While some believed remote work had no chance of remaining after the pandemic, the current reality has proven them wrong. Worldwide, companies and employees welcome the benefits of hybrid work: the perfect mix between home and office work. Greater flexibility leads to new opportunities for some businesses that take this new way of working even further. Some allow their staff to embrace the concept of flexitime, while others create distributed teams. This structural change offers many advantages both from an employer’s and worker’s point of view. Distributed work takes flexible work arrangements to a whole new level by eliminating location and time limits. What does a fully distributed company look like? What are the pros and cons of this working model? What are the essential tools for a distributed workforce? This article helps you learn more about the highest form of flexibility at work.
What defines a distributed team?
Definition of a distributed team
A distributed team is a group of employees who work from various places and in different time zones. There are no geographical or time limits on their working conditions. This concept is based on embracing work flexibility to gather global talent and fulfil employees’ expectations. The pandemic has proven to organizations that productivity doesn’t decrease because people work remotely. Quite the contrary. And that's why many have embraced distributed work as a model for their business.
Example of a distributed team model
Do you need help visualizing what a distributed team model looks like? Here is a straightforward example of this approach:
Arthur is a Head of Content and operates from his place in the UK.
Monica is a Junior Content Marketing manager who usually works in different coworking spaces around the world.
Matthew is a Data Specialist and primarily performs from his home in South Africa.
Safa is a Sale Manager who enjoys and feels more productive working in the best coffee shops in Mexico.
Distributed vs. remote team
The difference between a distributed and a remote team lies in the structural approach of these two working models. Remote work encourages a “work-from-anywhere” policy. Distributed work goes further as it is part of the organizational concept of the company and sometimes distributed businesses don’t even have an office space. It is not just a location aspect but a whole way of working based on two core pillars: flexibility and collaboration. The whole business strategy relies on the idea that everyone works from anywhere at any time. Therefore, the way they work, the tools provided, and the company’s culture are all built around this idea.
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What are the pros and cons of distributed work?
The perks of this working model
Attracting talents worldwide
Being able to work from anywhere is one of the most important criteria for younger generations of workers (76% of millennials say flexibility is more valuable than a high salary). Offering them great freedom in their professional life is a significant plus for recruitment. Not only can people apply to companies located anywhere in the world, but they also don’t have to worry about time difference issues since distributed work considers the employees’ location.
Bringing more diversity into the workplace
A flexible work model enables organizations to hire people from different origins and backgrounds. This is a huge advantage as it fosters diversity and brings the best talent together. You can create a team full of wide-ranging skills and experiences. By gathering their knowledge and collaborating, distributed teams are more creative, efficient, and productive. Isn’t it a dream of every company to have a group of like-minded people working toward a common goal?
Answering the needs of a modern workforce
Three major aspects play a massive role in employee satisfaction and the success of an organization: trust, freedom, and purpose. Distributed work includes all of these three. By building your working model around work flexibility, companies have no choice but to trust their team members. People have the freedom to work wherever and whenever they want. Plus, they can work for a business that provides them with a sense of purpose without being geographically limited. Besides, it also fosters a better work-life balance and employee happiness.
Minimizing company costs
The core idea of opting for a fully distributed work model is not to have an office, which is a major cost saver. If you wanted to provide office space for your employees, though, its size would still be smaller than a typical workplace as they will come on-site at different times. As a result, you can minimize your company's expenses by having a workplace that meets your needs. Quite often, distributed teams use their own devices for work. A BYOD policy when coming to the office can also help you reduce your costs.
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The downsides of distributed work arrangements
Having people working from all over the world on various devices increases the risk of data leaks. Maintaining a high level of security standards is one of the main issues distributed teams must tackle. Fortunately, the rise of flexible working practices leads to an increasing number of new resources to help companies protect their business from cyberattacks and data leaks.
While working in different time zones can benefit companies by offering a wider range of availability for their customers, it may also create some issues. Managing a distributed team requires a lot of organization and excellent communication. Constantly collecting feedback, improving processes and the leadership approach are crucial.
Having the best talents in the world is not a guarantee for success. You should ensure they feel connected to the company, the corporate values, missions, and colleagues. Workplace connection is easier when employees come to the office and regularly see their coworkers (in person). Distributed work implies that organizations must work harder to foster this key aspect.
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What are the most common tools in a distributed work environment?
Project management software
When people work from the same office every day, it is easy to stop by a colleague’s desk and ask for information about an ongoing project. Obviously, this is hardly going to happen with a distributed team. First, because they physically work in different locations. Second, while Safa works in the afternoon in Mexico, it is nighttime for Matthew in South Africa, for example. So what is the solution? Online collaborative solutions such as project management software are among the most important workplace technology for flexible workforces. They help employees centralize everything they need to collaborate efficiently and smoothly.
Digital communication resources
With this level of flexibility, you have to make sure everyone is on the same page, knows what to do, and can easily share information with the rest of the team. Therefore, digital communication resources such as Zoom or Slack are predominant in this working model. If you want to foster efficient communication, we recommend you collaboratively search for the right tool with coworkers. At the end of the day, they are the ones who will make the most use of it, so the most important aspect is that it answers their needs.
Flexible work environment tools
Even though distributed teams usually don’t have an office where they can meet, some companies offer this option. If you are one of them, make sure everybody has a space to work when coming to the office. Flexible work environment tools such as desk booking software help you manage the workspace. You and your employees know who is on-site and when. It also allows them to book everything they need (an individual desk, a meeting room, a parking spot, etc.). Being able to meet in person also fosters collaboration and workplace connection.
Could collaborating with distributed teams work for your business? How flexible are you with your employees’ arrangements? Whether you want to experience distributed work or prefer a hybrid work model, our desk booking tool is here to support you and your workforce.
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