Avoid the ‘hybrid’ working model: Embracing remote-first means unshackling from the past

In this article, Paul McKinlay, VP, Communications and Remote Working at Cimpress & Vista, discusses how to successfully work remotely and what benefits team members can experience when companies fully commit to the remote working transition.

Pre-pandemic, remote working was a term that few used and only a small number of people had the opportunity to experience. Fast forward to today, and it couldn’t be more different. Covid-19 launched much of the working world into unfamiliar territory where viable working alternatives needed to be considered.

The rules of working have changed because of how we had to adapt during the pandemic, it being a catalyst for employers to switch to remote working – large scale companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are now either introducing remote working measures or – as Amazon’s surprise announcement the other week demonstrates – making more ad hoc, ‘hybrid working’ decisions to postpone the return to office indefinitely.

While this may have been a temporary measure for some, at Cimpress & Vista we have been embracing the last 14 months as a period of remote working transformation, with plenty of highs and lows, and are now reaping the benefits of becoming a remote-first company. It’s now not just what we do, but it’s become who we are and we are proud to share the blueprint of what has worked for us so far.

Getting (and staying) on the same page

Initially, in the transition from office-based to remote-working, many people in the working world were overwhelmed with virtual meetings and the expectation to always be online. We found that asynchronous (async) working, communicating and moving projects forward without the need for two or more people to be online at the same time, helped to reduce time spent on Zoom and increased productivity.

From a recent survey that took place internally, 71% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “my productivity is as high or higher than when I worked at an office”. By prioritising and investing in async training, effective collaboration is enabled and work-life harmony is maximised, with async workflows drastically reducing the number of ineffective meetings in calendars and promoting thoughtfulness through better-written communication. It is worth noting however that although async working is preferred, it should never be enforced at the expense of relationship building or productivity. An understanding that it cannot – and will not – replace every way of working is important to remember.

Embracing a location-agnostic culture

The premise of remote-first is not about where you work, but about how your work is accomplished. Without having the requirement of needing to be in a traditional office environment gives team members flexibility and improves their work-life harmony. By not having to commute, they have more time for activities they enjoy, living where they actually want to live and generally not having to get up at the crack of dawn to make it into the office for 9am. It also puts a stop to regional inequality and gives those in rural areas opportunities to work for larger companies. We are seeing continued increase in personal relocations, with 13 team members moving countries since July 2021 and 50 relocations in the US since April 2020.

‘Out of sight, out of mind?’

One of the many common misconceptions about working from home is that it limits career progression, however we strongly feel that this is a myth that needs busting – and fast! Remote working enables a different way for team members to craft their network to the long-term benefit of their career. With networking no longer restricted to those who are in the immediate office space, these networks can be built from socialising in coffee shops or during local exercise classes.

Remote working also enables employers to clearly see an individual’s hard work that can be lost in an office environment, with introverts having a space to shine without being overshadowed by louder characters, for example. Tools like our remote-first handbook, learning management system and course content library teach team members the right skills that will give them the upper hand for future career opportunities once the rest of the world follows suit. As of September 30th, our remote-first team members have spent 775 hours taking professional development courses.

While remote working may not be for everyone, nor for every business, the trends are very clear: the remote migration has given the world permission to look at work differently and consider other ways to maintain or increase productivity. Ultimately, we believe that team members who can choose where they work, when they work, and how they work, without any career compromise will be a happier team, by re-setting work-life harmony.