bonding and taking steps to foster positive interactions amongst team members. It can be done in various ways, via dedicated social channels for conversations, team social events, friendly competitions, and other opportunities for casual interactions.
Yes, all this should still be supported with in-person meetings, if possible. It helps distribute employees with vital emotional context - from their colleague’s personality to sense of humor - which enriches relationships and builds empathy. It humanizes such employees who are more than just a face and name on an avatar, encouraging those interpersonal interactions that can help workers communicate more effectively with one another later.
We’ve already established the significance of asynchronous communication in a remote-first company. Companies striving to create and maintain a remote-first culture must ensure that their employees don’t feel largely different from an office-based organization. For this to happen, you must adapt communication to your virtual workspace, where asynchronous interactions come into play.
Every team member must know when, where, and how to communicate. Where are decisions made? Where are the discussions happening? What channels should they use to receive support? All these rely on async communication, which remote companies can conduct effectively via asynchronous communication tools that document company-wide conversations in a single, easy-to-search space. It provides equal access to every key discussion and allows remote employees to engage in such conversations as per their schedules.
While working asynchronously is imperative, it doesn’t mean a remote-first company should not devote time to the synchronous counterpart. Video calls are extremely important to foster connectivity in remote work environments and to avoid the tendency for remote interactions to become transactional and dry. But, you can still make these available to be accessed asynchronously. Recording crucial video meetings can help employees still access them, which is even more important for workers operating across different time zones.
Above all, a remote-first company requires trust to prosper. Remote workers must be allowed to work where and when they want, on their terms. Sure, you can establish a mandatory set of hours for overlapped time zones, but micromanaging employees can make them feel distrusted, which can quickly erode the company culture. Bearing that not all candidates are suited to work remotely, companies hiring remote workers must focus on those who are comfortable and happy working autonomously.
As we discussed earlier, being remote-first doesn’t necessarily mean a company with a fully remote team. In fact, some of today’s most popular remote-first companies, such as Basecamp, have offices where in-person collaborations occur.
The key difference between the two is the default working arrangement, which is usually remote. Even if the company has an office space, it’s only used as a place for team members to hang out or as a physical collaboration center. A remote-first company focuses more on keeping work conditions the exact same for those working remotely. Such a culture entails the best practices of remote work instead of it being a work arrangement or setup. As such, remote-first means that distributed employees will have equal access to decisions and discussions as their in-office counterparts.
Being ‘remote-first’ and ‘fully remote’ aren’t the only variants that remote work entails. There’s also ‘remote-friendly,’ where a company is remote but still encourages in-office work and favors synchronous communication.
Remote-friendly teams often communicate synchronously, discussing decisions and ideas in not-so-official spaces. In contrast, remote-first companies choose asynchronous communication as the default option, ensuring conversations can be shared with everyone.
Meetings are another strong comparison point here. Remote-friendly organizations can freely schedule their meetings in the company’s time zone. However, remote-first companies only hold meetings when absolutely necessary and are scheduled as per international employees’ time zones.
In remote-friendly settings, working remotely is more of a privilege to be enjoyed occasionally, but the key decisions and meetings are held in the office. A remote-first company treats remote work as their default setting, and in-person office space is available only for social events or collaborative tasks if needed.
Most remote-friendly companies generally measure their employees’ productivity based on how much time they spend in the office. However, the main metric remote-first companies use is output. They prioritize deliverables over attendance, evaluating how employees contribute to their assigned tasks instead of how much time they devote.
Today, most large-scale tech organizations seek to establish remote-first workflows. The reason? Integrating remote work into the organization is the most productive option, making communication more seamless. Going remote-first sets up a robust balance between casual and informative communications, preventing the company culture from creating a ‘us vs. them’ environment.
There are multiple benefits of being a remote-first company, including -
Reduced costs - Going remote-first automatically means decreased expenses, as your employees won't need an office space to work in. Plus, you wouldn’t have to worry about paying for taxes, internet connectivity, transportation, etc., that would otherwise be needed for in-office employees.
Increased productivity - Remote-first employees’ performance is evaluated based on output rather than time spent. Hence, it allows remote work teams to know when and where they can be the most productive.
Hiring the top talent - What used to be the best-kept recruitment secret is now open to everyone: hiring remote employees to ensure the availability of a vast talent pool of skilled workers. Going remote-first allows you to hire elite talent from anywhere in the world instead of restricting your search and recruiting mediocre workers.
Improving employee satisfaction - Given the flexible nature of a remote-first company, workers are more likely to feel in control of their schedules and use the flexibility to improve their lifestyles. It results in a good work-life balance, making them more satisfied with their workplace and hence, more productive.
