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What is a Distributed Workforce?

Whether your IT team is planning their strategy for the rest of this year, or you’re a business trying to stay ahead of what’s going on in the world, understanding a distributed workforce and its implications is important.

There are distinctions, for example, between a distributed workforce and one that’s remote.

Below, we provide an overview of a distributed workforce and how it potentially affects a business.

The Basics of a Distributed Work Environment

The workplace is in a period of rapid evolution, primarily driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.

Managers, team leaders, and tech professionals need to plan for the role of a distributed workforce, which means supporting employees whenever and however is going to be most conducive to their success in this situation.

A distributed work environment is also known as a blended work model.

There is a combination of on- and off-site employees in a distributed environment. There may be variations in schedules and how teams work with one another.

Under the model of a distributed workforce, there is a coming together between physical and digital workplaces to support the workforce in its entirety.

Digital Architecture

Perhaps one of the most pressing priorities in the implementation of a distributed workforce is digital architecture.

A distributed work environment requires a robust digital infrastructure for success.

The physical work environment is secondary to the digital environment. Digital access ultimately forms the foundation of how and where people work.

Everyone will need access to the right applications and files to do their jobs.

The cloud is what becomes the distributed work environment, and everyone, no matter where they are located in the world, should have access to what they need.

A strong digital architecture for a distributed work environment maintains accessibility, accountability, agility, and communication.

The paradigm underlying distributed work means that where you are physically located is not a factor in your workplace participation or performance.

Even just a couple of years ago, before the onset of the pandemic, it was rare for remote workers to have access to the same information, context, and social opportunities as their onsite co-workers, but that’s not the case anymore.

Managing a Distributed Workforce

A distributed workforce requires special attention toward the digital architecture that is at the core of how well it works and the management approach.

Communication and collaboration should be top priorities in the management of a distributed workforce

You’re losing in-person interactions, which means that management needs to find new and useful ways to keep employees engaged and connected.

Managers have to identify challenges to motivation and work to proactively deal with those.

Remote employee management requires concise communication about any changes in roles or responsibilities and expectations. Management can’t micromanage how people are getting work done in a distributed workforce because they don’t have visibility into this. What becomes more important is that it’s getting done, with the how being irrelevant.

Managers in a distributed environment should be there to create expectations and general rules and take a more hands-off approach than they might have in the past.

It remains common for challenges to stem from an inability to meet face-to-face. Particular problems managers may face include keeping up a high level of cultural connection, morale, and performance when employees aren’t working together physically.

Leaders have to make sure that employees feel appreciated and valued and like they’re part of a team. Managers should also encourage work-life balance as part of developing strong organizational culture.

What Are the Elements That Make a Distributed Workforce?

Distributed work isn’t the same as working from home. Companies have one or more employees working in different physical locations in a distributed workforce. It’s a blended or hybrid work model that might include onsite teams in one or more office locations and remote employees. There might also be some team members working in coworking spaces.

The employees working from home are just one element of a distributed workforce.

A distributed workforce doesn’t have to but often means the company has more than one physical office location. These locations can be in different cities, states, or even countries. Employees are more likely to work in different time zones, and a distributed workforce may work with international customers and clients.

A well-run distributed team should provide agility and flexibility, along with unique business advantages.

It’s likely to represent the future, but that’s going to mean some bumps along the way for many businesses. With a strong technological foundation, businesses are going to be better poised to overcome challenges and obstacles.

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