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The world of work is changing. The pandemic has turned remote work into the new normal and even with the global health crisis approaching its end, it doesn’t look as though remote work is about to disappear any time soon. Well on the contrary!
Remote work models that have been introduced as emergency measures in response to COVID-19 are here to stay. A 2020 Gartner survey revealed that 82% of leaders were planning to allow their teams to work remotely at least some of the time after the end of the pandemic. On the employee side, there also is a strong wish to keep up the home office policies.
According to the 2021 Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report (US version), 1 in 3 employees announced to quit their jobs if they had to return to the office after the end of the pandemic. In response, jurisdictions all over the world are thinking about making remote work a fundamental employee right.
However, remote work isn’t a given. While flexible working arrangements and home office policies may have many advantages for employees and employers, companies need to guide their employees through the process and develop adequate policies and rules.
But first of all, they need to choose a remote work model which works for their business. When creating a remote work environment, leaders and HR have to decide whether they want to become remote-first or remote-friendly. In this blog post, we’ll tell you what’s the difference between remote-first and remote-friendly and highlight the benefits and disadvantages of both models.
The State Of Work
Remote-first describes a company that is fully remote and operates with a distributed team. Remote-first set-ups require a matching mindset. In organizations that declare themselves as remote-first, flexibility is part of the company DNA, so to say.
From collaboration tools to hiring procedures, everything is designed to allow a remote-first approach to work and foster a remote-first culture. In most cases, choosing the remote-first model involves having hardly any office space - or none at all - as team members are often distributed all over the country - or even all over the world.
Looking to work with a globally distributed team composed of not only full-time employees but also contractors and freelancers? Check out our related blog post and learn everything you need to know about hiring contractors for a remote-first workplace.
Employers may primarily focus on the fact that companies can save money with remote work, but there are more benefits to operating completely remote than just reduced costs for real estate and utilities. Looking at both the employer and the employee side, remote-first allows for the following benefits:
Access to a global talent pool
Increased employee productivity due to less distractions and better work-life-balance
Increased employee happiness and work satisfaction
Reduced environmental impact as employees don’t have to commute anymore
Major factor to help a company attract the best talent as remote work options are a sought-after perk among top performers
Improved resilience to changes and better crisis management (e.g. during a pandemic)
Although remote-first may sound like a dream come true for employees in favor of home office policies, there are also some downsides to it. Here are a few common challenges and pitfalls when working fully remotely:
Employees losing touch with what’s going on at the office (decisions, events etc.)
Failure to properly integrate new team members and no sense of community
Negative impact of time difference on team collaboration and workflows
Need to trust remote employees to fulfill their task even without direct supervision
Tasks and projects taking longer to complete because of the increased effort it takes to exchange messages and to work together efficiently
Read more about the challenges of making remote work a reality in our blog post 5 inconvenient truths about remote work.
Remote-friendly organizations are those that opt for a hybrid approach to remote work, i.e. employees switch between working in the office and working from home - or from another work location of their choice. Depending on the business’s degree of “remote-friendliness”, the number of days employees are allowed to work outside of the office varies between 1 and 4 per week. Another distinction is that remote work may not be available to all employees that work for the company.
Ask someone who is happy to spend at least one day per week working in the office and they will probably give you a whole list of benefits their hybrid working arrangement gives them. The advantages of a remote-friendly work model include:
Remote work benefits without complete lost of personal interactions
Regular check-ins with your staff
Ideal perk for employees who still want to have some connection with the office and their colleagues
Immediate and efficient communication between employees working in the same office
Stronger sense of belonging and connection with the workplace
Just as remote-first businesses, remote-friendly businesses also face some challenges that come with their chosen workplace model. These challenges include:
Possible feeling of inequality if some employees are allowed to work remotely and others aren’t
Finding the balance between the two mindsets (i.e. remote and on-site) can be challenging
Feeling of being left out when employees working at home don’t receive the same amount of information as their colleagues in the office
Difficulty of managing office space efficiently to avoid paying for empty desks
Learn more about the challenges and downsides of hybrid models in our blog post 5 signs your hybrid company is a toxic workplace.
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So where does that leave us when it comes to answering the question “What is the difference between remote-first and remote-friendly?” Ultimately, both concepts refer to the way a company works. The difference is the degree to which remote work is anchored in the organization. Here is an overview of the key differences between remote-first companies and remote-friendly companies with regard to factors such as communication, location of team members and management.
Regardless of whether an organization decides to go remote-first or to defend a remote-friendly policy, there are certain prerequisites that must be given for both models. In order to become a remote-friendly company, you need:
Office space: Even if your team only partially works in the office, they need a desk.
Remote work policy: A detailed remote work policy is needed to outline the rules governing home office arrangements.
Equipment: Even if your employees only work from home several days a week, they still need a suitable office environment there.
IT-security: Members of your team accessing tools and documents from outside the company premises always represent a security risk which requires additional safety measures.
When planning on going remote-first, companies need:
Remote-first company culture: Whether it’s virtual team building activities or the exclusive use of videoconferencing, you need to make remote your default culture.
Processes adapted to remote set-up: All processes and workflows need to be remote by default. This includes remote recruitment, onboarding and performance management.
Tools: Tools for asynchronous communication and collaboration are central to remote work success. Don’t forget: All team members should be familiar with how to use them.
Mindset: From productivity measurement to tracking working hours, remote-first companies need to move outside of traditional office mentalities.
Read our additional blog post about what mistakes companies usually make when going remote to know what pitfalls to look out for.
Although a remote-first company culture and mindset as well as tools and processes adapted to remote work are the basic requirements for any organization aspiring to go remote-first, it takes a lot more to manage a truly global team. Successful collaboration across different time zones doesn’t automatically guarantee your success as a remote-first business with a global workforce.
Especially when operating on a global scale, companies need to consider various other aspects. Think about compliance, payroll, contractor management, employee benefits management and international payments, to name but a few.
With a global payroll and compliance platform like Lano, you can forget about the administrative burden and compliance-related worries and instead focus on what really matters: Creating a remote-first company with a highly engaged global team that will drive your business forward.
Don’t let international borders stop you. Get in touch with our sales team to see how Lano’s global hiring and payroll solutions can help you compliantly manage and pay your globally distributed team.
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