The difference between fully and partially distributed teams

If you evaluated your business and did the pivot successfully on distributed business, you have two options. You can go fully distributed or partially distributed. Fully means, all your team members are working remotely, and they are placed in different locations. Partially means, you have a central or core team– not necessarily put in an office but regularly catching up offline – and you have a group of remote employees all around the globe. 

There are no cons and pros or benefits regarding the two models. It is 100% up to your own business choice which way you go. However, there are some critical differentials between the two models.

Fully distributed teams

A fully distributed model works mainly for those businesses whose products and services are 100% online anyway. Software companies, SaaS companies, online consultants, online marketing agencies and any service or product that can be sold via full online marketing. In this case, the team is primarily working together online, and their office is in the cloud. They cooperate online, and they work online, they do customer service online, and they sell online. Even if they make offline team retreats – which is a must but more on that later –, the day-to-day work is fully remote. If your business requires lots of personal networking to sell or if you need to be at a specific place to excel in work, a fully distributed model might not be the best option for you. Also, most of the early-stage startup companies and extended freelancers operate their business full remotely. They have a small team, and it is not a big deal to work together online anyway. However, only a handful of companies I know who have more than 50-100+ people on their team and they still operate entirely remotely.

The most significant advantage: fully distributed companies are very flexible. They can change and adapt to any new circumstances and business situations. They are usually the first to innovate in their services.

The biggest challenge: keeping a fruitful company culture that motivates their team and retains their employees on-board. Due to their flexibility, their employees are pretty flexible as well in changing jobs, unless there is a clear and engaging company culture.

Less known information: because fully distributed businesses are super lightweight regarding awareness and structure, most of them go defunct before we hear about them first. So those who did make it and you can read about their policies on remote working are the ones whom you should listen to and learn from.

Partially distributed teams

A partially distributed model is the mainstream for those companies who are interested in this topic. It works mainly for businesses that started out as a traditional business with an office or those who still need a personal presence somewhere to grow their business. Let’s say you are a software company selling services for startup businesses in the Bay Area. Yes, you can target them with online marketing, but it certainly helps if you are attending events there and do some personal networking as well. Moreover, some companies already established businesses with clients, payroll, cash flow and a team with an office – but faced with a specific challenge, mainly the limitation in geography and picked distributed business model to solve the issues. Most of the distributed businesses are partially distributed: they have a core team in a particular location and have a group of remote employees. Also, having some remote workers doing your work with your classic team doesn’t count as a distributed business. It’s called outsourcing. You are partially distributed if at least 50% of your headcount works remotely.

The most significant advantage: partially distributed businesses can stay on top of the competition with a flexible business model while not changing too much in running the business.

The biggest challenge: company culture again. The remote team shouldn’t feel like an outsider compared to the office team. It would help if you did whatever it takes to integrate the two groups together.

Less known information: in this model, employee retention is lower for remote employees because of the outsider problem. Most of the businesses treat them as freelancers, so they act like freelancers: they come and go. Again, it would help if you did whatever it takes to integrate your remote team into your office team and create one single team with a company culture in place.

 

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