What is a remote team? An attempt for a definition
When accompanying organizational changes and coaching teams, we often noticed that there is no clarity in the definition of terms. This often leads to misunderstandings and difficulties. The consequences are delays and inefficiencies. For this reason, we are attempting to clarify terms in this article.
The type of team in relation to remote or non-remote teams is defined by the location of each member. Location is the place where team members do their job. Below we list four general team configurations that we find in more than 90% within organizations:
- on-site teams:
Teams work in the same location, often in a hallway or even in an open plan office
- Split teams:
Two or more teams at the same location working together between defined offices
- hybrid teams:
A team in the same location working with participants in distance
- remote teams:
No central location, every team member is working 100% remote
How common is which teams?
For organizations in an international environment, our surveys have shown that hybrid teams are the most common configuration that we find in organizations, followed by remote teams and then on-site teams.
The size of the organization, for example a startup with 5-10 employees or a large corporation with over 10,000 employees, is less significant with regard to the distribution of the configurations.
It could be observed that digital or IT teams tend to have a significant hybrid share than not-IT teams (factor 2-3).
In recent years we have noticed a trend towards more hybrid teams, regardless of the industry.
Which team configuration is the right one?
Advantages and disadvantages can be seen in any configuration. Therefore we cannot give a general recommendation for a certain configuration. There are different factors, such as the equipment of the IT infrastructure, the nature of the digital culture and team maturity, which have a strong influence on the right choice. When consulting for optimizing an organization’s team configuration, we therefore use a metric, such as the “Agilizer® Maturity Indicator for Teams” (AMI4teams), with several variables.
In the blog post “Race Yourself – Remote Work” there are some advantages of remote working teams from an organization’s point of view.
From a team perspective, team members usually work more efficiently in person / on site than in any of the other configurations. There are various and complex reasons for this. One of the most important reason can be a limited or completely missing social and non-verbal communication. This leads to higher transaction costs, due to messiness in communication and misunderstandings when transferring work steps or when working directly together on common tasks.
In our experience, the advantage of remote teams predominates when choosing the configuration between remote and hybrid teams. At a first glance this seems surprising , since hybrid teams have more direct communication and therefore less high transaction costs (see above). The challenge with hybrid teams, however, is that they tend to exclude colleagues who are situated at distance. This leads to severe dysfunction in teams.
It is to be mentioned, that as a basic indication for all constellations, and especially for hybrid and remote teams, the meaningfulness of the use of team facilitators and / or moderators is an important factor. The right training, combined with a strong empathy, teamwork becomes much more efficient. The team member who takes on this task does not necessarily have to do this full-time and it is even advisable that this task and responsibility will rotate within the team itself and that every team member steps into this role once in a while.
We are happy to assist you in optimizing the constellation of your teams and accompany your teams in the transformation and optimization of cooperation, so that real added value is created.