Photo by Christin Hume
Distributed and remote work is getting increasingly more relevant and prominent —and it is definitely the most significant component of The Future of Work movement. Every day more companies adopt the distributed style of work in new or existing teams. Here we will cover why we think that you are already a distributed team, and will share with you a few ways to improve your team communication and productivity as a distributed team within your organization.
Teams Are Becoming Distributed Without Knowing It
With the rise and popularity of collaboration and communication platforms such as Slack and Google Docs —and many other widely adopted platforms— companies are getting the chance to communicate and work through those platforms in ways that they could never do before. Services like these are multi-platform — they work in a wide range of devices that you can access from your desktop or while being on the go. Approving a change, commenting on a report, or updating each other quickly on the day's progress with platforms like Standups is something that we have become accustomed to doing in the last few years, from our computers and smartphones.
“Every company that is over a hundred people in size is distributed. They pretend they’re not. As soon as you have so many people that you can’t all fit in a room – you are distributed.”
— Matt Mullenweg, CEO @Automattic, founder of WordPress.
What Matt is saying is that if you're an on-site company —in an office building— and you can't fit your team in a room, you already are distributed because of the way and style of communication that has to go in place. You and your team, and other groups across your company use are already forcing you to use platforms that ease the collaboration and transparency across the different units.
This is the main reason why teams are now becoming more hybrid: on-site + remote, which we usually knew as distributed or remote work.
Remote work became a trend because, finally, we're starting to see the right technology that can power distributed work — and on-site teams adopting it are starting to realize they can leave the office and still be able to achieve the same results from a coffee shop, or from back home at their desk.
Now that we have a great set of platforms that help with collaborating in a team from different places, more and more companies are hiring team members that are not on-site. There are no more excuses: now people can get work done while being out of the office. They can collaborate and share work transparently across the organization using cloud platforms and services. They can do it on the go from their phone — or their laptop in a coworking space, in a quiet and comfortable city.
The setup that on-site companies have —that work in a building, or different work rooms— are very similar to those who are fully-remote. What changes here is that these companies are not really aware that they are already working in a distributed style, and one of the issues that this brings in is that they still keep using on-site processes and ways of work: they try to adapt these new collaboration platforms to their old styles of communicating and collaborating.
Adapting to a New Way of Communicating
We've talked about it before. Still, here at Standups, we're firm believers that for distributed work to be a success in your organization, you have to implement a new style of communication and management. You have to lean towards a more async method of communication. Matt Mullenweg also recommends a great book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, on how to help your team members to grasp the right way in which they should be communicating, and how to shape the ideas and information they want to spread to the team and organization.
Companies working in a distributed way without knowing it —entirely on-site— and those who've also started to leverage the benefits of remote work have a lot of lessons to learn from full-remote organizations. Full-remote means that the whole organization runs remotely, and have set up unique processes and collaboration platforms to help them work remotely effectively. A few of these companies are GitLab, Zapier, Invision & Buffer. These teams have operated remotely for a reasonable amount of time, which has brought them in a lot of knowledge on how to manage remote teams. Most of them have been able to scale while being full-remote as well.
Being in the same office does not mean you'll be working in projects based on in that office, with all teammates based in the same office. It's likely that your customer will be somewhere else, and that you'll be working on projects with a few teammates spread in other branches. We've got a customer with a presence in 9 different markets around the world, and they use Standups to run their global recruiting process and to facilitate the discussion across those diverse locations. You don't have to be full-remote to be already distributed. As a distributed organization, you need to set the right communication style and the right platforms that enable you to be successful while being distributed.
Companies like Google or Microsoft, are distributed around the globe, even in their headquarters campuses. They've enabled different types of rooms where their employees can get in to isolate themselves with their laptops and work more focused. People already are used to the flow up jumping on a call, or sending a Standups message to their team, or sharing files using Google Drive. That's already distributed work, and offices at one point will become just one more "coworking" style of workspace people can decide to pass by a few days per month — as it happens with GitLab's HQ in the Bay Area, where people go to work once in a while. Still, they're mainly based in another closeby town, or more commonly, another country.
People in hybrid teams are evolving naturally into using more platforms that enable them for distributed collaboration. Many on-site teams, with a few members occasionally remote, are using platforms like Standups by default, even if one day in the week, they all happen to be at the office. Standups gives them a lot of flexibility for the frequent touchpoints in the day, while keeping the team united by letting them see and listen to the real persona, and not just the text or chat persona — like when using Slack or Microsoft teams. Even if you're only 15 feet from your colleague, you probably don't want to bother by getting closeby and tapping on their back: it's better to communicate in an async way, by sending a video update instead, which enables for better, deep work: you don't want to stop their flow and expect they'll respond to you comfortably.
The freedom, flexibility, and productivity gains that come associated with distributed work is something that will change the way we all work in the future, and this is why distributed work is tied into The Future of Work movement so strongly. Distractive open workspaces made famous by companies like Facebook in the mid-2000s are going to become a thing of the past, as coworking spaces arise, and more people are moving into smaller towns to raise their families with a better quality of life, all while working remotely.
It's never been more natural and more accessible to leverage the benefits of remote work. Be sure to check out our list of essential tools for remote work that will help you evaluate and later on implement the right ones that will help you and your team to collaborate and communicate better in a distributed style.