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What Is the Opposite of Remote-First?

In the era of the global pandemic, remote work has gained unprecedented popularity. Companies have had to make a sudden shift to remote work or a hybrid model, with many implementing remote-first policies, giving employees the opportunity to work from anywhere.

As remote work has been the norm for over a year, it’s worth asking the question, “what is the opposite of remote-first?” The answer is simple: office-first.

Office-first companies prioritize physical office locations, and require employees to work from designated office spaces. Previous to the pandemic, office-first was the norm, but remote-first policies may become more commonplace as many companies have seen the benefits of remote work.

differences between remote-first and office-first approaches

Here are some key differences between remote-first and office-first approaches:


Remote-first companies provide employees with more flexibility, giving them the option to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Work-from-home policies eliminate the need to spend time and money commuting, and workers can create a workspace tailored to their preferences.

In contrast, office-first companies typically require employees to show up to a designated physical office space. Having to commute to work can be tiring and time-consuming, and employees often have fewer choices in where they spend their work hours.


Communication styles also differ between the two approaches. Remote-first companies typically rely more heavily on asynchronous communication, such as emails, chat messages, or task assignment tools.

Asynchronous communication allows employees to communicate with each other at any time, eliminating the need for everyone to be in the same place at once. In contrast, office-first companies typically rely more on synchronous communication, such as in-person meetings, phone calls, or video conferences.


Remote-first companies are still able to foster collaboration, whether it be through virtual conference calls or online collaborative tools like Trello or Asana.

Office-first companies, on the other hand, place a greater emphasis on in-person collaboration. Open office spaces, team lunch outings, and after-work socials are all ways to create team bonding and connection.

Productivity and Accountability

Remote-first companies place a greater emphasis on metrics, deadlines, and deliverables. This focus on results helps to ensure a higher level of productivity and allows employees to work at their own pace without fear of being micromanaged.

Office-first companies, in contrast, may rely more heavily on time clocks and are more focused on visible indicators of productivity, such as who shows up the earliest or stays the latest.

The Future of Remote-First and Office-First

Given the recent changes in work culture, the shift to remote-first may continue to gain momentum. Remote-first policies can help companies expand their hiring pool and reach people from anywhere in the world. Remote-first also can save money on real estate and office facilities.

However, having an office space still may have some benefits, such as the social connection that face-to-face interaction provides, and having a designated work environment separate from home.

While being in the office is not possible or practical for many, a hybrid model of remote-first and office-first may be the future direction for companies. Combining the benefits of remote work with in-person collaboration and team bonding can improve flexibility, diversity, and productivity.

In summary, remote-first and office-first are two different approaches when it comes to creating a work culture. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s up to each company to find the balance that works best for them. However, in these times, remote-first has the upper hand, and teams need to be ready to switch up their work approach to continue staying productive, no matter where they’re located.

Advantages of Remote-First

Remote-work policies establish expectations and guidelines for remote work that require employees to work efficiently and effectively without direct supervision.

Remote-first policies can improve work-life balance by allowing employees to work from anywhere, making it easier to manage personal responsibilities and work schedules. Additionally, remote work reduces the need for office space and the accompanying overhead, such as rent, upkeep, and utilities, which can save companies thousands, if not millions, of dollars a year.

Remote work also benefits employees who may have difficulty commuting because of chronic illness, physical disabilities, or other health-related issues.

Disadvantages of Remote-First

One of the biggest challenges of remote-first policies is how to provide social interaction and maintain team connections. Remote employees can feel isolated and disconnected, and it’s essential for remote-first companies to create structures and opportunities that enable employees to build relationships and feel part of the team.

Additionally, remote-first work can cause a lack of accountability since remote employees may feel less visible and are not always closely monitored. Implementing ways to stay engaged and connected with employees is a central challenge for remote-first companies. It is necessary to establish protocols and guidelines to ensure that remote workers feel connected to their team, are productive, and accountable for their work.

Advantages of Office-First

Collaboration and teamwork are often more productive and natural in person. Face-to-face interaction can lead to better communication, generating ideas, and problem-solving. Working in the same physical space can allow for better communication and creating deeper personal relationships.

Additionally, being physically in-office creates a better separation between work and home, which can improve mental health by providing a clear separation between work and personal time. When employees leave the office, they leave the job behind, making time for relaxation or for personal relationships.

Disadvantages of Office-First

The standard 9 to 5 workday makes it challenging for employees to balance their work and personal lives if they must commute every day. Employees lose valuable time on the commute, adding additional stress, and expenses.

Furthermore, the need for physical office space entails a high cost for utilities, rent, and upkeep. Creating an office-first culture requires a significant outlay of cash to set up the best physical work environment.

Working in an office also restricts hiring to a specific geographic area, leading to a less diverse pool of employees. Limited hiring can severely limit the opportunity for growth and expansion and can hinder effective competition.

Hybrid Approach

A hybrid approach to work offers the best of both worlds. It balances the need for collaboration and teamwork that an office-first culture offers with the ability to work remotely that a remote-first culture provides, providing flexibility, and mitigating or eliminating many of the disadvantages of each approach.

Employees can work in the office when needed or work entirely remote when appropriate. The hybrid approach can promote a better work-life balance by having the best of both worlds, increasing productivity and reducing stress.

Companies using the hybrid approach can take advantage of the cost savings by reducing office space and utilities while retaining the benefits of the physical environment, such as collaboration and onboarding, and providing opportunities for social interaction and team bonding.


The remote-first approach excels in flexibility and productivity, while the office-first approach outperforms in collaboration, teamwork, and social interaction. A hybrid approach offers the best of both worlds, creating a more satisfactory work culture that promotes a better work-life balance, while reducing costs and promoting more productive teamwork.

It’s essential to recognize that the approach companies take should be determined by their goals and business needs. Some industries and sectors may benefit from one approach more than another, while a hybrid approach may prove more effective and beneficial in the long run.

Regardless of the approach adopted, it’s crucial that employees feel valued, heard, connected, and engaged. Clear communication, productivity metrics, trust, and accountability are major components of a successful remote-first, office-first or hybrid approach.

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