What is a remote-first organization?

A remote first company can win the war on talent

As a consultant, I understand the challenges that medium-sized organizations face in today’s globalized work environment. With the increasing trend of remote work and the war on talent, implementing a remote-first policy is essential for companies to remain competitive.

Covid as accelerator

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the workplace. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, technological advancements, and changing attitudes toward work have rapidly increased remote work opportunities. In this article, we will look at the advantages of implementing a remote-first policy, how to successfully transition to a remote work model, and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Gen-Z 

Individuals born between 1997 and 2012 are referred to as Gen Z and the first generation to grow up in a fully digital world. As a result, they are more at ease with technology and have become accustomed to communicating and collaborating remotely.

Gen Z’s distinguishing characteristics are their desire for flexibility and work-life balance. According to a Deloitte survey, 80% of Gen Z respondents prefer to work from home at least some of the time. Remote work allows them to work when and where they want, which aligns with their values.

Furthermore, Generation Z is more likely to prioritize their mental health and well-being, and remote work can assist them in achieving a better work-life balance. According to a Microsoft report, remote workers are less stressed and more productive than those who work in a traditional office setting.

On top of that, Gen Z is more socially and environmentally conscious, and remote work aligns with their values of reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact by eliminating daily commutes. Remote work also promotes a more diverse and inclusive workplace by removing geographic barriers and allowing talented individuals to pursue opportunities regardless of location.

Gen-Z workers having a conversation while working remote-first (Photo by Helena Lopes)

The Value of going Remote-First

Many organizations are now required to implement a remote-first policy. This is especially true after the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many businesses to shift to remote work overnight. However, even before the pandemic, remote work was becoming more popular. According to a Buffer 2020 survey, 98% of remote workers want to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.

Before we start objecting that it’s not for our team, understand that an asynchronous-first workstyle still allows being in the office as much as one likes, but that the outdated industrial model can’t be used for even occasional homework. This is not anti-office employees change; it’s a change that benefits all the knowledge workers in the organization. Classical, hybrid or (semi-)remote.

Global Talent Pool

One of the primary advantages of a remote-first policy is the ability to tap into a global talent pool. Companies that are not bound by geography can hire the best talent from anywhere in the world. This means that businesses can attract and retain top performers no matter where they are, giving them a competitive advantage in the war for talent.

Job Satisfaction and retention 

Remote work also gives employees more flexibility. It allows employees to work from home or anywhere on their own time. This flexibility can help employees achieve a better work-life balance, increasing job satisfaction and retention. Furthermore, remote work can boost productivity because employees are less likely to burn out and can better manage their workload.

Costs

Furthermore, going async and remote can help businesses cut costs. Companies that do not require a physical office space can save money on rent, utilities, and other related expenses. This can lead to increased profits for the company, which can be reinvested in different business areas.

Management Style

A different leadership style is needed in an asynchronous-first company than in a conventional in-person office setting. Remote leaders must be flexible, self-driven, and have excellent communication and teamwork abilities. They must be able to effectively lead a distributed team and foster a sense of accountability among team members who may be located in various time zones or nations.

Transparency, clear communication, and trust are the top priorities for an async-first organization’s management style. A culture of open communication should be promoted by team leaders, who should also encourage their members to express their opinions and ask questions. They must also establish clear expectations and guidelines for remote work, including preferred communication channels, response times, and availability hours.

Furthermore, remote leaders need to be able to lead and inspire their teams without resorting to micromanagement. They should give their team members the tools and support they need to succeed and encourage them to take ownership of their work. Additionally, rather than observing the daily activities of their team members, leaders should concentrate on the results.

Generally, a management approach that prioritizes teamwork, trust, and outcomes is ideal for a remote-first organization. Since team members may be dispersed across the globe, remote leaders must be able to effectively manage their team without relying on in-person interactions. They must also foster a sense of belonging and shared purpose among team members.

Changing to a Remote-First Policy

Transitioning to a remote-first policy can be daunting, but it is doable with the right approach. Here are some things to think about when making the transition:

  • Establish clear expectations: It is critical to establish clear expectations for managers and employees. Outlining the expected work hours, communication channels, and productivity metrics are all part of this.
  • Create an asynchronous work culture: Asynchronous communication is a critical component of remote work. Teams can work across time zones and avoid the need for constant video calls or meetings by encouraging employees to communicate asynchronously.
  • Invest in the right technology: A successful transition to remote work requires an investment in the right technology. This includes communication, project management, and collaboration tools.
  • Provide training: Training for managers and employees is essential for a smooth transition to remote work. This includes instruction in best practices for remote work, communication, and technology.
  • Develop a remote-friendly company culture: A remote-friendly company culture is critical for a smooth transition to remote work. This includes encouraging social interaction, promoting work-life balance, and recognizing remote employees’ contributions.

