A new world of work has emerged, and today, thousands of companies and employees work in distributed teams. Physical offices are becoming irrelevant, and in many cases, this is a positive change.
But what are distributed teams? And why are they the top choice for countless business models today? We’ll cover that and more within this article.
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What Are Distributed Teams?
Distributed teams are a group of employees who work in different locations. But location isn’t the only thing separating a distributed team’s members. Distributed teams are distinct in the way that they interact with one another. Not only across physical distance but also across different time zones. Sometimes even cultural approaches to work. Despite the obstacles and differences, distributed teams still function seamlessly and get the job done.
Here’s an example of a distributed team with four team members:
Sally works in Toronto, an EST time zone, along with her colleague Jennifer. Their other colleague, Vishu, operates in India, the IST time zone. That’s 10.5 hours ahead. And, the last colleague, Alicia, works in Los Angeles which is in the PST time zone. That’s 3 hours behind Toronto and 13.5 hours behind India. Given their location differences, they only have face-to-face contact through video conferencing, except for Jennifer and Sally.
The four team members must communicate effectively and regularly despite their time differences. But cultural differences between India and the United States are also at play.
Each individual has their values and approaches when working, which workplaces have to overcome in distributed teams. Despite the obstacles, distributed teams can be very rewarding to both business goals and employee experience.
So, what are the differences between remote teams and distributed teams?
Remote vs. Distributed Teams
Distributed teams have team members spread across different locations, time zones, and cultures.
Remote teams have members in different locations. Additionally, remote teams tend to be in the same general area, allowing some team members to be centrally located, even in the same physical office. With a remote team, nobody is far enough away to stop them from meeting together once in a while.
How to Choose Between Remote and Distributed Teams
The ideal choice between the two types of teams depends on your business values and goals. Distributed teams connect well with companies that have a global presence. Remote teams are ideal for local companies that require occasional in-person meetings where everyone must be present.
Sometimes your company won’t fit into the box of a remote team or distributed team. That’s where the best of both worlds comes in: the hybrid distributed remote team.
Hybrid distributed remote teams allow businesses to offer their employees flexibility while also maintaining the ability to have a few team members connect in person when needed. Of course, technology like FastCall’s cloud-based telephony services helps make this possible.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Distributed Teams
Like any working model, distributed teams have pros and cons. Let’s explore some of the benefits and drawbacks of distributed teams.
- Diverse employees, including culture, opinion, work ethic, contributions, and creativity
- Greater talent pool
- Better innovation
- Improved employee loyalty and retention
- Enhanced employee productivity
- Cybersecurity risks
- Merge of home and work
- Lack of in-person interaction
- Extra attention required to ensure good communication and collaboration
Ways to Manage a Distributed Team
Managing a distributed workforce requires strong project management skills, regular team meetings, video conferencing, and adaptability. Here are some tips for managing a distributed workforce:
Use Cloud Technology
With distributed teams, information sharing is of the utmost importance. Team members should have the tools to facilitate information sharing easily. Cloud-based technology offers seamless communication and information sharing, vital for a team across different time zones and locations.
Make Communication a Priority
Things get lost in communication with distributed teams across different cultures, language barriers, and time zones. Communication should be a top priority, and managers should over-communicate before risking under-communicating.
Schedule Regular Video Conferencing Meetings with Team Members
Ensure your employees stay connected by scheduling regular face-to-face meetings over video conferencing tools like Zoom or FastCall.
Use Project Management Software
This tip goes for managing any team, but especially for distributed teams. Project management is essential to keep track of tasks and overall project progress when time zones and locations separate team members.
Balance Employee Autonomy with Accountability
Nobody likes a micromanager. However, management in distributed teams must highlight accountability as a priority early on. Our advice is to spend extra time during onboarding to weed out those who imperil productivity through a lack of accountability.
Additionally, show team members that you trust their process by giving them flexibility and autonomy in completing tasks.
Why are distributed teams the future of work?
Distributed teams remove the need for a physical office, saving businesses thousands of dollars. Employees know that they can work from any location and are less likely to tolerate employers who don’t adapt to the shift.
