What does it mean to be remote first? The the idea behind this concept is that regardless of whether we work remotely or not, our company should have the processes in place to be able to work from anywhere in the event that something were to happen like bad weather, transportation strikes or just transportation problems in general. Being remote first strengthens the business and makes it less vulnerable.
Why do businesses resist going remote?
It’s easy to say no because there’s no risk. Because nobody got fired for saying no to remotes. But I would challenge anybody who has a knee-jerk ‘no’ reaction to remote working, to really dig into why they’re saying no. If your first reaction is to say no without really thinking about it, there’s a good chance there’s something wrong with your organization.
What does a remote first office look like?
- MOSTLY PAPERLESS WITH FILES STORED IN THE CLOUD. There’s no need to have filing cabinets, people need to be able to access all information online.
- HAVE PLENTY OF PRIVATE SPACES. You’ll need to have designated areas where you can have great, high-quality, high-bandwidth conversations with your remote colleagues. Being in an open office can be distracting for you and the listener.
- DON’T BOX PEOPLE IN BY TIME. A remote first team is based on results and not on the amount of time that has been worked.
- HAVE A MIX OF DESKS. Have some permanent desks for the people who like working in the office, and some hot desks, desks that can be changed based on the day or the week, for those who pop in here and there.
- ROCKING INERNET. Bandwidth is the oxygen of remote working.
- PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE SELF-SUFFICIENT. When we work from home we can’t rely on somebody else to replace our own toner and our printers.
- PEOPLE ARE MORE TECH SAVVY…or just less tech-adverse. With the ever-increasing tools, apps and technologies, we must have an experimental mindset in order to try all of these things out.
- TELEPRESENCE ROBOTS. If you see a Kubi on the table or a Suitable Technologies BeamPro driving around, you know you’ve entered a remote first office.
- HAVE GOOD PROCESSES IN PLACE. Where do the invoices get sent? Where do the files get stored? Are there core hours for the team? Be explicitly clear on all of these things so that there are no misunderstandings on the team.
For businesses that are just starting out, try things in little chunks so that there’s limited risk and an opportunity to change things quickly if they don’t work.
More remote first resources
- What we gain by going remote first – by Lisette Sutherland for CrossKnowledge
- What it means to be a remote-first company – by Stack Overflow
- Remote First thinking can make your business better – by Ka Wai Cheung
- Remote-First Communication for Project Teams – by Mike English
- Why Every Company Should Work as If They Were a Remote Company – by iDoneThis
- The Age of Remote-First “Workplaces” – by Amir Salihefendic
- Remote-First vs. Remote-Friendly – by Zach Holman
- How we created a remote-first manifesto – by Balki Kodarapu
Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Hello, everyone, and welcome to episode number 131. For those of you longtime listeners of my voice, sounds a little bit off today. It’s because I am sick. So luckily for everyone, I can edit out all the coughs and the hacks and the clearing of the throats. But you probably will hear some gravely sounds during this conversation. One of the best things about being a remote worker is that when you’re sick, you can just take it easy at home and work when you can work and rest when you need to rest and not in fact anybody else in the outside world. So here I am, having a lovely day in my home office despite being sick. But I am warm and I have hot tea nearby and a bed where I can go and take a nap any time I need one, so recovery is on the way.
Today I want to talk to you about a concept called remote first, which is the idea that regardless of whether we work remote or not, our company should have the processes in place to be able to work remotely if something were to happen like bad weather or transportation strikes or just transportation problems in general. The business shouldn’t need to have to shut down just because we can’t make it to a particular location. So whether or not you plan to go remote, it’s good to have those processes in place because it only strengthens the business and makes it less vulnerable.
So over the weekend, my husband asked me if I were to go to an office that were remote first, what would I notice about that office? What would be different about that office rather than a regular office? And I thought that’s a great question. So today’s podcast episode is all about what does it mean to be remote first. If you were going to go into somebody’s office and they were remote first company, what would be different about their office? The first thing that came to mind, of course, was that it would be a paperless office. And of course there can be some paper. Even I in my own office, I like writing things down. I like drawing things. I like using different colors. So of course there can be paper, but it’s not like before where there had to be paper. And we had whole, filing closets full of paper files. Now everything can be kept in the cloud. And very little actually needs to be printed out, physically printed out.
