The days of water-cooler moments, office politics and 9 to 5 work days are officially numbered. Co-working has gone mainstream, remote working is ‘the new normal’ and DAO’s are seriously on the horizon. Now a significant number of businesses are proactively choosing distributed global teams over a central office location.
As usual, tech businesses are leading the way, with brands such as Basecampand Github getting on board early. Most of all blockchain & Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Zeppelin, Consensys, Status and Bitpesa have built it into their DNA from day one. That makes sense, the technology is founded on the principle of decentralisation and Bitcoin and Ethereum are distributed team success stories. Other than these innovators, how many tech companies are distributed?
Blockchain jobs are twice as likely to be remote
We analysed data across three major job boards and found that there’s roughly twice as many remote developer roles in companies that had blockchain or DLT in their job specs.
1% of developer jobs with blockchain on Indeed are remote
0.3% of other developer jobs on Indeed are remote.
29% of developer jobs with blockchain on Angelist are remote
15.7% of other developer jobs on Angelist are remote.
12.1% of developer jobs with blockchain on StackOverflow are remote
6% of other developer jobs on StackOverflow are remote.
Data collected: 22/11/18
This data isn’t surprising since the values of blockchain technology companies often align with the sentiment of remote working. Democratisation of power, privacy and decentralisation.
The drivers and the deterrents to distribute
There are a number of drivers behind the move to distributed teams, not least the battle for the best people. Tech talent is hard to find and extremely expensive, which means young start-ups have been priced out of the traditional hotspots, like Silicon Valley, London and Berlin.
Many have responded by scrapping the idea of having a permanent base altogether, instead embracing the opportunity to pluck tech talent from every corner of the hyper-connected world, and the chance to get shot of staid office structures at the same time.
It sounds like workplace utopia, however shifting to a fully distributed model isn’t without its challenges. In fact there’s a plethora of problems that come with these perks. There’s naturally an impact on company culture, team trust and collaboration, which means getting the recruitment and peopleOps processes right is vital.
Building a distributed team: Making it work for everyone
Invest in workstations:
Every employee needs to have fast internet and easy access to video conferencing software to give them the opportunity to excel in your organisation. Distributed employees may well have access to great personal technology but provision of top end equipment needs to be default for any company practising the distributed model. Of course you have no control over the environment that equipment sits in — that’s part of the empowering perk for each individual.
Reduce geographical bias:
We talk a lot about tackling unconscious bias at and the detrimental effect it can have on hiring; access to talent and diversity. Geographical bias is almost unavoidable for centralised teams. We will often look at CV’s and discount those who don’t live locally, naturally favouring those who have an easy commute or don’t have to relocate. Building a distributed team immediately removes this bias.
Distribution for built-in diversity:
Without geographical bias we can build in diversity by design. You can hire by meritocracy — the best skills and fit from your global talent pool win the job. Restricted communication channels do have some benefit — they block bias to different shapes, sizes, skin tones and supposed abnormalities in individuals.
Feeding back and spending time ‘together’:
One of the big dangers of distributed teams is that people will feel disconnected from their colleagues. A method to avoid this is through a structured routine of phone or video-based ‘get-togethers’, on a daily or weekly basis. How you choose to run these is up to you but ensure that everybody feeds in about what they’ve achieved since you last caught up and what your focus is for that day or week. Make sure these happen come rain or shine, giving your team time to connect, hear each other’s voices and stay in the loop of what everybody else is doing.
Physical contact not ‘FaceTime’:
And yes, it also helps enormously to actually meet up from time to time, to strengthen those team bonds. Nothing beats spending physical time together to build trust and relationships so, even if it’s just once every six or 12 months, it’s worth the challenge of coordinating diaries and spending a bit of cash to make it happen.
This is part 1 of our distributed teams series. Maybe I’ve wet your appetite to find out how to build a distributed team, maybe you feel like a duck out of water. If the former, stay tuned for part 2 to read about creating an effective interview process for building distributed teams.
This post was written in collaboration with Recruiting Brainfood
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