Overall, distributed teams are the key to better productivity, growth, employee retention, decreased costs, and flexibility.
The Best Tools for Distributed Teams
Let’s check out some of the best tools for distributed teams below.
Zapier is a workflow automation tool. It helps businesses improve productivity and share information across different web apps seamlessly.
Best for: Businesses with many competing deadlines that need support with project management
- Task automation
- Helpful support team
- One-to-one connections with apps
- Salesforce integration
- Integration with a wide range of apps
- Saves time and money through automation
- Limited capabilities with basic plans
- Big learning curve
- Frequent disconnection with certain apps
- At the mercy of individual apps when they change APIs
Free: $0, for up to 100 tasks/month
Starter: $19.99, for up to 750 tasks/month
Professional: $49.99, for up to 2,000 tasks/month
Slack is a great online communication tool for teams. It permits instant messaging for each team member, regardless of their time zone. The app and online tool also have “channels” to group topics for dedicated teams.
Best for: Remote and distributed teams
- Unlimited messaging
- Voice clips
- Group video calls
- Screen share
- Easy integration with Google Drive and Google Docs
- Customizable profiles
- Fast responses
- Limited formatting capabilities
- Some reviewers cite the Slackbot as annoying
- Slow when used heavily
Business +: $12.50/user/month
Enterprise: Custom plans, contact Slack for a quote
Zoom is a video conferencing platform that allows live, real-time video chat between a distributed team’s members worldwide, and time zone doesn’t affect usability. Teams can also host events and webinars with the platform.
Best for: Distributed teams and online events
- Unlimited group meetings (40 minute limit for free version)
- Private and group instant messaging
- Social media streaming (Pro)
- Video transcription (Small Business)
- Meeting scheduling
- High-quality video
- Screen share
- No call recording for the basic plan
- Webinar feature is expensive
Small Business: $19.99/month/license
Salesforce is the world’s largest and top customer relationship management (CRM) platform. It helps businesses improve their collaboration and communication, sales, productivity, and customer service worldwide.
Best for: Any distributed teams
- Customer data collection and analysis
- AI-enhanced shopping experience
- Automated business processes and workflows
- Omnichannel communication
- Comprehensive analytics and reporting
- Business automation and workflows
- Some reviewers cite the platform isn’t user-friendly
- Limited API capabilities
Salesforce has many pricing plans depending on your business needs.
Exclusively built for Salesforce, Fastcall is a cloud-based telephony service. It improves communication across teams and with customers. The softphone application offers voice call-backs, live messaging, and call recording.
Best for: All remote and distributed teams
- Customizable dashboards tailored for any business
- Unlimited calling worldwide
- Call recording
- Integration capabilities with Salesforce
- Omnichannel service
Custom pricing is available for tailored packages.
A competitor to the more commonly known Evernote, Notion is a note-taking app and project management tool. It helps businesses keep their documents, project tasks, meeting notes, and everything else in one place that’s easily accessible.
Best for: Distributed teams with a lot of records and project flows
- Centralized knowledge base
- Easy project management
- Aesthetically appealing documents and notes
- API integration
- Free storage
- No max file upload
- User-friendly interface
- Compatible with Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android devices
- Expensive top-tier plan
- Disorganized structure
Personal Pro: $4/month
Team: $8 per month
Enterprise: Custom pricing
Created by Dmitriy Zaporozhets and Sytse Sijibrandji, GitLab is an open-source DevOps platform. Delivered as a single application, GitLab helps improve efficiency and productivity for businesses with a streamlined software workflow.
Best for: Companies that value security
- Code review
- Version control
- Compliance management
- CI/CD minutes
- Credentials management
- Multiple integrations
- DevOps reports
- Data analytics
- Improved productivity with automated workflows
- Limited permissions management
- High-tier plans are expensive
- High learning curve
What are distributed teams? The future! The flexibility, diversity, and work-life balance offered by distributed teams are unprecedented. With proper use of technology and remote tools, businesses can experience more significant growth and employee retention than ever before.
Are you looking for a cost-effective, efficient, cloud-based business communication tool for your distributed team? If so, contact FastCall today.