Remote-First Vs. Remote-Friendly Companies: What’s the Difference?

Remote First Vs Remote Friendly Companies.
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Organizations today are creating and defining their remote work policies more than ever before.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, more people have discovered the value of wanting to work from home. And more companies are also way more open to the idea of allowing remote work. 

Yet, some organizations take the remote-first approach and others are focused more on a remote-friendly policy. Both have their own benefits, but there are also some major differences between them. 

This is something not only do company leaders need to address, but job seekers should understand as they begin exploring remote work. 

In this post, I’ll explore what it means to be remote-first and remote-friendly, examples of companies in each, and the key differences.

What Is A Remote-First Company?

A remote-first company is an organization that prioritizes remote work and actively encourages all employees to work from where they are most productive. Many of these organizations start out “fully remote” or have recently pivoted to this structure in recent years. 

The majority of these remote-first companies will not have a physical office location, may have employees distributed around the world, and may encourage working outside of just a home office. 

10 Examples of Remote-First Companies

There are many remote-first companies out there and plenty of others who have pivoted to this way of work recently. 

  • Zapier
  • Basecamp
  • Doist
  • Buffer
  • Automattic
  • GitLab
  • Toggl
  • Close
  • Help Scout
  • InVision

What Is A Remote-Friendly Company?

A remote-friendly company is one that encourages remote work only part of the time and may not be available to every employee. Each company may define this differently, but typically it means some employees are allowed to work remotely one to three days a week. 

Each remote-friendly company will also have its own flexible work policies in place and typically have an office or multiple offices for employees to work on-site. 

10 Examples of Remote-Friendly Companies

There are plenty of remote-friendly companies, more so than ever before. It’s also much more common than remote-first. Here are a few examples of remote-friendly companies:

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • HubSpot
  • Adobe
  • Zoom
  • IBM
  • Peloton
  • Dell
  • Salesforce
  • CVS Health

Difference Between Remote-First And Remote-Friendly Companies

The difference between remote-first and remote-friendly companies ultimately comes down to the emphasis remote work plays on business decisions. In remote-first organizations, every decision revolves around supporting a fully remote workplace. 

For remote-friendly companies, not every decision revolves around supporting remote work. Certainly, there will be remote work policies in place, but it’s more about supporting it when needed than being at the forefront of the culture. 

Although both have similarities, there are enough ways to differentiate between the two. To make it easy, I added the important differences between the two in the below table. 

Remote-FirstRemote-Friendly
All employees are encouraged to work remotely.Occasionally allowed to work remotely.
Asynchronous communication is prioritized – respond to the message at their convenience.Synchronous communication prioritized –  takes place in real-time between two or more parties.
Policies and tools revolve around the benefit of remote work.Policies and tools revolve around the benefit to the office.
All business decisions are made online via remote tools.Most business decisions are made in-person and in-office.
All people and company information is equally accessible across the org.People and company information is more accessible to those in the office.
Less focus on meetings, more focus on autonomous work. Meetings are more common and consistent when people are in the office. 
Remote work is a way of life at the organization and is at the core of the company. Working remotely is seen as more of an employee perk for selected employees.
Everyone has the same opportunity for team bonding and has an equal opportunity to connect with each other. Those working remotely may miss team bonding opportunities and feel disconnected. Especially as silos in-office might be created. 
Productivity is measured by the results generated and the output of employees. Productivity might only be measured by the number of office hours put in. 

Benefits of Being a Remote-First Company

So you might be wondering what some benefits there are for a remote-first company. It’s certainly not a perfect work system (none are!), but there are many positives to this style. 

1. People first

When you are a remote-first company, you are putting your people first. This has shown improved productivity, effectiveness, and happiness. 

  • Organizations that follow this work model, give employees everything they need to get their work done no matter where they work.
  • And then won’t micromanage. Instead, the company gets out of employees’ way so they are able to do their best work. It’s all about the trust to give space and more freedom to employees. 

2. Better talent pool

Remote-first companies aren’t nearly as limited to where they can find talent to join their organization. Maybe they are the U.S. only for example still, but now it’s not limited to a specific state or city because they need to come to the office. 

There is so much talent out there, who has been limited at places they can work because of where they reside. 

This gives organizations great access to more talented people and lets job seekers be able to work from companies, no matter where they are living. 

3. More efficient work processes 

For those remote-first organizations, their employees become used to staying highly active on tools and documenting processes. It’s ingrained in the culture and how work gets done. It makes communication stronger, collaboration better, and takes productivity to the next level. 

