If you’ve decided to find a remote job and are coming across new terms that are turning your remote job search into a tailspin, it might be that expanding your remote vocabulary might help.
For instance, what else is remote work known as? What’s the difference between a remote and a distributed team, or between remote-friendly and remote-first? And what on earth is a blended team?
Knowing the lingo can really help uncover more remote opportunities, and decide which ones are right for you. In episode of thriving empire podcast we school you up on the need to know remote terminology so you can find more opportunities and talk your way into a remote role like you’ve been doing it for years.
We’ll be talking about…
- Other search terms you can use to find remote roles
- Co-located and blended teams
- Remote versus distributed
- Remote-friendly versus remote-first
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Remote Work. What else is it known as?
Telecommuting, telework, teleworking, telecommute, telecommuting, working from home, mobile work, remote work, flexible working, and distance work.
And there may be more. So depending on the job board you’re searching on or the company you’re talking to, remote may be referred to as any of these terms. You’ll just have to make sure you understand exactly what each company means by it.
What Is A Knowledge Worker?
We covered this term in episodes 53 and 54, but just to recap quickly: So if you have a laptop and get paid to ‘think’, and use technology to create, transmit and share it, then you’re a knowledge worker.
So if you’re a landscape gardener this probably isn’t you. But if you found or work for a landscape gardening company in governance, strategy, finance, sales, marketing, HR, R&D, IT, customer service, quality control, distribution, sourcing, design, product development, engineering — you get the gist!, any department of the business side — then YOU are a knowledge worker!
What Is A Co-Located Team?
With the rise of remote and distributed teams, it’s important to know what people located in the same office are now referred to as. And it’s this: co-located. So if you’re whether your company has one office, or several around the world, and most work is done face to face, (other than the odd conference call of course), your teams are co-located. So think: the traditional company and office environment.
To add to the confusion, this is also known as an on-site team.
What Is A Remote Team?
Now. Full disclosure. I did extra research for this episode, to make sure I was giving you the right information, yet people differ on opinion around definitions. To my best understanding, a remote team of company is one that likely has some kind of central HQ, and the rest of the team can work remotely in a single time zone, or across multiple time zones across the world. The office is there for use, but anyone in the team can work remotely — and are often encouraged to — as often as they like.
So for example the founders may work together in a WeWork office space, and have a team full of people working either from home or in co-working spaces in the same city as them, or around the world. An example is one of my remote companies, Civic. The founding team were based in an office in East London,— but can work remotely when they like! — while the rest of us were based in Mexico, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Greece.
Other examples of remote teams include:
“We started out with four people, and today we’re a company of about 50 spread out across 32 different cities around the world. Our headquarters is in Chicago, but everyone at Basecamp is free to live and work wherever they want. Many of us love working remotely – we literally wrote the book on remote working!”
And they actually did! It’s called Remote.
Batchbook is another example, with an office space in Providence, Rhode Island, with more than half the 25 employees working remotely across the US, and the CEO & 7 of them who work from the office space the majority of the time. For their weekly meeting, employees who work locally will come into the office, and those in other cities and states tune in via Skype.
Some companies like Trello have remote teams within the company, like their marketing team, which is 100% remote. They also have a 50:50 on-site, remote approach.
What Is A Blended Team?
Because of the blended nature of some teams and the 50:50 approach, they are also becoming known as blended teams. Which some people still think of as a combination of on-site and remote.
This ‘blend’ can also cause the cultural challenge that 100% remote worker at Microsoft Scot Hanselman describes as ‘out of sight, out of mind’. He said this in his blog post:
“A few months back we had a standup meeting and a boss couldn’t get the web cam to work (It’s been 5 years but even now they usually spend about 10 minutes messing about with the webcam before giving up and just having me call in). All this while 20 workers who “showed up” stare daggers (I’m assuming) into the Klingon Phone and the guilt piles on.”
Which is where Distributed Teams enter the playing field.
What Is A Distributed Team?
A distributed team is the ultimate remote team, with no central HQ at all, with the entire team spread across time zones and national cultures, including the founders!
They’re left behind the ‘us versus them’ mentality — or remote and non-remote workers — and just think of themselves as one team. Even if there is an office, being ‘distributed’ is more of a cultural mindset that drives how they do everything.
A great example of this is my most recent remote contract, with a fully distributed team. The founding team of 3 are distributed across Hong Kong & Estonia, each working from home, with the rest of the team in Taiwan, Brazil, and me in Mexico. Being distributed informs the way they do everything, because it has too or they just can’t operate efficiently.
Buffer is another example of a distributed team, with 79 employees working across 15 countries.
Another is Zapier, who say this on their blog:
“At Zapier, for example, we’re a 100% distributed team across four continents—the closest thing we have to an office is the kitchen table at our CEO’s apartment. A remote structure is something that we committed to from day one. And for us, it’s a way to maximize our impact.”
The hackernoon blog post goes into more detail about the different types of distributed teams. I’ve put the link in the show notes.
It comes down to philosophy & ideology
The term a company uses often comes down to their culture or philosophy or work. They can also move from 100% remote to blended to distributed and back again depending on the challenges they face and how they decide to solve them.
Most importantly when you’re talking to a company, you need to ask or research exactly what the terms mean to them and how they are using them. Then you can talk on the same page. Reading their blog and interviews in the press will let you know what terms they use. Even if you’re still confused, at least now you know the terms to research!
Ok, let’s move on the, remote friendly versus remote-first, which more so is about the culture & ideology of a company and how they work.
What Is Remote-friendly?
Remote friendly describes a culture of allowing people to work remotely and hiring remote workers in the same city or different countries. It signals an openness to enabling greater freedom and flexibility and ushering in the future of work. But being remote-friendly is not enough, because just being open to the remote workforce doesn’t mean your workflows embrace the concept of remote work so that everything flows smoothly across remote and co-located employees. Which is where remote first comes in.
What Is Remote-first?
Means that whether there is an HQ, 1000 offices around the world, or none at all, the remote worker is not an after thought. Remote-first is about baking the idea of ‘remote’ into the culture of the company, in a way that radiates from every corner of the business. They do it as a matter of greater happiness and productivity for everyone. And they actively build workflows around the concept of a remote team, where people naturally jump on a video call whether they are in the same office or half way across the world from each other. Every tool and process in the company embraces ‘remote-first’ ideology.
Essentially, it means running the business is a way that is equally beneficial to some one in Argentina as it is to someone in the same room as you in London. Stackoverflow give this example:
“Remote-first means when somebody wants to present something, they’re not going to stand up at a whiteboard and write while the remotes squint at their screens trying to see it. We present electronically. It means when somebody refers to a document, they’re not pulling it out of a file folder and passing it around the table, leaving the remotes out of the loop. They send a link to the whole group.”
Other strategies include everyone jumping onto a global video call from their laptop at their desk, even if 10 of them are located in the same office. It means everyone’s on the same footing, and removes the out of sight out of mind mentality described by Scot Hanselmann earlier in this episode.
It means no one feels like, or is described as a remote worker. They are a teammate, full stop.
This Is Your Starting Point
Well I hope that opens up a whole new world to you, and a whole new dimension to your remote job search. Crack open worksheet 5 in the podcast pack where I’ve created a fun quiz to help you remember your blended from your distributed. If you don’t have the worksheet yet don’t worry you can grab a copy in the show notes at https://stephanieholland.co/57.
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