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The Difference Between “Remote” and “Remote-First”

Paul Farnell on the misconception that remote work prevents collaboration:

In my experience, the inverse is more likely: offices hinder independent work. Collaboration tends to happen in short bursts, followed by longer periods of writing, designing, coding and thinking. It’s more important to give employees quiet time than it is to cram them into an open office.

Paul nails it on the head. The whole open office idea looks amazing in photographs, but makes interruptions a staple of the day. People need quiet, heads-down time. It’s a fact of any type of work.

Later in the article, Paul writes ten ideas that make remote work, well… work. They’re all great, but my favorite is number three:

Lead by example. The behavior of the leadership team influences company culture more than a core values document. When a CEO uses their lunch break to hit the gym, others feel empowered to do the same. And when a manager spends their entire vacation answering emails, it’s harder for others to disconnect in their own downtime.

He’s right. It doesn’t matter what your “core values” say, if they don’t mean anything in practice, they’re worthless. Remote work is born out of the idea that our work lives can be better. If you’re still restricting the freedom and flexibility of your employees, it doesn’t make a difference that they’re working from home.

As with everything, leadership is what dictates whether this works or not. Remote culture is not easy to establish and nurture, but nothing worth it is easy to achieve.