What is a distributed workforce? It's one in which each member works from a place that make sense for them, rather than everyone working from centralized locations chosen for cost or inertia.
The idea is to let every worker interaction be simple, natural, and effective. Considering the cost of good people, few investments are more valuable than facilitating this process, and the payoff from a collaborative workforce occurs in many ways. When the organization has done its part to integrate live collaboration tools into its workflow, the distributed workforce becomes a powerful force for enterprise success.
Here are some of the ways that this happens.
1. Flexible meeting participation: Individual participation in meetings can be highly flexible, happening minute by minute because it is based on dynamic need instead of rigid one-hour scheduling boundaries. Because traveling time to each meeting is only a few seconds (sounds almost like science fiction, doesn't it?), attendance can be easily sculpted to the requirement, perhaps even just tele-participating for a few minutes in mid-meeting to deliver a short scheduled update rather than sitting for a full hour or two to justify the trouble of getting there.
2. Broader workforce pool: A distributed workforce means that people can be hired from a wide range of places. They don't all need to be within commuting distance to an arbitrary location, and this means that organizations can recruit from different regions entirely, whether a different part of town or a different part of the globe. Salaries can be competitive, cost of living can be lower, personal lives and school planning aren't upended to take a new job, and people can be recruited because they're the best for the position, not just because they live nearby.
3. Supercharging the hallway conversation: We like hallway conversations because they add some variety and can help get our thinking out of the "box." But hallway conversations are actually kind of limited, when you think about it. They can only occur between people who are on the same floor at the same time, in the same general area of the same building in the same town. Yes, maybe some are out of the box, but at best they're still between adjacent boxes. The distributed workforce is different because hallway conversations are not limited to nearby hallways: virtual hallway conversations draw sparks between hallways around the world!
4. Agile scheduling: There are established strategies to provide around-the-clock support in jobs needing continuous coverage, but their substantial shortcomings are well documented. The distributed workforce adds a new, incredible agility in scheduling. The sun is always shining somewhere, so comfortable workdays "here" can be planned to support midnight problems "there." In the same way, because different regions and religions have different essential holidays, 24/7/365 coverage is a natural and comfortable reality for an organization that has distributed itself wisely.
5. Minimizing personal disruptions: A workforce is distributed whether its members are separated by a hemisphere or a streetcar line, and this can work to its benefit. People and families frequently can have needs that require a member to be at home or school. The old style was to call in sick or take a whole day off to avoid all the extra driving even though the actual need was just an hour or two. Integrating the distributed mindset into an organization means that work needs can flow around personal needs with minimum disruption to both.
A distributed workforce having easy access to integrated, interactive vision and sound can project a natural environment in which creativity flourishes. It has been said that visual collaboration is the “great equalizer," bringing people together with fluid communications. A distributed workforce integrates this fluidity into its everyday operations, and this brings an enduring and creative productivity.
These are some of the reasons that organizations are, more and more, enhancing their workflows, strengthening their staffing, and improving their bottom line by implementing the integrated toolsets that make their workforces truly distributed. What are you doing to build your collaborative workforce?