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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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As the global health crisis eases up, hybrid work has been discussed in a lot of organizations as a transition work setup. However, hybrid work setups are not new. Even before the pandemic in 2020, an estimated 10% of workers work away from the office. By 2025, an estimated 70% of employees are expected to work in some hybrid working setup. This is due to companies starting to appreciate the benefits of hybrid working for both the employees and the organization. Some benefits for employees include lesser commute time and having working environments that empower them to work independently. Most of the organizations implement and explore two types of hybrid work models: remote-first and remote-friendly.

These two models may seem interchangeable at first glance. However, there is one fundamental difference between the two: remote-first is deliberate while remote-friendly is reactionary. The differences between the two work models stem from the intention of the organization. Remote-first is implemented intentionally and consciously–working tools are carefully selected for remote working, and is created to be as inclusive and productive as possible for remote workers.

Is your organization just slowly transitioning back to physically working in the office after the health crisis or did your company see the benefits of being fully remote during the past years? If your business is the latter, you might consider re-designing your organization to have a remote-first setup.

Remote-First

Remote-first is not just a type of work setup where employees can work away from the office several days a week. This is about building a culture where workers are designed and empowered to work remotely. The philosophy is that the team can work remotely unless there are tasks that require team members to be physically present. Remote-first companies can operate with a fully remote team or it can have hybrid working conditions. But whatever the setup is, the work tools and processes are designed so you can work remotely as efficiently as working in a physical office.

Characteristics:

Employees Empowered for Remote Work

For companies that have remote-first setups, employees are equipped for remote work. This means that work tools like project management and communication platforms are designed for team members who are in different locations and time zones. One of the best advantages of empowering employees for remote work is that you foster strong independent workers. They will need less supervision while being result-oriented.

Asynchronous-First Communication

Asynchronous communication is any type of communication where one team member provides information, and then there is a time lag before the recipients take in the information and offer their responses. This means that when an organization has asynchronous-first communications, there are fewer physical and virtual meetings where employees are required to be present at the same time. The tools that you provide your team are intended to document the progress to keep all the stakeholders aware of the status of the work being done. This lessens the need for meetings when the same information can be conveyed across emails. Another benefit of having an asynchronous-first communication is that it allows teams to work from different time zones as effectively because no one is left out, because conversation records can be stored and referred to at a later time.

Inclusive Decision-Making

Because the nature of remote-first work setup allows every discussion and important details to be recorded and everyone can have equal access to all relevant information, important decisions can be done online, involving voices from every party. Moreover, essential employees or major decision makers do not need to be in the office to successfully execute the tasks needed.

Potential for Global Hiring

Having asynchronous communication opens the opportunity for your organization to hire globally. With global hiring, you will be able to broaden your talent pool exponentially. You will have access to top talent from across the world without needing them to move from their current location.

Equal Promotion Opportunities

In organizations that employ both remote and office-based talent, there is a tendency to provide more career advancement for office-based employees due to their visibility in the office. But with a remote-first setup, equal opportunities are provided to all team members because the work tools and processes are designed to perform equally albeit the location you are working from. This leads to better employee retention because of a fairer treatment for everyone.

Photo by Andrew Neel

Remote-Friendly

Remote-friendly offices utilize on-site work facilities and workspaces on top of employee’s own home offices. Remote-friendly companies may have employees who work remotely full-time but the tools and processes are still designed for onsite work. For example, managers are required to go to the office especially for important meetings. These companies usually started with office-based setups but have adapted to accommodate remote work setup especially because of the COVID-19 lockdowns. These companies started allowing remote work for some employees but have no intention to optimize it.

Characteristics:

Flexibility to Work Remotely

With remote-friendly setups, employees are allowed to work remotely part-time. However, on-site office work might still be favored in remote-friendly companies. The work tools and process might still be designed to fit onsite work, which means the information might not be equally available for both remote and office-based team members. For example, if there are urgent changes for a project or there are emergencies from a client, this will become a challenge because everyone may not always be online or present in the office to access the needed tools, equipment and information.

Priority to Synchronous Communications

Since tools and processes are still designed for onsite work, most communications platforms are synchronous. Meetings are scheduled depending on the availability of people who are present in the office. This is disadvantageous to remote workers who are residing in different time zones. However, the advantage for this type of communication is that decisions can be made more quickly since team members are present at the same time during meetings.

Office-Based Decision Making

For organizations adopting a remote-friendly model, most of the important decision-making is made on-site. Remote workers will tend to play a more diminished role in decision-making processes. Organizations might not be able to fully utilize the expertise of remote workers in this kind of setup. Consequently, this might also affect team dynamics over time.

Both setups have their pros and cons but what determines the ideal setup for your organization would be your long-term goals and intended company culture. Whether you are transitioning to a remote-first or remote-friendly setup or would like to improve your current remote working policies, Globelise is here to help you in expanding your team globally no matter which work model you subscribe to.

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