Distributed is a Discipline

By: Laurel Farrer

Here at Yonder, we have a saying that seems to pop up every time we’re troubleshooting remote work concerns with any business: “Distributed is a discipline.” Interpretation: participating in a virtual team requires more intention than in a co-located environment.

The primary difference between office-based and internet-based companies is that as you work apart, virtual teams have less opportunity for organic development. Every single process, ritual, update, and expectation must be articulated, designed, communicated, and implemented. You don’t have the benefit of body language or impromptu meetings to fill in the cracks of your communication.

For example, in an office environment, when employees have a question for their supervisor about a project, they can casually swing by their office to ask, or inconspicuously shadow them while they work. Those opportunities don’t exist in a distributed team, so a more formal approach (like scheduling a video call or articulating the question as a written message) must be taken. Often, such formality can be intimidating for team members, so they would rather leave the question unasked than risk their pride. In turn, this can affect the quality of results, blocks in the workflow, and incubate the three remote work killers.

Many managers who want to transition away from brick-and-mortar office space often believe that making the jump will be as easy as equipping their teams with laptops and locking the office doors. Nope. The actual process requires careful planning, training, and adjustment of office work styles, and at the root of each step is developing a habit of intention as a team. If you’re ready to step into the world of remote work, you need to recognize that discipline is the oxygen on this planet, and without it, your team won’t survive.