The difference between remote work and distributed work

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There are nuances to working from home.

We usually refer to it as remote working, but this is a system for the individual worker. Distributed work is a design for the entire organization.

The base for distributed work is the autonomy to do the job. This also means that you can pick a schedule and the work is asynchronous.

Remote work, on the other hand, represents a small number of people that are not at the office but need to be available during office hours.
Most of the time, remote workers don’t have access to the same context, information, and social opportunities as on-site colleagues.

Ideally, the location should not be a factor in performance and participation. But for remote work to accommodate everybody, projects need to be documented so that the on-spot decision we make while at the office doesn’t need in-person meetings (or Webex calls for that matter).

Documenting work is just a way to help people pick up from where you left off. This way more people have visibility into goals and project status, the less they have to ask someone for it.

Also, communicating online is key. We already do this as Slack and Webex are part of our day to day activities even if we are at the office.

Working from home has a bad reputation because it implies you need to be home. But to help build a remote work environment location should not matter. When working remotely (or as a distributed company) we should benefit from an allowance to cover costs like working from hubs (if we choose to do so) or rent a meeting room if it is absolutely necessary to meet in person.

Similar to agile, distributed work needs a new social contract.
Co-locating is not key to deliver and perform, and remote work is possible, but expectations need to be set. On-demand, ad-hoc meetings are not always the key to success.

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