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Remote vs Distributed

By John Lafleur 2 minutes read

TL;DR: It has been shown that companies that support employees to work when and where they want to, can support more diverse workforces. Diverse workforces lead to more productive and higher quality teams which ultimately make more profit. When talking about when and where people can work, I often hear the phrases “Remote Friendly” and “Distributed Teams” used interchangeably. These concepts have different implications:

Remote Friendly

  • Remote Friendly is about the ability to work from anywhere, like working from home or a coffee shop. The expectations are often focused on the availability of a person, like being online for quick response communication, such as IM, video chat, or fast email responses.
  • The biggest benefit is the ability to work when traditionally you’d have to take off time: when sick, or home delivery, etc
  • The challenges with Remote Friendly are both people focused and technology. With Slack, team members can stay connected all day as long as they have Internet. Besides tools for communication, you should also be conscious of security of your team members networks, you should research tools like VPNs.
  • In the Remote Spectrum, companies can range from not supporting any remote access to being Remote First, where everyone use remote technologies even from the same physical locations. The spectrum includes the ability to working after hours as well as working from anywhere with a internet connection.

Distributed Teams

  • Distributed Teams is about the ability to work anytime, like working in multiple timezones or just working on your own defined schedule. The expectations are often focused on getting work done.
  • The biggest benefit of a Distributed Team is the ability to hire the best people, not just the best people in your area. If your product requires support coverage, having team members spread out across timezones can fill that need possibly without pager-duty schedules.
  • Distributed Team challenges focus mostly on people taking extra steps to make sure everyone is included in information sharing and decision making.


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