The increasing focus on remote working necessitates proficient coordination between the teams located at various places. The fact that the employees are not physically present at the office premises poses various challenges for the companies and firms. Though the concept is fairly popular in almost every organization now, yet intellectual leadership qualities are needed to bring in a cohesive feeling. Termed as virtual or distributed teams, they work remotely at home or a co-working space.
In the article, we will discuss the definition of distributed teams, building and managing distributed teams, and the various pros and cons. We will touch upon the distributed team challenges and distributed teams best practices.
- What is a distributed team?
- Benefits of building and managing a distributed team
- How to build a distributed team?
- Tips on managing remote teams
- The pros and cons of having a distributed team
What is a distributed team?
Distributed teams or a distributed team is essentially a team of employees working in an organization in a remote workplace. The workplace is their residence, any co-working space or they may be digital nomads. The fact that they are scattered in various regions of the world or a city, they are termed as distributed teams.
They communicate with the other team members or their managers through online communication mode. Audio, video and web-conferencing gain preference in their work life. They are not physically required to be present at the office locations or work sites.
Certain companies just maintain virtual offices, forgoing physical setups. They operate remotely and are surviving in the market. There are both pros and cons of distributed teams, yet their importance is quite significant, especially in reducing costs and bracing pandemic situations.
Another significant aspect of distributed teams is a mix of various skills and talents. Companies often struggle to hire employees of the same skill from a particular location. This leads to loss of customers and revenue. Remote, virtual, distributed and collocated teams – whatever name you may call them, are super beneficial to tackle this problem.
Benefits of building and managing distributed teams
The management and leadership of big, medium and small size companies and firms are slowly shifting to the new trend of remote working. They realize the potential benefits of working remotely, the key ones are:
- Reduction in infrastructure and transportation costs
- Leveraging the global talent pool of resources
- Flexibility in the work hours
- Maintain a proper balance between professional and personal lives
- Reduction in anxieties, stress and tension levels
- Enhancement of efficiency and productivity
- Reduction in the employee turn over rates
- Generates a sense of self-responsibility and accountability
The mentioned key benefits are being noticed by many companies, and the satisfaction graph of employees is on the rise. Customers are satisfied and are showing trust in the company and its employees; a win-win situation for the company, its employees and its customers.
How to build a distributed team?
1. Hire the Best
The starting point of building distributed teams is to hire the appropriate people. The success of remote working teams depends a lot on the talents and skills of the team members. Curate your interview questions in such a way that you receive the answers to both the technical or domain aspects and the behavioural characteristics.
You may select candidates with good technical or domain know-how. Yet they may significantly lack interpersonal skills. Unless there is an acceptable balance between the two, you may struggle to manage the distributed teams. Self-motivation, dedication, good communication skills, and a positive attitude are some of the behavioural attributes that you must check. The leadership must usher in trust and confidence in their skillsets and capabilities while hiring to ensure mutual goodwill.
2. Define the roles and responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of the team must be defined and set clearly without any ambiguities. At the time of induction, these must be specified. Queries must be entertained and explained in concise terms to prevent any disputes later on.
You must specify the mission, vision, and objectives of the company and the team. Mention the daily activities and the mode of communication. List out the reports and dashboards that need to prepare and circulated based on the scheduled frequency. It is better to provide some online training materials or induction manuals for the remote team members.
3. Frequent Communication
Communication is an essential weapon for geographically distributed teams. The mode of communication must be set appropriately. Certain meetings or sessions mandate video calls whereas some may cater only by audio calls. Depending on the brevity of the situation, a decision needs to be finalized on the communication medium.
A robust and effective communication mechanism ensures proper coordination and management of the teams. The team members stay connected and can feel being part of the organization. The company leadership must encourage both professional and personal space of communication. The employees are re-charged and re-fueled after the day’s work and do not experience mental isolation.
