By Bond Collective Staff
Creating a remote work arrangement, such as a distributed team, is no easy task. But the ability to navigate, coordinate, and conduct this new dynamic is quickly becoming an essential skill for every entrepreneur, executive, and manager who wants to succeed.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to manage a distributed team in this rapidly changing business environment.
What Is A Distributed Team?
A distributed team is a group of people who work together as a unit, but who do not necessarily conduct business from the same physical location.
For example, imagine that your business has three locations in the United States: one in New York City; one in Lebanon, Kansas; and one in San Francisco, California. Each of these locations employs about 100 individuals.
You work from San Francisco and manage a team of nine. Three of those team members work with you in California. The remaining six team members are divided equally between the other two locations — three in New York and three in Kansas.
Together, you and the nine others form a distributed team.
The structure of a distributed team is infinitely flexible so that you can assemble larger groups (divisions of 50 or more from each location) or smaller groups (one person from each location) as you see fit.
You can even pull more from one location and fewer from the other two locations and still have a distributed team.
Problems arise, however, when you concentrate the bulk of your team in one location and pull individuals from the other locations.
When this happens, you no longer have a distributed team — you’ve got a core team and group of remote workers.
Distributed Team Vs. Remote Workers
The number of people working in close proximity to one another might not seem like an important distinction, but it often means the difference between a happy, productive team and a burnt-out, fragmented team.
The deciding factor between a distributed team and remote workers is the primary means of communication that the majority of the group uses.
Going back to the examples above, when you have a fairly even distribution of members from each location, the team relies on collaboration and communication software to get the job done.
If, suddenly, you take on 15 more team members at your San Francisco location, the bulk of the team relies on face-to-face communication to solve the majority of problems, while the employees from the other locations communicate now and then via the internet or telephone.
As we touched on above, you now have a core team and a group of remote workers.
To help clarify what’s going on here, let’s look at it from the perspective of a remote worker. By definition, a remote worker is a team member who simply isn’t in the office.
Many new businesses start this way. The owner operates from a coworking space in Manhattan and employs freelancers to do a specific job within the company. If all of the freelancers work from different locations, it’s a distributed team.
If the owner then hires 10 employees from the New York City area to work with her in the Manhattan office, she’s created a traditional team with remote workers floating around the edges.
If not managed correctly, the remote workers can start to feel alienated and isolated because the main method of communication and collaboration changes and leaves them behind.
When you manage a distributed team — regardless of team size or employee location — it’s vital to keep everyone in the loop to avoid marginalizing certain individuals and fracturing the unity of your team.
How To Manage A Distributed Team
1) Choose The Right People
Not everyone is cut out to work remotely or as part of a distributed team, so it’s imperative to find the right people for the job.
Making the change from working side-by-side in the office with other team members to working outside the office can be a difficult transition.
If you’re creating a distributed team with existing employees, talk to them about the prospect before assigning roles. If you’re hiring new members for a distributed team, look for remote work experience.
2) Create The Ideal Mix
The right mix of local — those who meet face-to-face — and remote employees is essential for a successful distributed team.
If too many of your employees report to a central location every day, the balance of communication and collaboration shifts to that group and relegates your remote workers to bystander status.
3) Use Collaboration Software
With modern collaboration software (e.g., Trello, Slack, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Dropbox), your distributed team can work together in real time on everything from text documents to spreadsheets to presentations.
Regardless of what product or service your business provides, the right collaboration software makes everything easier.
4) Prioritize Results
Instead of using the traditional variables to measure employee performance — work ethic, how they get along with their peers, etc. — prioritize results, deliverables, and deadlines.
You can still get a sense of individual behavior and attitude through regular communication and meetings, but it won’t be as obvious for members of a distributed team as it is for someone you interact face-to-face with every day of the workweek.
5) Trust Your Distributed Team
Trust is crucial for the success of your business whether your team members work shoulder to shoulder in the same office or as part of a distributed team.
You can avoid eroding that trust by refraining from micromanaging everything they do. Give them an assignment, turn them loose, and then step back and wait for the finished product.
6) Meet Together As A Group
Meeting with your distributed team (virtually or in person) at least once per week as a group is vital if you want to keep everyone on track and working efficiently.
Group meetings also improve unity and streamline goal setting for the betterment of your business as a whole.
7) Check In With Each Team Member
It’s also crucial to touch base with your distributed team members one-on-one to find out how work is progressing and to provide feedback. Again, these meetings can happen virtually if necessary.
Without that personal attention, employees can start to feel underappreciated and may lose focus and motivation.
8) Emphasize Onboarding
Emphasizing onboarding for new members of your distributed team helps them get familiar with the company culture, the standards and values, and the tools you use on a daily basis.
It also serves as a real-world test to see if they have what it takes to work remotely as part of your team.
Don’t just hire them on and turn them loose. Take the time to guide new employees through each step so they understand how your team works and what their role will be.
The Ideal Home Base For Distributed Teams
The nature of a distributed team means that your workforce can be anywhere at any time. Some of your people might be working on the other side of the world, while others might be working right across the street.
Despite that separation, you can provide a home base for your distributed team by setting up satellite offices that everyone can access no matter where they work most of the time.
Sound impossible or too expensive? Bond Collective makes it simple and affordable.
Bond Collective offers a variety of options for distributed teams (for businesses large and small), including:
Add to that Bond Collective’s many industry-leading amenities, such as:
24-hour access Custom build-outs
Private label mail service
Daily on-site cleaning
Concession food market
Guest reception and greeting
And much more…
With all of those benefits available at every one of Bond Collective’s locations across the country, you can set up multiple coworking spaces that will draw your distributed team together and give them the ability to succeed at any problem, task, or project that comes their way.
Visit any one of Bond Collective’s many locations in the United States — including workspaces in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas — or call us today to find out more about everything we have to offer.
For more resources to help you manage your business or to learn more about the advantages of coworking spaces for distributed teams, digital nomads, remote workers, and businesses of all kinds, visit BondCollective.com today.