Putting together a team of people that don’t work from a central location? You might be wondering about the difference between remote vs distributed teams. Many people use the two terms interchangeably; however, while they’re very similar, there are some important differences between remote and distributed teams.
Something both terms have in common? They refer to non-centralized work being done on behalf of a business or startup. Confusingly, you can be part of a distributed team that works from scattered office locations without being a remote worker. You can be a remote worker without being part of a distributed team.
Read on for clear definitions of the differences between remote vs distributed teams.
Remote vs Distributed Teams: The Difference
Remote teams don’t usually work in each other’s presence – they work remotely (Webster defines remote in this sense as ‘situated far from the main centers of population; distant’). With the term ‘remote’ comes the connotation of working from home.
Remote teams can be comprised of centrally located personnel (people at the office) and remote workers (people working away from the office).
Remote teams can be comprised of all remote workers that never meet, but communicate 100% online and via phone.
Remote teams can be comprised of remote workers that usually work remotely, but meet in a central location every now and then to work together.
Related: How to Find and Hire a Remote Team
Webster defines ‘distribute’ in the sense of distributed teams as ‘occurring throughout an area.’ In a distributed team, team members are scattered. They may or may not work from home. Distributed teams sometimes work from different offices scattered around an area – even the globe.
A corporation could create a distributed team with one member from each office location. These would not be remote workers – they work from an office location – but rather, a distributed team because they don’t physically work together. A startup could form a distributed team by having a central location in a big city where 2 or 3 people work in close proximity to each other along with a few distributed team members elsewhere in the state, country, or world.
Remote vs distributed teams: Which is best?
Trying to decide whether to form a remote or distributed team? Consider your company needs, the nature of the work to be done, and the likelihood of finding qualified team members in your immediate area. Many people decide to go with a remote team when they’re having trouble finding experienced, qualified talent in their area and want to expand their search space. Some teams already work together in a physical location, then decide to bring on a remote worker across the country (forming a distributed team).
So, remote can be equated with “away from the office” and distributed can be equated with “scattered around.” While remote teams can occasionally meet up and work together in a physical location, they are considered a remote team because they usually do not gather in a centralized location.
The differences between the two are certainly subtle, but important nonetheless. Make sure you have a clear understanding of each before making your next hire. Have any good examples of remote vs distributed teams? We’d love to hear from you!