Thinking about moving to a distributed team model? You’re in great company!
More than half of companies have a hybrid location model in 2022, whether that’s a mix of in-person, hybrid and fully remote employees, or a totally hybrid set up.
What’s pushing this trend, and essentially – how can you make a success of it?
Why do companies have distributed teams?
A distributed work strategy is one where not all of the team works in one single office, but there are many distributed team models ranging from remote-first to hybrid work with one single office.
Although it’s a growing trend, it doesn’t work for all types of businesses. It depends on the type of business, the type of workers and your company’s culture.
However, for many businesses nowadays, being able to offer candidates the opportunity to be part of a distributed team is no longer a choice. This is the demand that’s coming from talented and skilled candidates, and very few workers want to continue coming into the office five days a week. Instead, they want to save the time and cost of a commute, and spend more time with family and friends. For many, flexibility is the new pay rise.
The wins keep coming when you think about it from the company’s perspective. First off, it increases the talent pool so you can find the best person for the job. It gives businesses the opportunity to hire from anywhere in the world, getting the “best person for the role” not the “best person within an hour of my headquarters.”
Some say that distributed teams have been shown to increase productivity and reduce costs, whether that’s the office itself, overheads like lights, heat, water and the new Maslow essential – WiFi, or even technology such as computers, routers and printers. (Oh my!)
Of course, others will claim the opposite, that distributed teams end up costing more or that they’ve seen a drop in productivity or retention. That’s because it’s all about how you do it. If you continue to run your business the way you did when you had an office, you shouldn’t expect a boost in productivity. However, if you do it right - there’s no looking back.
Distributed teams FTW! How to boost your distributed team strategy
Not to spoil the mood, but managing remote or distributed teams comes with its own challenges, too. Here are some great ways to smooth over any road bumps and keep the company's feeling positive about this shift.
- Create a remote workforce policy: Some elements of working with a distributed team will be the same (Ex: trying to stay awake pre-coffee at the team meeting) while others will be very different. Pay close attention to your onboarding processes, your communication technology, and the eligibility criteria you put in place. A remote workforce policy is a great tool that can help you start strong and prepare for any surprises.
- Think about management processes: It’s natural for managers to be nervous when they can’t see what their workers are doing all day, but look for ways to avoid standing over your team member’s virtual shoulders. Expectations are super important here, so it can be helpful to put processes in place, like enforcing a weekly update email, or a fortnightly 1:1. Employees need autonomy to do a good job, so set some rules for working hours, deadlines and project updates, and then tell managers to step back and watch employees fly.
- Look for ways to encourage team bonding: Gooooo team! It’s easy for a distributed workforce to feel like individuals rather than part of a cohesive culture. Embrace technology like Slack for giving employees a way to communicate, and not just for work matters. Encourage fun channels for memes, happy hour chat, sports and personal events. You can also use software like 10,000 coffees which helps create mentorship relationships and virtual meet-ups across departments.
- Structure working hours: When left to their own devices, some employees will naturally get the work done during set hours, and then switch off their devices when it’s time to focus on family. Others might need a bit more support. Especially when your team is working globally, it’s important to remember that certain countries like France and Germany even have rules about when emails and office communication can be sent. Make sure that you understand the local complexities of where your employees are working, and set clear expectations for when employees will be available, and when you’d expect them to be firmly offline.
Today’s businesses are reinventing work norms and getting the most out of distributed workforces who are killing it while WFH around the globe. Scenario planning, remote workforce policies, and putting an emphasis on culture and communication will set you up for success.