Technological advancements and the impact of COVID-19 have made it easier for organizations to create and maintain distributed teams. The notion of working without a central office to report to has become an attractive prospect for employers and employees alike as this structure is reliable, efficient, and cost-effective on both sides.
When team members work remotely from varied locations, they become better placed to enhance productivity. One, the distributed workforce model frees employees from unnecessary transportation interruptions, so they spend less time on traveling and more on actual work. Two, employees have more room to connect with friends and family, which was more challenging in traditional workforce models.
In short, distributed teams provide a relatively superior work-life balance while companies get to enjoy a motivated and satisfied workforce.
What constitutes a “distributed team”
Distributed teams can be defined as workplace models where team members individually operate from different locations. When a company's workers are scattered across different locations worldwide and the organization lacks a physical workspace, it has an internationally distributed team.
Distributed teams are also diverse — for example, employees can work from their houses, coffee shops, or co-working spaces. As long as there is no shared office space arrangement, such models satisfy the "distributed team" profile.
The Difference Between Remote and Distributed Teams
Remote working is where a team of workers collaborate from various locations worldwide, including a shared office space arrangement. While remote teams have been around for a while, their importance has grown with the proliferation of digital work applications and collaboration tools.
Today, the main advantaged of remote teams are more flexibility and autonomy for the employee, and reduced overhead costs for the employer. Companies that leverage this workspace model also benefit from their employees' innovativeness due to enhanced motivation from work-life balance.
So, what is the difference between distributed and remote teams? Simply put, the only difference is that remote team members can work from a shared office space arrangement when they choose to, while distributed team members can’t.
Remote teams have a central facility where willing employees can work part-time or full-time. An example is when a software company with a New York office hires call center agents living in Arizona. Although these employees can work from wherever they like, the company still maintains its headquarters.
If the software organization had no physical offices in New York (or anywhere else), it would be termed as having a distributed workforce.
Benefits of working with Distributed Teams
The following are some of the befits of working with distributed teams:
• Better employee retention: The distributed workplace is a source of employee satisfaction. Employees tend to become more loyal when there is more flexibility and freedom. Therefore, the process reduces worker turnover.
• Lower overhead costs: When your organization works with distributed employees, you do not have to spend any money on office space, on-site IT infrastructure, and maintenance expenses.
• Enhanced productivity: Since there are no in-person meetings, less time is spent on commutes and workers have more time to work on their projects.
• There is more flexibility: Employees and their bosses have a better work-life balance within the distributed workplace model. Since the stakeholders have more time to work on personal projects and grow their private lives, they have enhanced satisfaction and motivation.
• Access to the best talent: Distributed teams enable organizations to work with top talent from around the world — the ability to employ from an international talent pool is a crucial competitive advantage today.
The Challenges of Working With a Distributed Team
Despite its effectiveness, the distributed workplace model has its challenges. Sometimes the time zone differences can affect communication and collaboration, which could reduce team morale and make it challenging to collaborate.
Miscommunication could occur due to a reliance on collaboration tools and emails. For example, using translation tools to communicate could make messages lose their meanings, which might cause disputes.
So, how can your company overcome these challenges?
How to Get the Best Out of Distributed Teams
1. Set Clear Expectations
It would be best to consistently communicate what you expect from each team member -- all employees should work towards common goals that have clear guidelines. Even if people work from different locations, there should be a high level of professionalism and a focus on results-oriented operations.
2. Leverage the Right Tools
Organizations should integrate relevant and practical workplace tools. Business owners should research and install the best messaging, project management, video calling, and email tools. It’s also important to install top virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect private data.
3. Maintain Regular Schedules
Another great practice is to have consistent check-in moments. A manager can ask team members to make one-on-one video calls at specific times to discuss project progress. Online team meetings can also help build collaboration and act as platforms for giving feedback.
4. Acknowledge Team Members' Efforts
Celebrating each team member's small wins is also essential to boost motivation! When everyone feels appreciated, they become more motivated to work towards objective realization. The best approach is to encourage weekly discussion posts where members share their wins of the week.
5. Encourage Asynchronous Communication
Lastly, businesses should prioritize asynchronous communication. There should be some rules around response time and when it is necessary to make phone calls — this way, asynchronous communication becomes the default unless there is an emergency.
The bottom line is that the distributed workplace model is the go-to option if you want to enhance productivity and improve motivation in your workplace (while also saving money!).
With all the benefits that come with working as a distributed team, expanding your team by hiring employees in other countries can be very complicated. When it comes time to expand your distributed team to other countries, working with an Employer of Record (EOR) like Remofirst removes the legal complexities and makes it easier to grow your team worldwide. Contact us today to learn more.