It's impossible to talk about remote working and not mention COVID-19. Without a worldwide pandemic forcing us indoors, most of us would still be office workers thinking that remote work was a rare perk that only senior employees enjoy.

To think of remote work as forming part of our everyday lives might have been unfathomable to our past selves. But here we are several months later, pondering whether remote working is sustainable.

Now that a safe return to the office is possible in parts of the world, where will companies expect their workers to perform their duties? Knowing that we've had a small taste of work freedoms, will organisations introduce flexible workplace policies that incorporate components of remote working?

This article unpacks the different levels of remote working and how organisations might enforce them in a post-COVID climate. More specifically, we're looking at the nuances of remote-first and remote-friendly, two separate terms that are often used interchangeably but have crucial distinctions.

What Choices Currently Face Employees, Employers and Job Searchers?

Facing employers right now is the decision to return to the office, continue remote working or bridge the gap between remote work and office work by embracing the work hybrid model.

The undeniable benefits of remote working may influence employers' decisions as these quickly presented themselves in the early stages of the pandemic. Despite the uncertainties of the time and the criticism surrounding remote working, productivity in the workforce flourished, and employee well being hit an all-time high.

Therefore, it can be safely assumed that ignoring employees' overwhelming desire to remote work at least to an extent disadvantages companies who prefer to be entirely office-based.

But the question is, should companies adopt remote-first or remote-friendly regulations? Both options recognise and support the needs of remote employees but differently. The information below will supply you with everything you need to decide on the most suitable approach for your company, employees, and work lifestyle if you're a job applicant.

Facing employers right now is the decision to return to the office, continue remote working or bridge the gap between remote work and office work by embracing the work hybrid model.

What Are Remote-friendly Workplaces?

Remote-friendly workplaces offer remote working as a highlight or perk of the job. Think of it as similar to having after-work drinks or work snacks - nice to have and boast about. However, it doesn't necessarily define how a company operates or provide a complete laissez-faire work style but offers some flexibility or wiggle room.

Workplaces that consider themselves "remote-friendly" might allow employees the option to remote work for part of the time. The degree to which workspaces are remote-friendly varies between businesses. A remote-friendly workplace might allow two or three home days a week or once a month, depending on what the employer decides.

Remote-friendly workplaces base themselves at a physical location or multiple office branches - at HQS, satellite offices, shared workspaces or coworking setups.

A remote-friendly workspace might appeal to workers who enjoy the best of both worlds - a bit of work flexibility combined with an office space from where you can collaborate and communicate with colleagues.

What Are Remote-First Workplaces?

Remote-first workspaces are exclusively and entirely remote, where all employees are remote employees. Strictly speaking, working remotely isn't just a potential highlight but forms a crucial part of everyday life that is actively encouraged and enforced.

In other words, remote working is the status quo at remote-first businesses. Those who can't adapt to full-time remote working won't last in such companies.

Because remote-first establishments don't necessarily have a centralised office space (but might have satellite offices set up for the convenience of remote workers who require office space and infrastructure), workforces can be distributed across multiple time zones.

Despite the workspace spanning across countries or the world, remote-first companies offer the tools, support and resources they need to work efficiently wherever they are.

Despite the workspace spanning across countries or the world, remote-first companies offer the tools, support and resources they need to work efficiently wherever they are.

Differences Between Remote-first And Remote-friendly?

There's no denying that remote-first and remote-friendly workplaces accommodate remote workers, but that's where their similarities diverge. Read about their differences below.

Attitude And Ideologies

For remote-first companies, virtual working forms a crucial part of their framework and affects all of its working parts. On the other hand, remote-friendly companies identify and accept the benefits of remote working but see it as more of a privilege of the job than a necessity.

Communication

From meetings and formal conversations to informal chats and storing documents, everything happens online at remote-first companies. Despite there not being many (if any) face-to-face meetups, communication in a remote-first company is usually a strong point.

Because employees belong to channels like Slack, Skype, and Zoom, they're less likely to be left out of the loop on business decisions. Thus the playing field for everyone is levelled.