Now, if a company is just transitioning to remote-first, it won’t be perfect right away. It will take time to adapt and streamline, plus will be new for employees who are used to coming to the office. 

4. Lowers company costs

Maintaining one or more physical office locations can be expensive. Here are some average examples from two major cities:

  • New York City comes in with a monthly average cost of roughly $6.16 per square foot. That’s about $14,800 per year per employee.
  • San Francisco comes in with a monthly average cost of roughly $5.43 per square foot. That’s about $13,032 per year per employee.

Notice that’s per employee. So if your company has 100, 500, 1000+ employees – that’s some serious cash spent on an office. 

Remote-first companies can now use those previous office funds towards salaries and benefits, better tools and systems, company events, etc. 

5. Improved quality of life

I see one of the big benefits of remote-first, is the overall improved quality of life for everyone at the company. 

By working for a remote-first company, you have more flexibility to get your work done when you are at your best. 

And it allows everyone to work around appointments, family responsibilities, or take a break in their own comfortable space when needed – and still deliver great work. I know my own stress levels and quality of life have improved being at a remote-first company. 

Benefits of Being a Remote-Friendly Company

Although I may lean more towards remote-first as my preference, remote-friendly set-ups also have benefits that may align with you better. Here are a few to understand. 

1. More direct communication

In remote-friendly organizations, you’ll still get more face-to-face interactions. Many times, this is much better for communicating needs and information.

When everyone is remote all the time, it’s easy for miscommunication to sometimes happen, delaying results or disrupting productivity. By being remote-friendly, you’ll still be able to chat quickly and build more trust with others in person. 

2. Better accountability 

Generally, distributed teams have consistently reported better productivity when working remotely full-time. There are many studies and statistics out there about just that. However, the lack of accountability is still sometimes a common complaint. 

When you are in person a few days a week, you feel more accountable when working with colleagues or your managers. It can be motivating to keep you on task or ensure you are delivering your best work. 

This sometimes can be harder to achieve for those independently working remotely, where they need to be self-motivated and hold themselves accountable. 

3. More in-office productivity 

The downside to remote-first is productivity could be disrupted if tools stop working or the internet at the individual’s home is out for hours. The whole day is an essential shot, with missed opportunities for productivity. 

The benefit of remote-friendly organizations here is that even if things go out, an employee can connect in person with colleagues to go over projects, tasks, etc. 

Although there is still a disruption in the day, everyone can still be productive in different ways by collaborating or meeting together. 

4. Still feel the benefits of remote work 

Being a remote-friendly company still means having remote work within the culture. Sure, it’s not as ingrained as remote-first, but it shows there is flexibility in the workplace. 

This still allows companies to hire top talent from around the world and create remote work processes to streamline efficiency. 

And pending the company, there may be flexibility for everyone to work a few days a week from home or it’s only certain departments and job fields. But this gets more people excited about the company knowing they can work for them without having to relocate. 

Remote working.

Should Your Company Be Remote-First or Remote-Friendly?

Maybe your company has already made this decision, but it’s still possible to transition in either direction as well. 

For the company I work for full-time, it was remote-friendly for the first three years I was there. Now, it has pivoted to remote-first. While we do have two small co-working spaces for those in the cities we have them in, there is no permanent office. 

Although I was not involved in the decision, I think by becoming remote-first we’ve seen more top talent from all over the United States applying for jobs. And the happiness among employees, their work, and the culture have also positively shot up. 

But not every company can operate fully remote, nor is it always the right decision. 

If you are a company leader or have your own business, weigh the pros and cons. Reach out to leaders at other remote-first and remote-friendly companies to get their insights and perspectives. 

Either approach can be successful, it will be up to you and your fellow business leaders to make the commitment in either direction. 

Should You Work for a Remote-First or Remote-Friendly Company?

Now if you are a job seeker, you might be wondering if remote-first or remote-friendly is right for you. I’ve personally experienced both and enjoyed them both. 

However, I still lean more towards remote-first. But that’s my interest and I know what works best for my productivity and work happiness. 

For you, make sure to digest the content above. Really understand the differences between the two and examine where you best align. 

Now if you have no experience with either, then you might want to ease into remote work. It can be a cultural shock if you have never worked from home before. 

Hell, it might not even be for you at all. But if you are reading this post, then I suspect remote work has really interested you. 

My advice: if you have never worked remotely is to pick up a side gig where you can work from home or start with a remote-friendly company to test how you like being at home a few days a week. 

That hybrid and flexible work model will give you a taste of what it’s like to not be in the office. 


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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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