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Distributed
workforce
vs. remote work:
What's the difference?

Author: Adam Kimmel

The pandemic thrust the world into a trial-by-fire adoption of a distributed workforce. While many companies had already instituted portions of remote work and distributed teams, many others saw it as a future digital workplace that wouldn't arrive for decades. As the world shut down and time dragged on, employees began seeing the value of increased flexibility with work. With strained supply chains and a depleted workforce, companies began rethinking how they defined the work environment.

As workers instantly moved to remote workstations, companies faced a critical question: How do you network remote employees into a truly distributed workforce? While every company is still defining its strategy, the first step to creating a plan for remote work and distributed teams is to understand the difference between the two. All remote workers are distributed, though not all distributed workers are remote.

Distributed workforce vs. remote workers

Simply put, remote work is the physical location of an individual worker in relation to a central office. In contrast, a distributed workforce is the discipline an entire organization follows to enable employees to work from various locations.

Spreading the team around is already common for global companies with multiple regional headquarters or satellite offices to better serve their customers. In addition, it provides companies access to a broader talent pool and provides employees with increased options for career advancement and mobility.

Critical Tools and Process of an Effective Distributed Workforce

However, to convert sporadic remote employees to an advantaged, effective distributed workforce, every company needs critical tools and processes.

Cloud file sharing

One of the best ways to integrate remote work and distributed teams is to implement cloud file sharing. The more information your team transfers through email or chat responses, the less likely the team can benefit from existing data.

Cloud platforms serve as a hub for information to be stored, shared and reviewed as a team to improve collaboration. Employing this strategy can reduce the number of questions new team members ask, providing document control and resiliency.

Shared password vaults

Shared password vaults are a substantial time saver that business leaders should consider. How much time each week do you spend typing in two-step verification codes, remembering and resetting passwords, or giving up entirely because you don't want to go through that tedious process?

A shared password vault provides a central repository for these passwords and can save your team hours of hidden time throughout the week.

Cyber security protocol

One of the most significant threats to a distributed workforce is cyber security. Moving from a centralized data security strategy to a distributed one requires a different approach.

Much like how the internet works, you can adopt a virtual platform to assure security without central hardware. Employing tools, like a virtual private network (VPN), a software-defined wide-area network (SD WAN), a secure gateway or a cloud-based platform, can add the security of a central solution to a distributed network.

4G or 5G network

Adding various sites for your distributed workforce increases the importance of having a fast network. The technology should be as invisible as possible to have seamless collaboration, provide employees access, deliver security and then get out of the way.

Communicating to the cloud and virtual networks requires a high data transmission rate. As such, it's critical to ensure that the network speed isn't the limiter to collaboration.

Impact on remote work and distributed teams

The pandemic has inspired some companies to move to remote work and distributed teams. An Upwork study estimates nearly 27% of the U.S. workforce will be fully remote by the end of 2021, and 68% of employers believe remote work is going more smoothly now than when the pandemic started. Companies that have embraced a distributed team model will be set up for the highest level of success with the known benefits to productivity and employee happiness.

The distributed model provides security, collaboration, efficiency and speed to deliver your customers the best possible support.  It’s clear that with the right remote work plan in place, supported by the right tools, you will be able to effectively reimagine how best and where best work gets done.

Learn more about how Verizon can help your business manage remote employees and make the most out of your mobile workforce.