In remote-friendly workspaces, discussions are more than likely to occur face-to-face in boardrooms where ideas are scribbled onto whiteboards and final decisions verbally agreed upon.

Those in the office won't miss out on office happenings, but remoting-in colleagues might not always be kept actively and continuously updated. In a remote-friendly workspace, the threat of proximity bias is more prevalent - learn more about that here. In these instances, the onus is on the company to improve communication systems and ensure all employees are treated equally and have the same access to information, tools and resources.

In remote-friendly workspaces, discussions are more than likely to occur face-to-face in boardrooms where ideas are scribbled onto whiteboards and final decisions verbally agreed upon.

Expenses

The costs of running and maintaining an office space aren't something that a remote-first company has to think about, allowing more money to be freed up for other expenses, such as software that improves business operations online.

From the employee's standpoint, not travelling to an office every day saves money and provides them with more free time before and after work.

At remote-friendly workplaces, costs to the company include rent and utilities for office space, which can amount to a considerable chunk of change for new businesses.

The employee may incur commuting expenses and pay for their own space, be it a coffee shop or a coworking spot close to them. Since remote working is a choice, working outside the office space is something you might have to pay out of pocket sometimes.

From the employee's standpoint, not travelling to an office every day saves money and provides them with more free time before and after work.

Agency

Remote work hands workers autonomy over where they'd like to work. Both remote-first and remote-friendly companies want to provide employees with more work freedoms but following different styles.

Employees are entrusted with full autonomy in a remote-work company over how their work gets done. In other words, the quality of the output is of greater importance than the hours put in. As enticing as that sounds, not every worker is cut out for full-time remote working. This requires a great deal of independence, proactivity, self-management and time-management.

On the other hand, remote-friendly hubs offer a great deal of flexibility; some might argue more than a remote-first company. Why? Because flex workers have multiple spots from which to work.

For example, a work-from-home situation when personal and professional responsibilities demand your attention, a quiet location in an office to gain respite from home stressors, or a cosy coffee spot to switch up your scenery. However, the ultimate cost of this form of flexibility is that employees need to adjust quickly when switching from one workspace to the next, know which tasks are suitable for which environment, and so forth.

For example, a work-from-home situation when personal and professional responsibilities demand your attention, a quiet location in an office to gain respite from home stressors, or a cosy coffee spot to switch up your scenery.

Bonding

Employees at remote-friendly and remote-first companies bond and connect differently.

Remote-first companies might have an open channel dedicated to chit-chats where people can have a few laughs and speak freely.

There are obvious limitations to this because without face-to-face communication or spending several hours a day with your colleagues or employees, it's harder to get to know them on a personal and more compassionate level. For some people in a remote-first situation, they'll likely never meet their colleagues, supervisors, bosses, or manager when they work for the company.

Conversely, in remote-friendly places, workers can balance working from the office to collaborate and see colleagues quietly working from home. However, the problem is this: those who choose to work from home miss out on the daily happenings at the office.

From the water-cooler talks and casual chats to important meetings and opportunities for collaborations - they might be excluded from critical talks because they're not physically there.

Conversely, in remote-friendly places, workers can balance working from the office to collaborate and see colleagues quietly working from home.

Which is better, remote-first or remote-friendly?

It's impossible to answer this question because different businesses have different requirements and demands. We've prepared a quick list highlighting the benefits of remote-first and remote-friendly, respectively.

Remote-first Advantages

- Employers aren't limited by geographical location, which means a limitless recruitment radius.

- Employees can work where they like; possibly even going abroad since they're not anchored to a town, city or country.

- Happier, more productive and engaged workers who can achieve the ultimate work-life balance.

- Not having an office space allows organisations to minimise and restructure their expenses

Remote-friendly Advantages

- Employees enjoy a wider variety of workspaces and can often change their office scenery

- Employees can use onsite facilities, industry-grade internet and other work-enhancing amenities

- Access to a supportive work community that counters isolation and loneliness

Let us guide you

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