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What's the difference between all-remote, remote-first and remote-friendly

Created by Will Ceolin
Created on Apr 14, 20 - Updated on May 10, 20

There are many ways of working remotely. Some companies will say they're . Others will use a or a approach. Let's see what's the difference between them:

All-remote

companies don't have a physical office. All their operations happen remotely. Remote only companies usually have a strong communication culture and every decision is written down. They often have more transparency as it makes easier for everyone to work remotely.

From the GitLab's remote guide:

All-remote means that each individual in an organization is empowered to work and live where they are most fulfilled. By including the word "all" in "all-remote," it makes clear that every team member is equal. No one, not even the executive team, meets in-person on a daily basis.

It's easier for software companies to be all-remote_ as most of their operations require only a computer with an internet connection. But companies from a number of other fields have been joining the party recently. See a list of all-remote companies.

Some people call those companies "remote-only". However, GitLab's guide explains why this might be a bad idea:

The word "only" is particularly problematic. This implies that under no circumstance can team members be in the same physical space, while all-remote provides more options on this front.


Remote-first

(or ) companies still have an office but they consider remote work as a first-class citizen. Most of their operations happen remotely but some areas might happen in the office:

A remote-first organization embodies many of the principles that create a thriving all-remote culture — handbook-first documentation, asynchronous workflows, no hybrid calls, etc. — but these entities reserve the right to establish a physical company headquarters.

For example, a logistics company can't be remote-only because they need to handle their inventory at a physical place. However, other teams in that company (e.g. engineering, marketing, sales, accounting, etc.) work remotely, so they set as the official way for communicating with each other.

Remote-first companies usually adopt the same strategy and communication used by remote-only ones.


Remote-friendly

companies are the ones that allow some employees to work from home (or remotely) but that's neither the default nor an encouraged practice.

Different from and , they don't follow the best practices for working remotely and they don't have a remote culture. That's why employees working remotely might feel left out when working for that kind of organization.