In  software and website design, there's a simple theory called "Mobile First." The idea is that when you're designing a new website or software, it's always easiest to design the  mobile version first because there are far more constraints.

If you can get something to work on mobile first, transferring it to the desktop version is a breeze.

So, why not apply this theory to the workplace with remote work? Starting employees remotely has a number of benefits, and as the need to work remotely continues to grow, hiring "Remote First" just makes sense.

Why remote first?

Just as there are more constraints with mobile design, there are more constraints facing remote workers. This might sound like a negative for new hires, but let's look at the positives.

Starting employees remotely can cut down on training time and make their transition into the office a breeze. With the proper systems in place, new employees can essentially train themselves and start working on projects before they even step foot in the office. When the time comes to bring them in, they'll be set up and working efficiently in a matter of minutes--instead of days or weeks. Plus, if they need to work remotely, they'll already be well-prepared.

Starting a new employee remotely can also be used as a trial period. If someone can't figure out how to work remotely, do you really want them working at your company?

As an example, when you start remotely you are forced to:

  • Set up and log in to systems yourself.
  • Find answers to questions on your own.
  • Complete work entirely on your own, without consulting your desk buddy.
  • Only reach out for help when absolutely necessary.

Do you really want someone working at your company who is unable to set up basic systems on their laptop or unable to find answers on their own? The "Remote First" process can automatically weed out people who aren't equipped to work in a modern, tech-enabled workplace.

Making "remote first" work.

It should come as no surprise that you'll need to get your business remote-ready before you can expect new employees to get assimilated in a remote environment.

I've been running my own fully-remote company for five years, and as a business efficiency consultant, I help companies of all sizes get set up for remote work. In my experience, I've found there are three key areas that every company--regardless of size, age, or revenue--needs to master before they can expect their employees to effectively work remotely. 

The three areas are "communication," "planning," and "resource"--which are the basis for my CPR Business Efficiency Framework.

Communication is about more than just email. To effectively work remotely, your team needs a communication tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams and a video conference tool like Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. This will help your remote workers fit in with company culture and get to know their coworkers while keeping all communication visible, organized, and recorded in the cloud.

Planning is how things get done. Your team needs to be able to complete projects regardless of whether they're in the office or not. Project management tools like Asana or Trello will allow everyone on your team to see the projects they need to complete and access the information they need to get work done. The true value of these tools is that managers can quickly and easily oversee projects and track the progress of their employees without having to physically check in.

Resource is the most underappreciated of the three, yet it's by far the most important for remote workers. Resource is all about creating a repository of information for your employees. I like to separate this information into two categories: static and dynamic. 

Static knowledge covers answers to simple questions like, "What is our paid time off policy?" or "Where is the company logo file?" This type of information should be stored in a wiki-style tool like Notion or Intercom. When set up properly, this knowledge center can effectively train your new remote employees--when they have a question, they consult the knowledge base first, and only reach out when absolutely necessary.

Dynamic knowledge covers processes. I've written about the value of process documentation before, but it's even more important with new remote employees. You're not able to physically walk them through every step of a process--nor should you, as this is a waste of time--so documenting processes and making them accessible for your new remote employees will help them complete their core activities right off the bat with minimal training.

Considering onboarding a new employee? Start with a two-week remote trial period and see how it goes. But first, make sure you're set up for success in the three areas above.