Towards the remote first company (and not remote only…)

I’m not a big fan of the concept of hybrid work. Not because it doesn’t represent the future, but because the way companies are taking hybrid work prevents them from asking the right questions.

Most often, hybrid work is seen from the angle of the workplace: at the office or elsewhere. By adjusting the number of days spent at the office and at a distance, they try to limit the organizational impact for them.

According to what we can observe:

• 1 day of remote working per week: almost no impact on the organization and almost no change required.

• 2 days of remote working per week: a minimal but not negligible adaptation of the organization is necessary.

• 3 days of remote work per week and more: major impact on the organization which must transform itself.

Hence the glass ceiling that exists between 2 and 3 days…

This is a serious mistake because the real issue is transformation.

When one employee is remote, everyone is remote

Let’s say it once again, limiting the number of remote days is not going to limit the impact on the organization. As soon as an employee is remote, everyone has to work as if the whole team is remote. I would add that for the person who is remote, it is those who are in the office who are remote. That’s for the daily work issue.

As far as support processes (HR etc) are concerned, the current approach also allows not to ask the question of their improvement or their digitalization or their inclusion in a ATAWAD digital workplace.

To say “it doesn’t matter, they will do this or that operation when they are in the office” is both to create a form of discrimination between those who are in the office and those who are at a distance, and to deny that operations (in this case People Operations) have a major impact on the feeling of the employees, on the performance of the functions concerned, and in the end on the retention of employees in a tense period and on their engagement.

Because when I say that at one or two days of remote work per week the impact is null or acceptable, it is from the point of view of the organization. From the employee’s point of view, the lack of adaptation of the organization makes him feel that he is working in a degraded mode and that he is at times an underemployee who does not have the same possibilities as the others and does not enjoy the same attention because he is the exception.

So instead of the hybrid work approach I prefer the “Remote First” approach.

The Remote First company

De quoi parle-t-on ?

It’s about saying that the business must be designed for remote work. Everything must be able to function 100% remotely.

We therefore speak of

• corporate culture

• Collaborative processes

• Management and leadership

• support processes

• IT and digital workplace

Remote First does not mean remote only

This is where you should not be mistaken: saying that a business must be able to operate 100% remotely does not mean that it will or must. It means that when one or more people are remote, the business does not operate in a degraded mode but as well as if everyone was in the same place.

Why not just say the opposite and say that to achieve the same result we can be “Office first” and make sure we work well remotely? Because it doesn’t work.

All the examples prove it, even if we have to admit that they are not numerous: all the businesses that were born remotely and have remained so manage to function very well the rare times when people are in person. On the other hand, and there are many examples of this, all the businesses that were born to work in the office do not work or work badly at a distance.

It’s a bit like when we talked about “mobile first” 10 years ago. It didn’t mean that a site shouldn’t be readable and usable on a desktop computer, but that since mobile has a higher number of constraints, everything that works (functionally and in terms of user experience) on mobile works on a desktop computer, while the opposite is not true.


Who can do more can do less: a business designed, organized and equipped to operate 100% remotely with all the constraints that go with it, works just as well or even better in person. The opposite is not true.

Image : employee working remotely, by Olesya Kuznetsova via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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