Pitfalls to avoid in the remote-first company:

  • Communication breakdown: Communication is critical to the success of any remote-first policy. Without effective communication, the team may feel disconnected and isolated, resulting in decreased productivity and team cohesion. It is critical to ensure that communication channels are established and that all team members understand how to use them effectively.
  • Misaligned Expectations: Aligning expectations with team members is critical to ensuring everyone is on the same page. This includes establishing clear goals, deadlines, and work quality expectations. Furthermore, it is vital to provide regular feedback and maintain open lines of communication to address any concerns or issues.
  • Lack of Trust: In a remote-first environment, trust is essential. Team members who lack trust may feel micromanaged, leading to a lack of motivation and productivity. It is critical to have faith in team members and hold them accountable for their responsibilities.
  • Burnout: Because remote work blurs the lines between work and personal life, it can lead to burnout. Team members should be encouraged to take breaks and set boundaries to avoid burnout. Encourage team members to take time off as needed and to disconnect after work hours.
  • Isolation: Working from home can be isolating, resulting in a lack of team cohesion and productivity. Cultivating a sense of community and encouraging team members to connect and collaborate regularly is critical. Regular virtual team meetings, team-building activities, and social events can help achieve this.
Crossing the gap between old industrial thinking and going remote first is challenging for an organization. 
(Photo by Mary Taylor)

Mitigate risks, pitfalls

In order to avoid these pitfalls, it pays to work around these points:

  • Create Communication Channels: Create communication channels like email, instant messaging, and video conferencing. Ensure that all team members understand how to use these effectively and that they are used for both work-related and social interactions.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Align expectations with team members by establishing clear goals, deadlines, and work quality expectations. Maintain open lines of communication and provide regular feedback to address any concerns or issues.
  • Encourage Trust: Put your trust in team members and hold them accountable for their responsibilities. Encourage open communication and collaboration to foster team trust.
  • Encourage Work-Life Balance: To avoid burnout, encourage team members to take breaks and set boundaries. This includes taking needed time off and disconnecting after work hours.
  • Foster community among team members by holding regular virtual team meetings, team-building activities, and social events. To create a solid remote-first team culture, encourage collaboration and teamwork.

Summary

With the rise of remote work and the talent war, it is critical for businesses to adapt and embrace a remote-first policy to attract top talent and remain competitive in today’s global employment market, whether we implement this company-wide in 1 step or per team.

Organized asynchronous companies provide flexible work arrangements that benefit both the company and its employees. Increased productivity, lower costs, and improved employee satisfaction and retention are all benefits of prioritizing asynchronous work over the industrial nine-to-five in the office.

Remote-first or asynchronous-first is no longer a fad but a requirement for businesses to succeed in today’s dynamic business environment. It is necessary to recognize the advantages of working remotely, including higher productivity, cost savings, and access to a broader range of talent. By implementing a workstyle that begins with remote or asynchronous process thinking, companies can maintain their competitiveness and attract the best talent, including the burgeoning Gen Z workforce.

Companies must prioritize asynchronous communication, invest in technology and tools, establish clear communication channels and expectations, and foster a robust remote company culture to implement a remote-first working style. It is also essential to avoid common pitfalls like micromanagement, a lack of trust, and poor communication.

A remote-first approach is now a requirement rather than an option. Companies can reap many benefits and gain an advantage over rivals by adopting this new working method. Now is the time to act.

Want to know more?

Many of these concepts are developed in detail in The Suitcase Office.

Managers play a crucial role in the transition to remote-first work

What is a remote-first company?

A remote-first company values remote work and loves a distributed workforce. Remote and asynchronous work is the default mode of operation, with the physical office considered optional. Companies prioritizing remote work use technology to facilitate communication and collaboration and develop policies and practices that encourage remote work. They prioritize results over hours worked and give their employees flexibility and autonomy. The company aims to foster a culture of trust, accountability, and collaboration that enables employees to work anywhere globally.

What are the benefits of working for a remote-first company?

Working for a remote-first company has numerous advantages. Employees have the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they want, which can result in a better work-life balance. Working from home eliminates the need for a daily commute, reducing stress and boosting productivity. Remote-first businesses frequently provide their employees with cutting-edge technology and tools to improve communication and collaboration. Remote work also promotes a more diverse and inclusive workforce by removing geographic barriers to employment. Finally, because employees have more autonomy and control over their work environment, working for a remote-first company can increase job satisfaction.

Are there any downsides to working for a remote-first company?

Working for a remote-first company has drawbacks, such as a lack of face-to-face interaction and potential feelings of isolation. Remote work necessitates self-discipline and motivation, and it is only for some. Establishing work-life boundaries can also be problematic when working from home. On the other hand, many companies provide resources and support to help their employees overcome these obstacles and achieve a healthy work-life balance.

What should I consider before joining a remote-first company?

Before joining a remote-first company, think about your work style and preferences. While remote work has many advantages, such as flexibility and a better work-life balance, it also necessitates self-discipline and independence. You must be able to manage your time effectively and be comfortable working without the structure and accountability of a physical office.

It’s also good to look into the company’s remote work policies and culture. Look for feedback from current or former remote employees to understand what working for the company from afar is like. Consider the communication tools and technology that the company employs to ensure effective collaboration, and inquire about their onboarding and training process for remote employees. Finally, you can determine whether a remote-first company is a good fit for you by carefully considering these factors.

This post is also available in: Engels Frans

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