Another thing that one might notice is that there would be plenty of private rooms where people could go and have calls or video calls, especially video calls. If you’re in OpenOffice and you’re trying to have video calls, it can be very distracting for the person trying to have the call. And it can also be very distracting for the person who is on the other end of that call because they can hear all the background noise. They can see people walking back-and-forth behind you sometimes. And that can just be very distracting for the call. So I would think in a remote-first office, what you would want to have is plenty of private spaces where you can go and have great, high-quality, high-bandwidth conversations with your remote colleagues.
The third thing that you might notice in a remote-first office is that people are not boxed in by time. So you might see people there very early in the morning. You might see people there very late at night. You might see people coming and going throughout the day. And you might not see some people at all. A remote-first team is based on results and not on the amount of time that has been worked, which could mean that at the office, you would have a mix of permanent desks for the people that like coming into the office and like working there, and maybe hot desks, desks that can be changed based on the day or the week. So you may come in on just Mondays and you could sit at a certain place. And the next day you come in and sit at a different place.
And as we continue to have a mix of people who are working remotely or working different hours, the office space will probably start to change. It won’t be so much the cubicle farm that we used to work in, but it’ll be more a place for social interaction. So you might have places where you can get together and brainstorm as a group or where you can hang out in the lounge area and just talk and hang out together. But it won’t be a place where everybody comes to actually sit alone and do their work. It’ll be more of a place where you get together with other people because you need to be together with other people.
Now the next thing on the list is something that every remote first office should have and every office actually should have, which is rocking Internet. Bandwidth is the oxygen of remote working. If we don’t have Internet, we can’t do very much. So we need to have rocking Internet so that we can communicate with each other, that we can store files, that we can send information quickly back-and-forth. So a remote first office has rocking Internet.
The next thing that you might notice about team that is remote first is that people are much more self-sufficient. So in the past, when the office ran out of toner, there was probably somebody assigned to making sure that the toner was reordered and everything was stocked fully. But in a remote-first office, you’ll see people who are much more self-sufficient because if we work from home, we can’t rely on somebody else to replace our own toner and our printers. We’re going to have to do that ourselves.
And another characteristic of the people that you might find is that they are more tech-savvy. Or at least they’re not afraid of trying tools and pushing buttons and checking it out. So you have people who are not tech-averse and really have the right attitude because on remote teams, as we know, new tools, new apps, new technologies, coming out all the time. And we need to have an experimental mindset in order to try out a bunch of these tools. And, in fact, I work on a team now that sometimes tells me, “Hey, Lisette, it’s too many tools right now. We need to slow down. I need to focus on other things. And that is perfectly fine.” So there is such thing as tool overload. We need to be careful of that, and at the same time, keep an open mindset that there are things out there that might do the job better, and we should learn how to use those tools.
So in a remote-first office, we’ve got people who are not tech-averse. And one, sure way of knowing that it’s a remote-first office is if you walk into the office and you see a telepresence robot, then you know you’ve landed in the right place. So you’ll see a Kubi on the table or you’ll see a Suitable Technologies BeamPro driving around. But when you see telepresence, that is a huge clue.
And the last thing that I would say about what makes a great remote-first office is an office that has really good processes in place. When we’re together in person, we can be a little bit sloppy about our processes because we see each other a lot and there’s a lot of interaction. But when we go remote, then we need to be very clear about what our processes are. Where do the invoices get sent? Where do the files get stored? Are there core hours for the team? All of these things need to usually be made explicitly clear so that there are no misunderstandings on the team. I’m sure there are many other things that would make a great remote-first office, and I would love to hear your ideas. So please get in touch. You can find all the information you need at collaborationsuperpowers.com. Let me know what you think it takes to make a great remote-first office. And to recap the tips that I just gave in this podcast, one, store your files in the cloud and go as paperless as possible. Two, have plenty of space for private meetings and video calls. Three, don’t box people in. Become results-oriented. Four, you should see a mix of permanent desks and hot desks. Five, rocking Internet. Six, staff that is highly self-sufficient, and seven, tech-savvy. Eight, having telepresence robots. And nine, having good processes in place. These are all the characteristics of a great remote-first team or a great remote-first office.
I hope it’s been useful for you. If you want to hear more stories about remote teams who are doing great things, then please visit collaborationsuperpowers.com. We have tons of new resource pages on the site now. You can get a link to Virtual Ice Breakers, how to find a remote job, and a list of great tools for remote teams. So just visit collaborationsuperpowers.com and click on the Resources page.
A big thanks to our awesome podcast producer, Nick Jaworski. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. And another big thanks to Alfred Boland, the graphic designer for Collaboration Superpowers. You can hire him to make you look cool at bolanden.nl. All right, everybody, until next week, let’s go remote first and be powerful.