Yoav Tchelet
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Hybrid Working: Are We Remote Yet?

Hybrid Working: Are We Remote Yet?

Many companies have trialled or switched to a hybrid working setup for their employees. The idea behind hybrid working is about recognising that the world has changed over the last two years, and flexibility is needed to remain competitive against remote-first companies to retain their employees.

Is Hybrid working remote working? Not exactly. It’s important to realise that if you think you are remote by adopting a hybrid working setup, then you’re always going to be “rooted” in your physical office space.

Remote First vs Hybrid Working

Remote first companies are remote working by design. They have remote teams, remote “offices”, and remote cultures. For remote-first companies, remote working is all they do. Many remote-first employers are not just remote workers but remote thinkers that don’t believe that work has to happen in a physical office space.

Here are some companies that are remote-first by design and thinking:

  • InVision is a remote-first company and works hard to continuously improve its communication, collaboration, and remote working processes.
  • Zapier is remote-first and remote by design. Zapier has remote teams and a remote-first culture. For remote-first companies, remote working is all they do. 
  • Hotjar is another remote-first company that enables remote working by design. Hotjar clearly articulates its remote-first culture, company perks and benefits and real-world anecdotes from their CEO on remote working.
  • Gitlab is another remote-first company with over 1,400 employees distributed globally across multiple time zones.
  • Gitlab’s remote-first culture stems from several different beliefs:
  • – Providing a global remote-first experience means the innovation will come from everywhere on the planet – not just Silicon Valley
  • – Employees can work anywhere as long as they have access to a computer and internet connection
  • – A remote work policy reduces the time employees spend commuting which also relieves pressure on public transport systems
  • – People are more productive

There is a fundamental difference for remote-first companies in their outlook on collaboration, culture, work time and productivity.

Remote first companies benefit from not having legacy office infrastructure and processes to adapt to a new way of working. Remote-first organisations are remote working by design which means remote workers are remote thinkers. Organisations using remote work policies are remote workers who are remote thinkers, remote cultures, remote offices and remote teams.

Zapier clearly articulates their culture and way of working in 5 points, and I like to quote this example as its easily understood and is a straightforward and articulate way of summarising how they work:

  1. Freedom & Flexibility
  2. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging
  3. Camaraderie from afar
  4. Learning on- and offline
  5. Interesting problems to solve

Change in Approach Needed

Traditional companies that have moved to Hybrid ways of working like PWC will struggle to get the same level of flexibility, cost savings and productivity output from companies that are remote-first by design like Zapier.

One of the major global accounting and consulting firms, PWC, has recently decided to allow its workers to work from anywhere in the US.

This is excellent news for thousands of employees working remotely for some time, but this was always on the hub and spoke approach.

The hub and spoke approach of hybrid working is that you have your home base or head offices, possibly with regional offices, and that you give your employees the ability to work at home permanently or a few times a week.

This is great, but it is not remote working in its purest form. The challenge is taking full advantage of remote working for both the company and its employees.

Think about it. You have been working for a company for five years at their offices. Suddenly the world, and your world, is thrown into turmoil, and you have to work from home.

You are forced to adapt to remote collaboration tools and platforms, working strange hours and trying to juggle home life and work life in the same space.

The company you work for is trying its best to ensure the tools it uses help its employees stay productive, happy and sane. But ultimately, the innate culture in the organisation is based on many years of traditional ways of working.

You cannot just send people to work at home and call yourself a remote company.

Organisations that have realised the benefit and need to introduce flexibility will need to spend much time reinventing their culture and ways of working.

For now, the remote-first companies have a clear edge over the hybrid approach.