4 Reasons Why Distributed Teams Are the Future of Work

by Sandra Petrova

8 min read · May 22, 2020

Social distancing has forced many companies to proceed with having distributed teams. Once the worse if over, companies plan on returning their employees back to the office. But what if distributed teams are the future of work?

Amid a coronavirus pandemic, thousands of teams worldwide had to learn how to work and function remotely overnight. 

Although many teams found it challenging to adapt to working from home, tools like Slack, Zoom, and Asana made it possible for people to get work done without the need for an office. 

But will companies continue to operate remotely, or will they ask their employees to return to the office?

Many of the tech giants have already announced that they're sticking to the remote work arrangement.

Google has decided to let its employees work remotely until 2021.

Twitter's CEO announced that his employees can continue working from home even after shelter-in-place orders end.

Facebook has come up with a statement that they're planning on having 50% of their employees work remotely in the next 5-10 years.

So, if you're the CEO of your company and are wondering what should you do next, here are a few reasons why we think distributed teams are the future: 

You Can Easily Scale up and Down

Upon hearing the news about the effects of the novel coronavirus, the initial step many companies took is to send their employees to work from home.

As the pandemic became more severe and damaging, leaders were forced to make other decisions in order to keep their companies afloat.

Consequently, many of those companies started thinking about letting some of their employees go to ensure they make it through the crisis. 

According to a recent survey, a third (32%) of companies expect layoffs to occur.

But the coronavirus pandemic doesn't have to lead to layoffs. 

There's another more compassionate way for cutting costs, and that's through making remote work stick.

The same survey found that 49% of leaders say they're planning to make remote working a permanent option for roles that allow.

Instead of laying off employees, companies can downsize their leases. Less office space means less money spent on rent, equipment, and other office necessities. 

By letting some employees work from their home office, you won't be needing grand office spaces. You can rent a smaller office space which costs less and spend the money you save on keeping your employees on the payroll. 

Or, if your business allows it, consider going 100% remotely without having a physical office. Just look at companies like Buffer and Zapier. They haven't had a physical office for years, which proves that companies can still thrive in a remote work arrangement, even when team members work in different time zones. 

Apart from a smart solution, it's also one that's less painful than layoffs. 

On the plus side, once things get better and your company grows, nothing will prevent you from scaling up. 

make remote work a permanent option

After the Pandemic, Remote Work Will No Longer Be Unusual

Before the pandemic, many leaders didn't trust in the work from home model. Their opinions were deeply rooted in the belief that distributed teams are unproductive and disengaged.

However, as the majority of teams are now operating remotely, leaders had a chance to see the benefits and become better adapted to this model.

What they saw were employees who could still communicate effectively through the use of tech tools such as Slack and Zoom. They came to understand that it's not the number of hours an employee sits in an office but the quality of their work. 

It's true, the rapid transition to remote work hasn't been ideal for many teams. Some of them never had to use a tool like Google Hangouts or project management software like Asana.

But they're learning. 

It's highly likely that there's going to be a shift in leaders' thinking about remote work. It's probable that some leaders will also recognize the advantages of virtual teams in other future business situations.

Yes, COVID-19 will dramatically change the way we live and work. 

We'll be seeing more and more companies abandoning the traditional way of work and thinking of ways to make the remote work model more sustainable for their company. 

As the world returns to normal, remote work will no longer be unusual. 

Leaders will not be able to say that remote work is impossible or too complex. They will not be in a position to argue that remote employees are less productive and engaged. 

As the world returns to normal, virtual teams will be more openly embraced. 

Talented Employees Are Shunning a Conventional Way of Living

In the entire history of work, it's never been harder to retain talent. 

If you ask any leader, they will tell you that one of their biggest challenges is to attract and retain talent. 

There are several reasons why companies struggle. For one, startups are competing with tech giants like Amazon and Google that entice employees with big-name recognition, perks, and high salaries.

Secondly, there has been a shift in employees' mindset. They're now craving work/life balance.

The 20th century is long gone and with it, the idea that the workplace should be a windowless cubicle where employees work from 9 to 5. 

Modern employees are thinking differently.

Around 82% of millennials say they would remain more loyal to their employers if they had this kind of remote flexibility. 

Roughly 76% of millennials would take a pay cut for more flexibility. 

More than a quarter (29%) of tech talent won't consider commuting for more than 30 minutes for a job, and 65% are interested in working remotely. 

For many employees working in the tech sector, money is the #1 motivator for accepting and staying at a job. However, there are other factors at play. 

With top tech talent being high in demand, employees have the freedom to be picky when thinking about switching jobs.

Other things that motivate tech talent to accept a job offer is brand reputation, great company culture, growth opportunities, flexibility, and more.

Meaning, if companies want to attract and retain talent, they must be willing to create working environments in which employees can grow and thrive.

A positive work environment can mean the difference between a company retaining its high-performing employees and continually losing great candidates to a competitor. 

tech workers commuting

Distributed Teams Mean Higher Efficiency, Innovation and Financial Success

Remote work is not only a strategy for making your employees happy. It can also be a strategy for better business outcomes. 

Think of it this way: every employee has her/his own private life. They have friends and family, pets, parents, and hobbies they care about.

An employee who works remotely will be able to take an afternoon break to walk the dog. They will be able to pick up the kids from school.

At the same time, they will also have the freedom to choose to relocate to another town/country without the risk of losing their job.

When you give employees want they crave, in this case, job flexibility, it will engage them and drive performance. These employees will have the potential and drive to become innovative employees.

According to Gallup research, companies that have highly engaged employees have 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.

Research also indicates that remote workers are more productive than office workers. One study conducted in a Chinese travel agency found that the employees who were allowed to work from home had a 13% increase in their productivity. 

On top of everything, you will have the advantage of hiring top talent without geographic boundaries. Instead of putting together an average local team, you can put together a global all-star team that will be skilled to outperform the competition. 

With improved engagement, productivity, and the ability to fish from the entire ocean, higher efficiency, innovation, and financial success will be within your reach.

Is Working Remotely Effective?

Final Word

Some people say that this is the end of the office as we know it. With the coronavirus still at large with no yet developed vaccine, the office is likely to change.

The new office will be full of dividers and well-spaced desks. Break rooms and kitchens will have fewer chairs, and people will be keeping a safe distance between each other.

But what if this is the end of the way of work as we know it? 

The newfound situation we're in will likely broaden leaders' horizons. Companies will probably start experimenting more with distributed teams. 

Employees will get a taste of the advantages of remote work and will struggle with going back to the traditional 9 to 5 office model. 

Those companies that were hesitating for years to try the approach will be braver to transition to remote work. 

Yes, the realm of work is likely to change.

And the most successful companies will be those that rapidly adapt to the new way of work and offer employees a place to grow and thrive. 

distributed guide

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