Remote-first culture

The first time I heard about the concept of a “mobile-first” website, I had just completed a two-year project building a “responsive” website. Darn! I felt like a dinosaur for a few minutes, and then resolved that I’d make the site mobile-first a few years down the road when time for a refresh.

Today, the pandemic is forcing us to consider a new type of “first” approach. Not in how we will build websites but in how we will build workplace cultures when people are allowed to return to the office.

According to a recent study, 72% of us have no desire to return to the office full-time when it is safe to do so. How should we modify all these processes that build a culture (how we hire, recognize, promote, discipline, celebrate, etc.)?

Should we stick to the pre-pandemic, office-centric approach? With more than half the employees working remotely on any given day, this approach seems doomed to fail.

Should we have a “responsive” approach, building processes that sort of work fine for both the people in the office and those working remotely? Maybe. But just like my responsive website was mediocre because it ignored the rising trend of people accessing the internet via mobile devices, a “responsive” approach is likely to create a mediocre culture.

Should we, then, build a remote-first culture? One where processes assume that people work from home most of the time? This, to me, sounds like the right approach. In such a culture, the onboarding process would call for the laptop to be mailed to the employee’s home (unless they chose to pick it up). Every conference room would have videoconferencing equipment, allowing employees to decide how they want to attend a meeting. Leadership messages would be recorded for asynchronous listening. You get the gist.

We knew that a pandemic would hit the world at some point and we didn’t prepare for it. Let’s not fail to prepare for the post-pandemic workplace culture.

It’s only a few months away.

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