Communication essential for successful distributed workforces

A distributed or remote workforce is the new normal for companies and entrepreneurs, but communication is essential to maintaining a strong culture

Distributed working is no longer a “what if…” question for companies and entrepreneurs. It’s here to stay. How do we know? Three reasons:

  1. What good is technology if it isn’t doesn’t make us more flexible, mobile and productive in our work?
  2. Younger workers want that flexibility and mobility now and it is highly unlikely that ‘mobile-forward’
    generations coming into the workplace will demand anything less.
  3. It’s no longer ‘remote,’ it’s distributed.

In 2014, more than a third of business leaders polled at a global leadership summit predicted that more than half of their company’s workforce would work in distributed locations by 2020, including at home. By 2016, a Gallup survey revealed that 43 percent of American workers had spent at least some time working away from the main office. Yet another study says 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers in the next decade. The trajectory is there.

Technology is driving

There are two things driving this trend toward its inevitable conclusion: technology and talent.

Technology used to be static — a big mainframe computer taking up more space than the old corner office. Today, most technology is in the cloud or unseen. Tech is incredibly mobile. You can take the office with you almost anywhere you go. Your “mainframe” is your laptop, tablet or even phone. If you can be anywhere and working, why not be? 

Talent rides shotgun

Talent used to be static, too. Remember five-day, 40-hour work weeks? Remember when your phone couldn’t be moved from your desk?

The point is technology is allowing today’s workforce to be the most mobile workforce in history. And talent is taking advantage of the opportunity, with the next generation that will be even more mobile than today. Thanks to our employers or to free downloads through our laptops or phones, we utilize cloud-based file sharing, collaboration/community platforms, audio-video chat apps, virtual meeting software, project management systems, and decision making tools. 

All this is enabling talent to work remotely, rather than in the traditional office, and it is helping them feel less remote.

Remote > distributed

Remote working does have its challenges, especially the fact that employees working alone or in far flung outposts of the business can feel isolated. But in today’s tech-forward workplace, technological improvements are bridging this gap.

Distributed doesn’t have to mean remote, and employees today don’t typically operate alone. Many are physically connected to colleagues and other workers through their use flexible coworking spaces. They aren’t “in the office” but they are in a creative office environment.

Even those working remotely can be socially connected to colleagues and team members through technology. Bots such as Donut, which can be added to a collaboration hub such as Slack, can pair up employees randomly for 15-20 minute ‘get to know you’ chats. It’s the 2020 equivalent of 1980’s water cooler. And many more employee experience apps are available or on the way.

So, the key to maintaining a strong corporate culture in the distributed workplace really comes down to one thing — communication.