4. Correct tools and technologies
Distributed teams require robust tools and technologies for constant collaboration and communication. Negligence may amount to difficulty in managing and coordinating between the teams.
Technology has undergone major advancements in the modern era. Various tools, software, and applications are available in the market, facilitating remote working. The team members can virtually connect, collaborate, and engage as and when needed. You need to decide and invest in the correct systems and application, beneficial for both the teams and the organization.
Employees working remotely need to be constantly motivated and inspired for better efficiency and productivity. The fact that they are isolated at a remote workspace must not creep into their minds. That may lead to a reduction in their output and quality of work.
A good and recommended method to generate constant enthusiasm is to reward or appreciate them in the form of monetary compensations or gifts. Their performances must be recognized and treasured. These methods boost up their confidence level, encouraging them to work for the betterment of the company. They gain trust and confidence in the company and feel a part of the family.
Building an efficient and motivated team is key to the successful execution of a project or program. Hence if you invest initially in achieving the same, the result will be positive.
Tips for managing distributed teams
1. Regular scheduled meetings
Managing geographically distributed teams is challenging. Yet if you conduct regularly scheduled meetings, then your life is more or less stable. Daily status checks and progress details are needed either through audio or video conference calls. Risks and hurdles must be discussed and solutions provided. If any team member needs support for technical, domain, infrastructure, or even HR-related issues, those aspects must also be discussed and deliberated upon.
Ensure all the meetings have a specific agenda with time limits. Do not overshoot the time as that may unnecessarily hamper productivity. Daily meetings must be short, focusing on any specific risks or hurdles. Weekly meetings can be a progress check. Monthly or fortnightly meetings can be to work on the next set of actions or plans. Unremot helps you to create a virtual office enabling one-tap video calls, instant messaging, easy screen sharing, and much more. You can organize your tasks and activities smoothly, without any hassle.
2. Set Performance Metrics and goals
Key performance indicators or KPIs not only help to measure a company’s success but also an individual’s performance levels. It is good to set the goals and measurement metrics at the beginning before initiating a project or a program. The team members will be aware of the goals and objectives they need to fulfil. Metrics will guide them to their future career and achievements.
KPIs and goals motivate remote professionals to focus on their activities and tasks. They remain dedicated and inspired to meet the deadlines. The quality and efficiency of work improved significantly. It leads to a win-win situation on both sides. One of the most effective tips for managing distributed teams.
3. Promoting social interactions
Remote, virtual, distributed, and collocated teams operating out of various regions do not imply that they are supposed to execute like machines. Even they need bandwidth flexibility, time to leisure and vacations, and interpersonal connections. Hence you must promote social meetings and interactions maybe once or twice in a week. a great way to do this is by facilitating and encouraging virtual watercooler interactions.
The best ways are to conduct quizzes, online games, chitchats about hobbies or personal interests, etc. between the members. It brings in several benefits. The employees feel refreshed, their brains supercharged, and bonding between the team to work together. The team members develop confidence and trust with the company’s management and feel at home. Through Unremot you can collaborate effectively and efficiently using their state of art tools and software.
4. Mutual agreement on work schedules
One of the distributed team challenges is maintaining the time zone and work schedules. The geographically distributed agile teams need to synced up accordingly. It is better to club time zones as per their proximity and then plan the schedules.
It is good to agree at a consensus on the work schedules at the beginning to avoid any kind of issues. There can be situations wherein you need to conduct a common meeting or discussion between all the members. An expectation must be set consciously on such occasions for a definite time. It may be an evening for someone, and it may be an early morning for someone. You need to percolate the same among the team for agreement.
5. Be result-oriented and not time-oriented
Forcing remote professionals to maintain a scheduled time every day is not desirable. It may result in dissatisfaction and resignations. The basic purpose of professionals preferring to work remotely is flexibility in timing. You must focus on the results and objectives. The teams must also be guided to follow the same.
