Distributed work is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more prevalent and important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study by Atlassian, 71% of knowledge workers work remotely at least once a week, and most companies are already collaborating in a distributed way – but they’re not doing it well.
Distributed work refers to any work happening in more than one place, across a connected virtual network. It can involve remote workers, multiple offices, clients, partners, or any combination of these. Distributed work presents both challenges and opportunities for organizations, especially for executives who need to lead and manage teams across distance and time zones.
In this blog post, we will explore why distributed work matters to executives, and what strategies they can employ to measure and improve this metric. We will also share some best practices and tools that can help executives succeed in distributed work.
Why distributed work matters to executives
Distributed work is not just a matter of convenience or preference for employees. It can also have significant benefits for organizations and their leaders. Some of the advantages of distributed work are:
- Increased productivity and performance: Distributed workers can have more autonomy, flexibility, and control over their work environment, which can boost their motivation, creativity, and efficiency. They can also avoid distractions, interruptions, and commuting stress that can hamper their productivity in the office. A study by MIT Press found that distributed work can improve the quality and speed of decision making, problem solving, and innovation.
- Reduced costs and environmental impact: Distributed work can help organizations save money on office space, utilities, travel, and relocation expenses. It can also reduce the carbon footprint of the organization by lowering the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and energy consumption.
- Enhanced talent attraction and retention: Distributed work can enable organizations to access a wider pool of talent across different locations, backgrounds, and skill sets. It can also increase employee satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement by offering them more choices, opportunities, and flexibility. A study by Dropbox found that 90% of remote workers plan to work remotely for the rest of their careers.
- Improved customer service and satisfaction: Distributed work can help organizations serve their customers better by providing them with more diverse, responsive, and personalized solutions. It can also increase customer loyalty and trust by demonstrating the organization’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainability.
How to measure distributed work
To reap the benefits of distributed work, executives need to measure its impact on their organization’s goals and performance. However, measuring distributed work is not as straightforward as measuring traditional in-office work. Executives need to adopt new metrics and methods that reflect the nature and outcomes of distributed work.
Some of the metrics that executives can use to measure distributed work are:
- Output: This metric focuses on the quantity and quality of the work produced by distributed workers. It can include indicators such as deliverables completed, goals achieved, revenue generated, customer satisfaction ratings, etc.
- Process: This metric focuses on the efficiency and effectiveness of the work processes used by distributed workers. It can include indicators such as time spent on tasks, communication frequency and quality, collaboration tools used, feedback received, etc.
- Outcome: This metric focuses on the impact and value of the work done by distributed workers. It can include indicators such as cost savings, innovation rates, market share growth, employee retention rates, etc.
To collect data on these metrics, executives can use various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, analytics, reports, etc. However, executives should be careful not to rely too much on quantitative data or intrusive monitoring that can undermine the trust and autonomy of distributed workers. Instead,
they should use a balanced mix of qualitative and quantitative data that can provide a holistic picture of distributed work.
How to improve distributed work
Measuring distributed work is not enough; executives also need to take actions to improve it. Improving distributed work requires a shift in mindset, culture, and practices that can support and empower distributed workers. Executives need to lead by example and demonstrate their commitment to distributed work.
Some of the strategies that executives can employ to improve distributed work are:
- Establish clear expectations and goals: Executives need to communicate clearly what they expect from distributed workers in terms of output, process,
and outcome. They also need to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant,
and time-bound) goals that can align distributed workers with the organization’s vision and strategy.
- Provide regular feedback and recognition: Executives need to provide frequent, constructive, and timely feedback to distributed workers on their performance and progress. They also need to recognize and reward distributed workers for their achievements and contributions.
- Foster trust and collaboration: Executives need to build trust and rapport with distributed workers by being transparent, honest, and supportive. They also need to facilitate collaboration among distributed workers by creating a sense of community,
shared identity, and purpose.
- Empower and enable distributed workers: Executives need to empower and delegate distributed workers by giving them more autonomy, responsibility, and decision-making authority. They also need to enable
and equip distributed workers with the right tools,
resources, and training that can help them work effectively and efficiently.
Best practices and tools for distributed work
To implement the strategies mentioned above, executives can follow some best practices and use some tools that can help them succeed in distributed work. Some of the best practices and tools are:
- Schedule regular check-ins and meetings: Executives should schedule regular check-ins and meetings with distributed workers to monitor their performance, provide feedback, and address any issues or concerns. They should also use video conferencing and screen sharing tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to make the communication more personal and interactive.
- Use asynchronous communication and collaboration tools: Executives should use asynchronous communication and collaboration tools such as email, chat, or project management software to share information, updates, and documents with distributed workers. They should also use tools such as Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, or Confluence to co-create, edit, and review content in real time or offline.
- Create a virtual team culture and socialize: Executives should create a virtual team culture that reflects the organization’s values, norms, and expectations. They should also encourage socialization and bonding among distributed workers by organizing virtual events, activities, and games. They can use tools such as Workforce Wellness Community module to create online communities and channels for different topics and interests.
- Offer flexible work arrangements and support: Executives should offer flexible work arrangements that can accommodate the different needs, preferences, and circumstances of distributed workers. They should also provide support and assistance to distributed workers in terms of technical issues, mental health, well-being, and career development.
Distributed work is the future of work, and executives need to embrace it and adapt to it. By measuring and improving distributed work, executives can not only enhance their organization’s performance and competitiveness, but also improve their employees’ satisfaction and engagement. By following the best practices and using the tools mentioned in this blog post, executives can succeed in distributed work and lead their teams to success.