The Three Remote Work Models

For many employers, the initial scramble to implement remote work policies has now become a durable part of post-COVID work life. In the aftermath of this massive shift, many employers are taking a good look at how they can embrace remote work and build company cultures that help remote employees thrive.

Here, we present the three dominant remote work models, their benefits, and how they compare.

What are the three most common remote work models?

The pandemic prompted many newly remote teams to quickly learn the lessons needed to make WFH work for them. As remote work adoption becomes increasingly common, companies fall into one of three categories for their remote work policy. 

1. Remote-First Workplaces

Companies that have either completely shifted their workforce online or started up as businesses that operate exclusively remotely are known as remote-first companies. 

The employees at remote-first companies are typically highly accustomed to digital work. Companies with remote-first work cultures tend to have a knack for making permanent remote work a success. Oftentimes, remote-first companies do not have a central office, but employees still work together online as fully distributed teams.

The work culture that results from having a fully remote work schedule has several benefits:

Better Focus

The peace and quiet afforded by working from home for some people is a strong advantage for certain kinds of work. The typical pre-COVID office environment contained many distractions that could prevent long periods of focused work. Many people have found that working from home made them more productive because they had better control over their immediate environment. 

Technological Advancement

The pandemic forced many businesses into unexpected digital transformation. Companies, where digital adoption was lagging, had to quickly adjust to remote work and shift to digital platforms. As a result, employers learned that technology can be used to sharpen remote work

Cost Savings for Employees

Commuting costs, office apparel, lunch, coffee, snacks, etc., are all expenses that add up over time and can impact the quality of life in a fully onsite work environment. Working remotely turns these costs into a non-issue. 

The Flexibility of Time and Place

Remote work allows employees to manage their work schedule and spend their time as they see fit. Additionally, it gives them the freedom to work from any location. This also gives people the opportunity to work from states with cheaper rents or places where they can afford to own a home. For employers, it means that they can hire out-of-state remote workers

An Edge in Hiring

For many employers, hiring remote workers has been a way to improve their position in the talent market. Even if they aren’t able to offer the highest compensation, they might be able to entice talented individuals with the offer of remote work. According to Crunchbase, 70% of startups offer remote work options to interest potential employees. 

Trust and Connection

The success of any work culture, whether it’s remote or not depends on the confidence people have in each other. 

“Building a successful remote work culture is about getting the job done and trusting that people have the maturity and responsibility needed to accomplish their work goals,” says Val Kirilova, head of people and talent at Rockerbox, a remote-first company. “Employers need to be clear about what employees need to accomplish. Then, once everyone is on the same page, employees can get things done in a way that best suits them.” 

That said, meeting in person once in a while is essential even in fully remote environments. 

“A key part of successful remote work is recognizing that we’re people. We’re social creatures and we do need to spend time together in person, so we host a company offsite twice a year. We’ve found that the connections that we build during that period of time tend to carry over into remote work,” Kirilova says. 

Many businesses have found success by either converting to fully remote work or starting up that way. Here are some examples of companies with thriving remote work cultures.

2. Onsite or Office-First Workplaces 

Many companies are now trying to bring their employees back into the office to reestablish the pre-pandemic way of working. Half of the companies in a CNBC report want their employees back in the office for five days a week. Major companies, including Google, Tesla, and Microsoft, have taken varying degrees of action to encourage in-office attendance. 

Most people who worked in the job market before the pandemic are familiar with the benefits of in-office work:

Camaraderie with fellow team members

People need people. Even the most enthusiastic remote workers still need to feel connected with their colleagues. An entirely onsite workplace relieves many of the difficulties remote teams have when it comes to building relationships because they meet each other in person regularly. 

Reduced Tech Fatigue

Those going into the office daily tend to have a better-balanced relationship with technology Activities like commuting, being in an office space, and taking in-person meetings naturally eat into the screentime of onsite workers, reducing the tech fatigue often experienced when working remotely. 

Social Interactions Improve Cognitive Performance

When people interact together, they get enlivened. A study about group dynamics at the University of Michigan found that as little as 10 minutes of interpersonal interaction can improve cognitive performance. 

3. Hybrid or Remote-Friendly Workplaces

Hybrid work models feature both remote work and in-office work. There are varying degrees of flexibility when it comes to a hybrid work schedule. 

For example, some organizations might have a more fixed framework for employees, such as working in the office three days a week and from home for two. Others might allow them a certain number of days of remote work every month. 

It’s important to ensure that the degree to which a workplace is remote-friendly is clear between employers and employees to make a hybrid workplace successful. 

Hybrid workplaces offer many of the advantages of fully remote work alongside those of spending time at the office. 

Reduced Operating Costs

Having employees come into the office part of the time can greatly reduce business operating costs. Office space, supplies, snacks, coffee, and other variable expenses can be curbed with a hybrid work schedule. 

Optimized Team Schedules

A hybrid model allows teams to optimize their in-person and online work time together. Meeting in person goes a long way toward building stronger interpersonal relationships within teams. 

Maintaining Employee Health

As the pandemic evolves into an endemic, hybrid work provides the flexibility needed to maintain the health and safety of a work environment. It gives people the flexibility to work from home in the event they might be sick. 

Better Documentation 

Building synchronized communication systems for distributed teams lead to more thought-out processes that can overcome silos within your organization. 

“It’s important to make sure that we’re constantly improving our documentation, that things are easy to find, searchable, and there’s no one person attached to any one piece of information or activity,” Kirilova says.  

How do the different work models compare?

As more organizations look to build a strong remote work culture, it’s important to understand how the models compare to one another. The results of a 2022 remote work productivity survey of 2,288 people published by Forbes revealed that:

  • At the time of the study, 46% of those who responded were working remotely, 28% were working on site, and 26% were in a hybrid workplace. 
  • Fully remote workers worked almost an hour more than their counterparts.
  • Hybrid workers were slightly more productive than remote workers, followed by in-office workers. 
  • Remote workers were found to work most effectively compared to hybrid or in-office workers. 

Each work model presents its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to select one that aligns with what your business is trying to accomplish and fits with its vision and mission statements.