The Importance of Distributed Teams

The importance of distributed teams is growing. More workplace flexibility and other benefits keep businesses agile.
by
Daniel Weiss

Traditional office models have long been the norm while more recently, distributed teams have come into style (and necessity). Shared office space was once the only way for teams to communicate, collaborate, and share equipment. Communicating with a peer in an office setting is as simple as going to the next desk over. Supervision and standard working hours are the norm in office culture. However, distributed teams are paving the way for a new normal.

Today, technology makes it possible for distributed teams to work in shared or separate spaces. A virtual environment makes more sense for many modern businesses than requiring all team members to work at the same physical office. Distributed teams allow companies to set up teams in a way that benefits workers in terms of flexibility and independence in their jobs. 

If considering moving to a distributed team model, it’s worthwhile to look at how other distributed teams have made their “workplaces” successful.

The Benefits of a Distributed Team

While using distributed teams veers from the traditional office model, the virtual team approach offers a host of benefits for businesses and the employees that work for them. Here are seven of the top benefits of using distributed teams or remote teams.

  1. 1. Distributed teams don’t limit you to recruiting employees that live within a commutable distance from a company location.

  2. For example, if your company headquarters is in Cleveland, Ohio, but you need a team of tech agents, you could set up distributed teams in Austin and/or San Francisco, where they tend to have large numbers of people with tech skills looking for jobs. This type of arrangement allows you to attract the best talent from around the country and be more competitive.
  1. 2. Distributed teams allow you to draw from a workforce that values flexibility.

  2. A 2017 study by Deloitte shows that over 84% of the millennial generation values some degree of flexibility in their job positions. The same study showed that flexibility is linked to improved organizational performance, increased loyalty, and personal job satisfaction.
  3. 3. Distributed teams make it possible to have greater coverage across time zones.

  4. Teams that are placed in strategic geographical locations solve the problem of needing to staff two or more shifts during non-traditional business hours.
  5. 4. Distributed teams allow you to save labor costs.

  6. If HQ is located in an area like San Francisco, where wages and cost of living are high, companies can save on workforce costs by setting up a distributed team in Louisiana cost of living is lower.
  1. 5. The flexibility that distributed teams provide for workers enhances the work-life balance.

  2. If you’ve ever been bound to a 9-5 job, you know how hard it can be to go to the doctor or get to the bank before it closes. The flexibility that distributed teams offers increases employee morale because they don’t feel forced to make compromises between work and personal obligations.
  1. 6. Distributed team employees can relocate without having to change jobs.

  2. For example, if one spouse gets transferred to a new city, the other spouse can continue working for the same company in a new location with no disruption or loss of talent for the company. This location-agnostic mindset can relieve previously necessary headaches. 
  1. 7. The distributed team model saves the costs of maintaining office spaces.

  2. Where office space comes at a high cost, companies will save on the costs of leasing, utilities, and other expenses.

Optimizing Performance of Your Distributed Teams

It’s important to help individual employees reach their full potential, and the same is true when using distributed teams. To get the optimal performance of your individuals and teams they need the proper guidance. Here are some tips for building effective distributed teams.

  • Use videoconference so team members can more readily interpret emotions and body language.
  • Use multiple collaboration tools like screen sharing, file sharing, text, chat, task-trackers, and shared calendars.
  • Give each team member a chance to offer input during team meetings.
  • Partner individuals together on projects when it’s practical.
  • Hire employees with good communication skills (and don’t overlook the introverts).
  • Check in with teams at least daily and keep in touch with them throughout the day.
  • Establish communication standards and best practices for communication and train employees well in them.
  • Look for team members that are good self-starters who can take the lead on projects from start to finish.
  • Employ team members that are good at managing themselves.
  • Provide opportunities for on-site team bonding at least a few times per year if possible.
  • Seek employees that want to work remotely or in small teams-they’ll work harder and be happier.
  • Celebrate their accomplishments individually and collectively.

Virtual Collaboration & a Distributed Team Model

The nuances of a distributed team are different than when employees work in the same physical location. Something that’s important for the distributed team model is to consider the characteristics of managers and team members. Also, team members need to know where the team is positioned within the company and where they personally fit in with the team.

The following skills and characteristics are essential for managers of distributed teams:

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Effective distributed team employees have these characteristics:

  • They’re self-disciplined and accountable.
  • They’re open to using technology and technological advances.
  • They have excellent participation and team-building skills.
  • They are trusting and have confidence in other team members to complete tasks and be consistent.
  • They’re patient, persistent, and tolerant.

How to Convince Management to Consider Distributed Teams

Over 53 million Americans currently work in non-traditional settings. With the global workforce changing so drastically, especially in light of Covid-19, there is no shortage of articles on the topic of using distributed teams. Many of these blogs and other media are quick to point out that there’s a risk of falling behind the competition by not using distributed or remote teams. Sharing some articles about the pros and cons of using distributed teams may be the ticket to convincing management that your company will benefit by using distributed teams as well.

With the holidays quickly approaching and people being afraid to venture out into the stores, distributed teams have the potential to help companies increase online sales to help reach their sales goals for the holiday season.

E-commerce sales are tailor-made for the distributed team model and e-commerce grows every year. According to a 2019 Amazon report, e-commerce accounts for 16% of sales. Retailers will increasingly be relying on online sales with many shopping malls being closed or limiting capacity.  

Information technology is one of the leading industries that uses distributed teams. IT firms account for 29.2% of companies that use distributed teams.

The health and wellness industries have taken off with the onset of the pandemic. Numerous gyms are closed, and people are ordering gym equipment to help them stay fit at home. There is also an increased demand for online health and beauty supplies, as people are looking for ways to remain healthy and continue their normal routines with salons being closed.

These industries and more can use distributed teams to meet their workforce requirements, continue supplying their customers with products, and promote growth through uncertain times. Moving forward, companies may need to rely on distributed teams even more.

The Importance of a Distributed Team Model

A distributed team model will help you attain an optimal performance from your teams and gauge its effectiveness. A model will help you to identify which elements in your teams may be lacking.

Zakara and Yusof developed the “creation and management level” model of virtual teams. Their model incorporates:

  • Interaction
  • Visibility
  • Different work modes (in-person and virtual)
  • Intercultural training
  • Team-based rewards

Therefore, when developing a distributed team model, consider the following components:

  • Develop goals with clearly defined objectives and communicate expectations and priorities to teams.
  • Make sure processes for decision-making and work procedures are clear.
  • Encourage interpersonal relationships that inspire good communication, flexibility, and trust.
  • Inspire commitment of team members by giving them purpose, sharing goals, and maintaining consistency.
  • Develop ongoing training for skills in problem-solving, technical skills, and interpersonal skills.
  • Expect and encourage a mutual sense of personal and team accountability.

Building effective distributed teams requires having the right tools. Aircall is your company’s premier solution for a cloud-based phone system that fully integrates with other applications that you’re already using. It’s so simple to set up and easy for your team members to use which means you can focus on building the best model for your distributed teams. 

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