What comes to mind when you think of a software company? Microsoft? Oracle? Google? You see open workspaces and fully-stocked snack bars. You see ping pong tables and beers on tap. You picture the perfect (subjective, I know) workplace. Well, that model, ushered in by these industry giants, may be on the way out. Due to COVID-19, the world’s biggest companies are embracing a flexible model and becoming a remote-first workplace. It’s time for you to as well.
What’s a Remote-First Workplace?
The idea of a remote workforce isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around since the dawn of the internet. Companies could cut costs and recruit from a larger pool of talent. Letting employees work remotely became mainstream. Today, it’s commonplace. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, remote working is “the practice of an employee working at their home, or in some other place that is not an organization’s usual place of business.” It’s as simple as that.
In 2021, the rise in remote work has been the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly a year later, most employees are all-in on a remote-first future. By 2025, about 70 percent of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. That said, this shift doesn’t only benefit workers. Forward-thinking companies will also look at this as a way to grow their business. Think about it: A NYC-based software company hiring engineers out of college have to pay out well into the six figures for top talent. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the talent pool is larger than NYC. By introducing a remote-first workforce, these companies can seek top talent in lower cost-of-living areas, giving them an equal level of talent and expertise for a much more cost-efficient rate.
How to Become Remote-First
Software companies often gravitate to big metro areas, like Silicon Valley and NYC. It’s where a lot of top talent resides and where the competition sets up shop. Establishing a presence in these areas is almost a criterion for long-term success. The problem? Rent is absurd. As such, many software companies, Microsoft, Adobe, Square, and Salesforce, are exploring a remote-first world. For others vying for market share and top talent, becoming a remote-first company will be vital now and for years to come. Here’s how to do that:
Introduce Remote Working in a Strategic Way
Switching to a remote-first workplace won’t (and shouldn’t) happen overnight. It takes time. Even large software companies aren’t flipping the switch one night and expecting a complete 180 to occur by the next morning. Instead, they’re strategically rolling it out in a way that won’t disrupt the business performance. Others should follow suit.
Place a Premium on Communication and Connectivity
Historically, one of the biggest challenges of working remotely has revolved around communication and connectivity. For these reasons and a host of others, giving people the flexibility to work from wherever has scared off some.
For a remote-first way of working to be successful, companies must prioritize communication and connectivity. This could mean providing hotspots or paying for employees’ data if they’re located somewhere with less accessibility to the internet. Connectivity also extends to human engagement. Companies big and small should refine their internal communication strategies, make communication tools, like Slack, accessible, and encourage virtual bonding. Budget permitting, company-wide retreats here and there are great.
Another challenge of remote working is that employees may not be able to adopt this. Maybe there are personal challenges or location difficulties. Or perhaps they prefer to work in an office a few days a week. For these reasons, companies should create a flexible in-person workspace that provides a more traditional office to those who want (and need) it. Co-working spaces make this easy, and more importantly, affordable.
Closing Thoughts: Thriving in a Remote-First World
It’s impossible to know if remote work will be here forever. What we do know is that it’s here for now. Because of this, companies must flip the script on their workplace strategies that mesh with the new normal. They need to strategically roll out the new way of working and make wholesale changes to company processes and culture. With these changes in place, companies can rest assured that they’re putting themselves and their employees in a position to succeed.