Remote working is not so new. However, with the recent pandemic, many businesses had to adopt remote working practices to keep their operations running. It’s no secret that remote working allows businesses to save on overhead costs and increase productivity. With the continuous advances in technology over the years, remote working has become increasingly accessible to more people worldwide. In fact, many companies are now building remote-first organizations. According to a McKinsey study, about 80% of employers reported a positive or neutral effect on employee productivity during the pandemic. This phenomenon is due, in large part, to the remote-first strategy.
What is a remote-first strategy, and how is it different from a remote work policy?
A remote-first strategy is a business approach that treats remote work as the default way of work. Unlike offering remote work as an option or a reward for employees’ performance or a work-from-home policy, the remote-first strategy centers around the idea that remote work is for every employee, not just a privilege for a few. Hence, an employer’s default position is that much of the staff will work from remote locations. This is, therefore, different from a remote work policy, which is a set of guidelines that intersect with the organization’s culture, work schedule, and overall company goals. A remote-first strategy, on the other hand, starts from the premise that remote work is the most effective solution to completing tasks.
There are many reasons to implement a remote-first strategy, but it is crucial that businesses learn effective ways to do so to maximize their benefits.
Advantages of a Remote-First Strategy
The remote-first strategy comes with numerous benefits that are difficult to ignore, such as:
Increased and Quality Work Time
Remote-first companies report that employees have more quality work without being distracted by the office environment’s commotion. Remote workers enjoy more uninterrupted blocks of work time, which leads to better productivity reports. Unlike workers in a traditional office setting who may get sidetracked by conversations with coworkers or loud office space, remote workers can work in silence and focus on delivering results, thereby increasing the quality of work.
Improved Cost Efficiency
Remote-first strategies can significantly cut costs for businesses, especially where overhead expenses are high. Office space, utilities, security, and parking costs are some of the expenses companies will save on under such strategies. In some cases, early adopters of the remote-first approach have gone as far as completely eliminating physical office spaces and all accompanying expenses.
Greater Access to High-Quality Talent
By embracing remote work, companies will be able to connect with top talents worldwide without the restrictions of geographic locations. This attribute can improve creativity, diversity, and the overall skills of employees that can ultimately benefit companies in many ways, such as increasing the overall profitability rate.
Remote-first strategies allow employees to have better work-life balance, as they can work when and where they are most productive. This allows workers to attend to personal needs without feeling obligated to ask for time off or working with the worry of the possibility of not getting any work done. The flexible working hours can translate to higher job satisfaction rates, while also ensuring that employees complete assigned duties and meet company objectives.
Tips for Implementing A Successful Remote-First Strategy
Develop Effective Communication Protocols
Effective communication is critical in a remote work setting. Remote-first companies should establish communication channels for team members to discuss work progress, goals, and other crucial business matters. To execute effective communication protocols, companies should source for videoconferencing tools to hold regular meetings, encourage work virtual spaces, as well as make instant messaging services available to everyone involved in a particular task.
Establish Work Schedule Guidelines
When it comes to working remotely, employees should not work round the clock. Remote-first businesses need to establish working hour guidelines that employees should follow to avoid burnout. Workers should know when to log in and log out of work discussions and when to take breaks. Effective work-hour policies can guarantee that remote workers are productive, efficient, and not overworked.
Invest in the Right Technology
A remote-first strategy cannot work correctly without technology. With the tools and resources found on the internet these days, this has made working remotely incredibly achievable. A proper tech infrastructure will ensure that each remote worker can complete their job effectively. A few of the technologies companies require in building an efficient remote-first business model are project management software, video conferencing tools, messaging apps, remote access tools, and a secure network. The advanced technology can help the organization to create an efficient online work process, perfect for remote work as it facilitates smoother communication, keeps tasks aligned and ensures maximum productivity.
Build a Corporate Culture of Trust and Communication
When people work remotely, it can be challenging to ascertain what they are doing at certain times. Employees may also feel disconnected from the rest of the team. Modern companies need to develop a corporate culture of trust that reinforces the importance of communication at all levels. The development of this culture can be deepened by fostering an environment where team members are encouraged to collaborate, speak freely, share knowledge and ideas without repercussions.
Use Proper Management and Collaborative Tools
Effective management and collaboration tools are essential for a remote-first strategy to work. Collaborative tools help to track real-time information sharing and updates on work progress, while management tools like project management tools enable the companies to keep things organized and facilitate collaboration regardless of time zones. All teams must have access to essential information in real-time to enable them to work together harmoniously towards a common objective.
Challenges of Remote-First Strategies
Remote work involves accessing data online, which creates significant security risks if not properly addressed. Remote workers can inadvertently click on malicious links or download infected files that can compromise the organization’s sensitive data. Hence, companies need to invest in ideal security tools that will prevent attacks, monitor and provide alerts when threats occur.
Loneliness and Isolation
Despite working remotely, employees must still work together as a team to meet company objectives. The remote-first strategy can often cause loneliness and isolation, which can lead to lower job satisfaction and increased chances of depression if it continues. Business owners can address these challenges by ensuring that team members participate regularly in both virtual and in-person team building activities.
Remote-first companies can encounter challenges around how they manage the organization’s culture. The absence of face-to-face conversations could make the employees become distant and disjointed from the company’s values, vision, and mission. A remedy to this is to foster multiple cultural initiatives while leveraging communication channels, including proper onboarding of new hires, conducting online engagement activities, and excellent communication strategies.
The remote-first strategy is proving to be a successful business approach for gaining access to high-quality talent, improving productivity, reducing costs, and achieving higher overall job satisfaction rates. Greater flexibility for employees as they balance different aspects of their lives is the biggest benefit of remote working. In implementing a remote-first strategy, businesses should invest in the right technologies, develop effective communication protocols, establish guidelines around work schedules, trust and communication, among others. The challenges of remote-first strategies lie in culture management, isolation, and security, which must be well-considered in deploying a remote-first approach. Overall, remote-first strategies are the way to go for businesses that desire improved functioning and growth in the digital age.