What is Remote First?

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As we all know, the pandemic which spread throughout the globe in 2020 had severe repercussions. Most countries initiated a stay at home policy wherever possible for their populations and huge numbers of people began working from home for the first time in their careers. What transpired as the months passed was not an overwhelming desire to return the office as quickly as possible but a growing awareness that the job was being done as well as, if not better, than it was being done in the office. Many companies have quickly adapted and embraced this way of working and see it as the way forward. I see more and more companies saying they are remote first – but what is remote first?

remote first

Definition

Simply put – remote first is where companies will predominantly offer remote working as the default option for employees. Few of the employees will be required to go into an office, although some employees may still prefer to work in an office for whatever reason. However, the majority will work remotely either from home or from where they prefer outside of the corporate office. For a detailed explanation of work from home (or telecommuting) check out the article HERE.

The List is Growing

It didn’t take business leaders (and the accountants supplying the business leaders figures) long to see that working from home was saving companies money. From all the obvious costs associated with running a city centre office such as electricity, rates, rent, maintenance to not so obvious costs such as providing fruit, coffee and tea provisions, and even lunch subsidies the savings have been enormous. Couple that with a dawning realisation that (most) people actually work when they’ve been asked to – in fact productivity has been noted as increasing during the lock down period which must have surprised some micro managing bosses.

So, the list of companies which have seen a glimpse of what the potential savings could be and have decided to do something about it has been steadily increasing since mid 2020. Sure, there are certain voices which are shouting conflicting narratives such as: “everyone wants to return to the office” and “it’s where people are more productive” but dig a little and you find out that these people generally have a vested interest in people returning in large numbers back to centrally located offices! Either they turn out to have large investments in office properties, or own or run outlets in city centre locations that require people to return.

So some companies that have decided to embrace the remote working ethos include:

  • Nationwide – they plan to reduce their physical offices down from 20 to 4. “We think the world is changing. We’ve got to take cost out of the system. We want to enable sustainable growth” says their CEO Kirt Walker.
  • Shopify – their CEO Tobi Lutke said in 2020: “As of today. shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.”
  • Hitachi – “the tech conglomerate’s eventual goal is to have 70% of it’s workforce – about 23,000 people – work remotely for two or three days a week” – that was from CNN’s Kaorji Enjoji.
  • Fujitsu – in a statement from the company they said that employees will “begin to primarily work on a remote basis to achieve a working style that allows them to flexibly use their time according to the contents of their work, business roles, and lifestyle.”
  • Siemens – “The aim is to enable employees worldwide to work on a mobile basis for an average of two or three days a week, whenever reasonable and feasible.” quoted in a statement from the company.
  • Pinterest – “Pinterest pays $89.5M to terminate San Francisco office lease” from a SFGATE article. CFO Todd Morgenfeld said “As we analyze how our workplace will change in a post-Covid world, we are specifically rethinking where future employees could be based.”
  • Deutsche Bank – CEO Christian Sewing quoted as saying “the bank’s leadership is working on a new “hybrid model” for how staff can split work between the office and their homes.

Just a small selection of companies which have made remote workit clear that there’s no going back to the 5 day 9-5 for their employees.

Most of the companies I’ve listed are the more traditional ones which were most surprising and added to them are a long list of tech companies who I would consider to be early adopters of forward thinking work practices.

So companies like:

  • Twitter
  • Square
  • Coinbase
  • Facebook
  • Box
  • Slack
  • Quora
  • Basecamp
  • Hubspot

and many others are also embracing remote first working as the default.

Benefits of Remote First

Its important again just to detail the benefits to the company of adopting a remote first approach. I wrote an article recently which detailed the thoughts of the owner of FirstBase Chris Herd (an obvious and very vocal remote first champion) – you can read this article HERE.

Chris certainly is in favour of remote first working and his thoughts for the future are really interesting. Some of these predictions will surely come to pass and some of them possibly will not but some clear benefits to remote first working are obvious:

Cost Savings

As we’ve already stated the obvious big winner for companies who adopt the remote first approach is cost savings. In an ever more competitive market place, being able to save money in any area has a huge impact. The ability to be able to continue working (and being as, if not more productive) and reduce the office space required will drastically improve the bottom line for these companies.

As more and more companies adopt it, the ones who do not will find themselves being left behind with their reduced profit margin. It will only be a matter of time before shareholders demand that companies adopt remote first working or investment will shift to those companies that do.

On top of their obvious savings when it comes to office space, adopting a remote first approach will also see a positive impact to their compensation budgets as they expand their “recruitment net” further afield into possible lower salary bracket locations.

Talent Availability

With the physical restriction of only being able to recruit people within a certain commuting distance to an office gone the ability to recruit globally will become a reality. This will have a huge impact on recruitment policy and impact traditional recruitment techniques. There are different skill required for remote interviews for example! Companies will be able to recruit the best (or in some cases) the cheaper options for roles especially for specialised roles.

Employee Satisfaction

Employees will be happier, with reduced or totally eliminated commute times they will have more time (and more money) to do with as they wish. The flexibility for employees to work around personal stuff but remain productive will reap rewards for both employer and employee. This will hopefully have really positive benefits for women in the workplace as the emphasis shifts from who is “seen” in the office to the work actually being produced.

Company Flexibility

The ability for a company to expand (or contract) quickly will be a huge benefit. As a company grows it will no longer have to consider the thought of having to move to larger premises to house increasing numbers of employees with all the disruption that includes. In larger cities moving an office may even result in the loss of a number of employees as the commute becomes just too difficult – in a remote first situation this just wouldn’t happen! Without the need for physical infrastructure the company becomes much more adaptable to changing conditions.

 

It is clear to me that “remote first” as well as “remote friendly” has been driven predominantly mainstream following the pandemic outbreak but now that the genie is out of the bottle there is no way that it is going back in there! The days of commuting and working long hours in an office five days a week are hopefully going to be relegated to the history books.

What are your thoughts on working from home? Do you like the remote first arrangement or do would you prefer to be more remote friendly? Let me know your thoughts and ideas for work in the coming months and years in the comments below. As ever I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, take care.

Dave

Simple wfh

2 thoughts on “What is Remote First?”

  1. A great article, and thought provoking. I guess we will see if the big businesses stick to their current promises. The differences wfh has brought to our family over the last year has been an upside to this awful pandemic. Quality of life has improved, quality of family life especially. This needs to remain, families, people have to come first.

    Reply
    • Hi Jax,

      Yes, the last year has been stressful in so many ways but one positive has been the fact that families have had more time to spend together. Of course there are those who may have seen this as a negative thing but, on the whole, personally I think being there when the kids have come home from school has been great.
      I certainly don’t want to go back to commuting five days a week to do the same job I can do at home!
      Quality of life, you are exactly right!

      Take care,

      Dave

      Reply

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