As important as it is to manage teams and ensure they perform optimally, it’s equally challenging to do these when aiming to be a remote-first company. However, implementing the right strategies can be helpful. Listed below are the essentials you must follow to create a successful remote-first environment.
Communication is one area where remote work can often lag behind. There are multiple things to consider here:
All these can often leave room for communication gaps, which can be overcome using the correct protocols and tools. As a remote-first company, you must use video conferencing and dedicated collaboration channels such as Microsoft Teams and Slack for seamless communication. Additionally, using a shared drive such as Microsoft 365 or Google Drive can go a long way in helping employees create and collaborate on files and documents and access them when needed.
With multiple time zones, differing schedules, and personal engagements involved, it becomes difficult to find suitable times and conduct meetings effectively. A few best practices for holding proper virtual meetings are to schedule them at least a few hours in advance and share related documents (agendas, discussion topics, Q&As, etc.) before the meeting. Plus, sharing recaps afterward is key to keeping everyone on the same page.
A few tips to help you have effective virtual meetings are given below.
It goes hand in hand with the fact that a remote-first company measures an employee’s output, not time. Instead of focusing on hours spent on assigned work, consider the tasks finished and the results achieved by your remote employees. Avoid micromanaging, and offer as much flexibility as possible in terms of work hours. All these are the essence of remote work, and as long as they don’t interfere with an employee’s ability to get their work done, let them work according to their schedule. Ultimately, these account for your employees having better satisfaction at work and increased productivity to work on projects as efficiently as possible.
In a remote-first company, sharing key information via private channels or word of mouth can quickly result in disaster. Thus, ensure that you document everything - from updates and communications to business processes - in shared and centralized online platforms and tools. Using such tools will ensure that all the information is seamlessly accessible, reducing any friction or problem caused by not having the key data.
Besides ensuring access to critical information, using secure and reliable digital tools helps with data backups and security. Hence, restrict your team members from storing vital company documentation locally to avoid data leaks. Ensure they stick to the pre-established information or document sharing tools to avoid a security breach.
While it’s important to note how lucrative remote jobs can be, we must not forget that it does come with the obvious barrier of no in-person communication. As such, operating remotely with your employees and team members can quickly become a hefty task.
However, numerous tools and technologies today can help you avoid this problem. Here are the top tools of 2022 that can help you efficiently collaborate with your remote workers globally.
Measuring a remote-first company’s success can be tricky. Since your team members and you aren’t collaborating in person. You may not always see first-hand how they’re doing and hence, have a vague idea if your strategies are winning. But, undertaking the right steps can help you measure your success as a remote organization. Here are a few such steps you can implement: -
Implementing internal feedback processes - While internal feedback is vital for any company, it is even more critical when working remotely. Make it a mandatory process for your remote employees to fill out short surveys where they can share their honest thoughts about the workplace, colleague performance, their strengths and weaknesses, and so on. This plays a major role in your remote teams’ performance evaluation and helps you identify what’s working and what needs improvement.
Focusing on results instead of time - As we mentioned earlier, focusing on your employee’s productivity instead of time spent is key to being an efficient remote-first company. Successful virtual teams put minimal emphasis on how much time was spent on a task; instead, there should be more concentration on the outcome. If your employees deliver work that fulfills the agreed-upon objectives, it doesn’t matter how many hours they’ve logged in. Better the outcome, the more successful your company gets.
Setting quarterly OKRs - Quarterly ‘objectives and key results’ are an excellent way to break down impactful goals into smaller, more digestible objectives. These OKRs provide a framework to put your company’s goals on paper which your team can use to convert brand vision into reality. Defining OKRs and clearly stating them to your team members can help them better understand what to do in order to help the company achieve success.
In today’s aggressive IT environment, being a remote-first company is essential for business success. It allows you to stay agile in this dynamic atmosphere, making the right moves to not only pick up the best talent but to survive and thrive amidst the constantly changing business landscape.
If you are a remote-first organization and want to recruit the best remote software talent, Turing is here to help. Our AI-backed Intelligent Talent Cloud combines cutting-edge technology and planetary reach to help you source, vet, match, and manage a skilled workforce seamlessly. You can watch this video to know more about how we vet software developers and match you with Silicon Valley-caliber engineers. Hire software engineers with Turing, and we will help you scale your development team within 3-5 days.
Soumik is a technical content writer at Turing. He’s experienced in creating content for multiple industries, including B2B, Healthcare, Tech, and Marketing. Beyond that, he loves Formula 1, football, and absolutely anything tech-related.
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