Remote work is gaining in popularity, but it's still a relatively new concept so, when it comes to terminology, it’s very easy to confuse what means what. In this short blog post, I’ll try to create some clarity.
As a rule of thumb, all companies hiring remote software developers can be split into three big groups: fully remote, remote-first, and remote-friendly.
Fully remote companies are easy to recognize. They don’t have an office space (or have one, but don’t use it much), and all their employees work remotely. The number of fully remote companies is not that significant, but it’s growing. Companies like Automattic—the company behind WordPress.com—and GitLab are both very good examples. RemoteMasters keeps track of companies hiring remote software developers, and at their website you can browse the complete and up-to-date list of fully remote companies.
The line between remote-first and remote-friendly companies is a bit blurrier. Both allow working from home, and both have offices where people show up to work. The key differences here are internal processes. Remote-first companies make it their priority to create a work environment where remote workers do not feel excluded. This often includes using video for conference calls, utilizing computers for conference calls whenever a remote worker participates (as opposed to a meeting room), using online chats for informal communication, and placing a heavy focus on documenting all discussions, processes, and decisions. What this means in practice is more fully explained in blog posts at StackOverflow and CircleCI, both of which are remote-first companies. Again, at RemoteMasters you can check the complete and most up-to-date list of remote-first companies.
When done right, remote-first companies are very similar to those that are fully remote—at least from the perspective of a remote software developer. Both are typically the best choices for software developers looking for remote work.