Remote-first company: run your business like you don’t need an office

What does it mean to be a remote-first company? Learn about the remote-first approach, its many benefits, and how to manage a remote-first company.


remote-first company

Among the few good things that came out of the 2020 global lockdown, it’s that surprisingly many jobs can be done remotely. And there are benefits to continuing the business as if it doesn’t have an office – a remote-first company.

What it Means to be a Remote-first Company

Remote-first does not mean that you can’t have an office or physical meetings. It’s a company that operates in a way where a job gets done regardless of the location.

The benefits of designing your organization in that way come regardless of whether most employees choose to work in the office or go for a workation in Bali for a year.

The Difference Between Remote-first and Remote-friendly companies

The difference between remote-first and remote-friendly is the degree to which employees can work remotely. In a remote-first company, it (almost) doesn’t matter whether an employee works from the office or not. If the company chooses to keep an office, it’s essentially a co-working space where everybody is from the same company.

Remote-friendly companies retain the traditional offices but allow some level of remote work. For example, it may offshore software developers using an employer of record or allow employees to spend winters in a warmer climate.

Characteristics of a Remote-first Company

In a remote-first company, ongoing communication happens online. Most conversations happen in chat or email, and meetings often via video conferencing. As such, employees in remote-first companies often stick to online discussions even when they’re in the same location.

If several meeting participants work from the same location and join the meeting together then invest in good video-conferencing setup. Otherwise, it’s likely that the remote participants won’t be as engaged in the discussion because they are not in the same room. Or just have everyone use their individual computers.

Is remote-first better than remote-friendly?

There is no management style that is universally better than others. Most businesses can shift to a purely remote setup, so the nature of your business likely won’t impact this decision much. It really depends on what works specifically for your company and employees.

However, adopting a remote-first approach has many benefits which we discuss below.

Advantages of Working Remotely

Working time is not spent on commuting

This is especially true for employees living in congested cities. Without the stress of the daily commute, employees who manage their time well will be more productive.

Lower overhead costs

With a distributed team, you won’t need to rent a big office that will fit all your employees. And if all employees are fully remote, you can even have just a virtual office.

Better online collaboration

Working remotely could also positively impact collaboration in the company. It’s a common misconception that remote work hurts collaboration because you can’t just tap your colleague on the shoulder to start a discussion. However, with all communication happening on chat or email, people can respond when they can. It’s also easier to follow up and keep track of things because there’s a written record.

Hire from anywhere in the world

Remote working grants you the opportunity to open roles to anyone in the world with an internet connection. There is so much talent around the world and with a remote-first company, you are no longer restricted by proximity. You can tap into the global talent pool and find employees from wherever.

And you don’t even need to set up a company or office abroad. You can hire employees with an Employer of Record. An Employer of Record, like Emerhub, hires employees on your behalf and provides local HR support to your employee. Employers of record also take care of maintaining compliance with local employment laws.

Hire in Asia without setting up a company.

Use Emerhub as your Employer of Record.

Give people time to ease into this non-traditional setup. Onboarding new employees is difficult but essential in a remote setup. Successfully onboarding remote workers increases employee satisfaction and retention.

How to Create a Remote-first Company Culture

It’s important to foster a culture that benefits the company and its employees. A good place to start would be coming up with your corporate values. Once you figure out “who” your company is, it will be easier to think about how to do it.

Set boundaries. This can mean different things in different companies. Some companies may require employees to be available for a set period of time. Some companies may adopt more open schedules. No matter what it is, encourage employees to disconnect every now and then.

Socialization is also an important aspect of building a positive company culture. There are ways to do this even if you’re a remote-first company.

For example, you can have team video calls where to catch up with each other, or you have online video game tournaments. You can also schedule a large event for the whole company to meet once or twice a year.

Managing Employees in a Remote-first Company

The key to being a successful remote-first company is managing your employees well. Some strategies in managing on-site don’t work for remote-first companies. You need to find out what works best for your company. Here are some key ideas to remember when managing a remote team.

Trust Your Remote Employees

One of the most important things to remember is to trust your employees. A lot of managers and employers use visual cues to determine if their people are working hard. You lose that visual cue in a remote setup. Instead of micromanaging your employees, just trust that they will do their jobs and submit deliverables on time.

Have Frequent Check-ins

It’s difficult to have everyone on the clock at the same time in a fully-remote setup. But it’s important to regularly check-in with your team. Having a daily group call with all members is ideal. But if this is not possible due to timezone differences and the like, try to at least have the call once a week.

While chat and email work for most communication, video conferencing with the team has a human touch you can’t replace.

Constant Communication with Remote Teams and Onsite Teams

Open and frequent communication is also necessary for remote teams. It is important to stay in the loop with everyone’s tasks. This means more than being available on chat or responding to emails. You must also set up processes that allow you to stay informed with each other.

For example, you can use a visual tracker to keep updated on everyone’s progress. You can keep conversations organized by having designated channels in your messaging platform.

Ask Employees for Feedback

You must also listen to feedback from your employees. Show that you are open to discussing areas of improvement or ask for their opinion directly. Of course, you can’t give into everyone’s wants and demands so it’s up to you to filter their suggestions. The idea is to integrate policies and processes that will benefit everyone.

Start building your remote team with Emerhub. We can act as the Employer of Record for your offshore employees in Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and India. Fill out the form below and our consultants will get in touch with you.

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