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Remote-first: What it means and why you need to know about it

Right now, lots of us are working remotely whenever possible. But, looking to the future, you may be wondering whether to return to the office or continue to work from home. But there’s a third option. A remote-first approach offers the best of both worlds and may be worth considering as more and more staff begin to return to the workplace.

It can help foster productivity, employee satisfaction and ensure everyone remains on equal footing.

What does remote-first mean?

Adapting a remote-first culture is about making remote tools and processes an integral part of every employee’s workflow - whether they work remotely or not.

It’s different from regular remote working because employees can choose where they prefer to be based. The office still plays a huge role in your company, but everyone’s mindset is remote by default.

This approach guarantees that everyone is treated the same wherever they work. Nobody is excluded, because all work-related communications take place online.

Putting remote-first into practice

Remote-first is a philosophy, but it requires a few rules to make it work.

At this stage, most companies have remote tools in place. But in a remote-first environment, you need to ensure everyone uses them.

Unless every single team member is in the room together, all meetings should be held over Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts - or whatever your video tool of choice is. And everyone should log in separately.

This means if someone needs to make a presentation, it’s always done online with a digital slideshow that everyone can clearly see. In larger meetings, it means there’s no quiet chats at the table that remote staff don’t get to be a part of.

When done right, staff can’t tell who is sitting in the office and who is at home. But it requires trust in your employees.

Why is it important right now?

When lockdown winds down, some staff will want to return to the office - but others won’t.

Recently, the National Remote Working Employee Survey found that 94% of Irish workers would like to work remotely, some or all of the time, when the Covid-19 crisis ends.

So if you’re hoping to return to the ways things were pre-pandemic, you may experience some pushback. But becoming a remote-first company may provide a flexible option that will allow your staff to stay productive and happy.

Even if you plan to bring everyone back to the office eventually, going remote-first may be a sensible short-term solution while the office is at reduced capacity. It can help remote employees feel engaged and included while some staff return to the workplace.

Examples of remote-first companies

Like with remote work in general, tech companies paved the way for the remote-first philosophy. Well-known names like Automattic (the team behind WordPress), Basecamp, Buffer, Zapier, Hotjar and Toggl are all well-established remote-first tech companies. But some businesses based in Ireland are going remote-first too.

Although Teamwork invested €1.1 million fitting out its Belfast office earlier this year (ouch!), the company announced its decision to take on a remote-first mindset. It will use its offices as corporate HQs, meeting places and training centres, while staff can work from wherever they like.

In Dublin, Dropbox also announced plans to become a virtual-first workplace - that’s the company’s term for remote-first. It plans to establish collaborative spaces at key locations so its teams can get together from time-to-time. Dropbox kindly made its virtual-first toolkit publicly available, if you want to take a look.

How remote-first can impact recruitment

Because you’re treating staff equally and offering them freedom and flexibility, remote-first is likely to benefit employee retention. It could even prove to be a perk that makes your business more attractive to new candidates.

Beyond this, a remote-first approach means you don’t have to limit your hiring choices. You can take on people who like remote work, office life and everything in between. While it may require a change in contract terms, going remote-first is definitely an option to consider for the future.

Contact Prosperity

Want advice on how to approach work and recruitment in a post-Covid world? Contact the team at Prosperity. Our recruiters are always happy to share their expert advice and industry insights.

 


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