Distributed teams are the new gold standard for workplaces today. Unlike on-site teams, which have a full presence in a physical office, distributed teams have a more flexible arrangement. This adaptability makes them the most nimble working arrangement out there. In today’s world of fast-paced deadlines and ever-changing components, there’s really nothing quite like a distributed team to tackle your next project.
Defining a Distributed Team
A distributed team is a hybrid model with many different variations. In essence, a distributed team is a blended model that has both onsite and remote workers, though the percentage depends on the company. Distributed teams are definitely not all or nothing. They can be:
- Partially distributed. Most distributed teams are partially distributed, which means some of their workers are remote and some work from a physical office. This is especially common in the tech industry, where companies hire to fill skill gaps and support their on-site team with remote workers. It’s also a common transition method for startups who want to reduce overhead and win over top talent worldwide. In addition, some companies use remote work as a retainment strategy to prevent talent flight when a skilled employee needs or wants to move locations.
- Part-time distributed: A part-time distributed company allows their on-site workers the ability to work remotely for part of the week. Often companies will do this as a benefit for their workers. For example, workers can work from home on Fridays, or can take five work-from-home days a month. This working mode is a bit different because it still depends almost completely on an on-site office.
- Fully distributed: This type of distributed team means that all workers are remote. Fully distributed is also called 100% remote or fully remote.
As you can see, there’s a range of distributed teams and the number of employees working remotely and when. This great diversity is one of the benefits of distributed teams – the ability to scale your company according to your needs.
Benefits of a Distributed Team
Besides the adaptability of distributed teams to suit your company, there’s a lot about distributed teams that’s changing work for the better. Here are some of the top benefits:
- Access to a Killer Global Hiring Pool
When you take your workforce global, the hiring possibilities are endless. Finding candidates with top skills and a culture fit is much easier within a global pool. You don’t have to settle for a lesser candidate just because he/she lives nearby. In addition, you can get candidates with specialized skills, or those who really jive with your team. A global hiring pool can boost your business and give your teams new abilities. If you’re looking to set up interviews soon, check out our interview question list for remote Node.js candidates.
- Retain Top Talent with Remote Perks
One of every three Americans would change jobs if it meant working remotely. It’s a great employee benefit that gives the worker the flexibility and freedom to work when and how he/she wants to. For many, translates to more time with family, hobbies and a work-life balance that lets them pursue their interests while maintaining a lucrative career. If you’re hoping to retain top talent, remote work – whether once a week or every day – can make your employees happier and more productive. This benefit can also make your employees more loyal and likely to stay.
- A Global Sense of Diversity
New studies suggest that diversity in your workforce makes your team smarter and more innovative. Hiring employees from around the world can give a huge injection of much-needed diversity into your company. Having this diversity will ensure more problem-solving skills and perspectives that you didn’t have before at your company. It’s a win-win situation for globally distributed teams.
- Achieve Time Zone Coverage
If your company works with global clients or customer support, distributed teams are a huge help. By having workers in major time zones, you can achieve full global coverage. While there are challenges to asynchronous communication, there’s an opportunity with time zone coverage to boost your response time and client results. It’s definitely an option to consider if you’re in certain industries.
- Promote Greater Productivity
The studies are in: working remotely increases productivity. We can see why: a remote worker is able to work in his/her best environment and without the distractions that a typical office has. Everybody is different, which is why remote work opens the playing field and allows each worker to decide how best to get work done. It’s an arrangement that favors results instead of time and focuses on what each worker achieves.
Challenges That Can Become Benefits With a Remote-First Outlook
Of course, no system is perfect. Certain challenges arise when switching from a solely office-based workforce to a distributed one. However, by thinking through these challenges with a remote-first outlook, many of these complications can actually work in your favor.
- Think Result-First
Many who work in distributed team fear that work just won’t get done. However, by changing how managers think about outcomes, this can actually help the company. Instead of charging hours of work, your company can go results-first, worrying only about what gets done and leaving the rest to every employee. It may seem radical at first, but thinking results-first can make your teams – both in-office and remote – work under better conditions.
- Define and Improve Communication Methods
Working on a distributed team also forces the group to find consistent ways of communication that don’t leave out any group. Instead of deciding something in passing at a cubicle or coffee break, workers have to ensure that all team members – on-site or otherwise – know of what’s going on. By defining these communication processes, you’re likely to see strides in your team’s collaboration.
- Resolve Gaps in Company Security and Documentation
As a result of these improved communication methods, your company will also have to better document processes. Since your distributed teams have to work together and share information across the globe, it’s key that your security and documentation processes are well-tested and foul-proof. This is a huge benefit of working under a distributed model, as it allows you to find these gaps and get real solutions for them.
Challenges of a Distributed Team
Not every challenge has an easy solution. When it comes to challenges of distributed teams, there are a few downsides that are important to know about so you can mitigate them.
- Combat Loneliness and Create Virtual Camaraderie
Isolation is one of the most-cited challenges of remote work, and it’s something that many, especially when they first begin remote work, struggle with. To combat this issue, many distributed teams are looking to create virtual spaces that give them the sense of a tight team. Often, this is done with Slack or other digital tools. The virtual office is the best way to bring together employees and make them feel connected to others working remotely or onsite.
- Manage in New, Remote-First Ways
Shifting to a new management system can also be difficult at first. If your company has changed to a distributed work model, you must also change your management style and ensure that all workers are being included in your communication and collaboration protocols. Many companies use digital tools to get around this change, using project management, video conference and other tools to track projects and deadlines and promote collaboration.
Why Distributed Teams Are the Future
Distributed teams are nimble and packed with benefits for the employee and the company, including a global hiring pool, the perk of remote work, diversity, time zone coverage, productivity, a results-first outlook, better communication and defined security and documentation. Within a distributed team, loneliness and management are also two major concerns that can be mitigated by using a remote-first outlook and finding ways to utilize digital tools to your advantage.
In the end, distributed teams are here to stay and could prove to have huge payoffs for your company.