Remote-Friendly vs. Remote-First

Remote-Friendly vs. Remote-First

Remote Working ยท May 19, 2018

I recently had a discussion about the difference between a “Remote Friendly” company and a “Remote First” company. It’s a remote company in the end, right? Well, there are some differences.



To elaborate on what I mean with “Remote First and “Remote Friendly”: A Remote First company probably started out with a distributed team from Day 1 (or 2). They don’t just allow employees to work from home (or elsewhere), it’s the default. In a few cases, the company doesn’t even have a physical office. This means the team and management had to deal with things like time differences from day one.

Note: This post will include a lot of assumptions. In my opinion, it is perfectly reasonable to fall somewhere between First and Friendly. I have also seen Remote Friendly companies who completely transformed and are now Remote First as well. Remote First describes the mindset of a company, not their history.

A “Remote Friendly” company is different. They might have started out with a small team somewhere in SF or in Tokyo or in Dallas - it doesn’t matter. They rented an office, grew the team there and ran the core business from there as well. Then they might have decided to let an employee work from home. Then a second one worked from home, someone from overseas joined until there were many employees working from home. On first glance it doesn’t really look different than being Remote First, but there are some key differences:

Hiring

The first question I usually got asked from Remote-Friendly companies is: “Would you be able to relocate to X?”. This is simply out of question when talking to a Remote-First company. The truth is, in many cases the office and face-to-face time is something that is still valued in Remote-Friendly companies, so someone who wants to move to the office location might get chosen over you if your skills and background are similar.

Scheduling

Scheduling is handled differently at many Remote-First companies, but in general, members of Remote-First companies are trying to find a time for meetings and talks that work for everyone involved. There is no central point (maybe other than where a manager is located), so times have to work for anyone.

When you are working at a Remote-Friendly company, that usually means that times are based on wherever HQ is located. In many cases, that means that you’ll have to look at SF times, even if you are based in Asia or Europe. This can mean long nights/early mornings, but doesn’t have to.

Communication

From my experience, communication is also handled differently. Members of centralized companies are used to going to a coworkers desk and shooting a question right away. If you are working in a Remote-Friendly company, this could get transferred to remote members of the team as well. Meaning: many Slack messages with a need for instant answers. Daily meetings are also a popular aspect of centralized communication. If you are Remote, just get rid of them.

For a remote team to work well, communication has to be handled asynchronously. All parts of the team should know what is going on: Even if they will only return to the desk in a few hours. Having synchronous communication doesn’t scale well: Not only will employees be forced to live where the company wants them to (which removes a big positive of remote teams), you’ll also not be able to hire the best people from all continents, which is unfortunate.

Conclusion

I have warned you: I am assuming a lot in this article. The truth is - Remote-Friendly companies can be run as smooth as Remote-Fist companies. With the previous points, I want to point out some obvious pitfalls, which can easily be ironed out.

Remote culture is amazing: Not only will it allow companies to access a global and diverse talent pool, it also enables employees to live their life to the fullest.

About the Author

Hey everybody! My name is Dominic and I am the founder of RemoteML. Additionally to working as a (Remote) Deep Learning Engineer and working on my own sideprojects, I'm also a vivid writer (I have written for Towards Data Science and O'Reilly before).

When I started working remotely, I had a lot of questions. Now, I hope to help you with yours!