Communicate the objectives and results expected from each member along with the deadlines. They may work at any time of the day, but the results must be met. You may enforce some fixed hours for availability in phone and emails, rest you must leave at their discretion to complete the work. As long as the deadlines are met, you must trust them.
6. Create a virtual work environment
Email communications are not always reliable. Constant checking of emails is not recommendable. It results in the deterioration of productivity. Besides, it invites distractions. If your inbox is flooded with emails, you may struggle to sort and find out the required ones.
To avoid such situations, it is good to maintain a virtual workspace with provisions of file sharing, chatting, instant messaging, screen sharing, etc. The remote team members can exchange documents, discuss with peers or managers and even seek clarifications or support as and when required. Unremot provides all the benefits at your fingertips.
7. A Random Check on the Progress
In addition to daily meetings and status checks, you must occasionally check on the team members. It can be just a random call or video conference. Not only it helps to verify the progress of the work, but it provides assurance on the motivation level of the members.
You can leverage these checks to ensure the members are satisfied and happy with the work environment and the management. It is better to enquire about their health and mental state too. Proactively ask for any problems or issues and volunteer to guide and assist in sorting them out.
Remote professionals expect transparency from their managers. The work culture, expectations, remunerations, health benefits, leaves must be communicated clearly to them. The reporting hierarchy must be conveyed so that they understand whom to report and who are present in the ladder higher up.
This information helps them to understand their position in the company and assist in shaping up their aspirations. They gain trust in the management and leadership of the company. They remain dedicated and focused on their work. It is one of the important guidelines when it comes to distributed teams best practices.
What are the Pros and Cons of distributed teams?
The concept of Distributed agile teams comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Pros are a boon, and we must strive to utilize them to be more productive and efficient. Cons are the awareness that needs to be seriously dealt with and tacked with intelligent solutions.
The Pros of having a distributed team
- Flexibility in work hours ensures a balance between personal and professional lives. Motivation levels are higher up. Efficiency boosts up, and productivity shoots up. Remote professionals are happy that they can take care of their kids and family while being full time in a job.
- Access to a pool of talented and skilled resources spread in different zones of the world. You can leverage them without being bothered about locating similar skills from a city or a state. The problem of resource shortage is resolved, allowing you to operate smoothly and efficiently.
- Reduction of infrastructure and transport costs is one of the greatest advantages of operating remotely. The more you reduce expenditures, the more you can invest in strategic opportunities. It positively impacts your revenue figures.
- Work disruption is minimal in remote operations. Office locations may face hindrances due to physical calamities or technical faults. That may halt several operations of a company, resulting in an unrecoverable loss. Remote working will reduce the occurrence of such situations.
The Cons of having a distributed team
- Requires constant check on the motivation levels. Interpersonal attributes are a necessity along with the technical or domain know-how. The remote professionals need to collaborate and engage with a positive mindset to bring in team harmony.
- Constant check on the work progress is anxiety. You need to constantly rely on verbal confirmations and written progress reports. Physical checking on employees will be limited except in video calls.
- Communication and collaboration platforms and applications have to be robust and efficient. Else you may land up in misunderstandings and unnecessary troubles. Urgent calls or messages may be sometimes difficult to handle. You may land up in a situation of not being able to access a team member during emergencies.
- Settling disputes between team members may be troublesome. You can only engage them together in a phone call or video call. In certain situations, face to face interactions is effective. Hence there might be cases it will be time-consuming to arrive at a mutually conclusive solution.
Companies must now dedicate their attention to building up a strong and effective circuit of distributed teams. The challenges or cons can be easily overcome if you follow the tips shared in the article.
I hope by now, you have understood what is a distributed team? You have gained insights into the ways and techniques to build up a dependable distributed team. Modern-day technological advancements are facilitating the governance and management of distributed teams smartly. More and more people are on the lookout for remote jobs. The count of digital nomads is on the rise. It is good to harness the skills and extract the maximum benefits by hiring remote professionals. You can brace the market with dignity and agility.