10 Benefits of Distributed Working

You may not have realised this, but Annertech is an entirely distributed company - and it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Often when we first tell people this, we get asked lots of questions like “Huh? What now?” or “Wow, how does that work?”.

First off, let me clarify that being “distributed” is not just allowing staff members work remotely. With a distributed company there is no central office! That is everyone works from home, shared co-working space, or even their local coffee shop or library - wherever works for them. For us, there are many benefits to this, here are just 10 of them:

Benefits the Team

Distributed teams experience a number of benefits over in-office staff, including:

  • Increased productivity - people can focus on the task at hand and not be interrupted by people poking their head in the office door. Sure emails, Skype and other notifications can still distract you, but that’s because you’ve chosen to allow the distraction and not turn off those notifications.
  • Better family life - as the mother of two young kids, working from home has provided me with immense flexibility when it comes to ferrying the kids to and from crèche. It also means that if one them is sent home sick I’m nearby to pick them up and (if lucky) may still be able to get a few things done while they sleep.
  • Flexible working hours - we allow all of our staff set their own working hours. As long as they’re around for our daily scrum call (more on that in my next post) most days, then we’re okay with that. For example, some of our staff prefer working in the early morning, while others find themselves more productive in the evening. Others take time off during the week to deal with childcare issues and then work Saturday mornings instead. 
  • Saved commuting time - this is probably the most obvious benefit, and again leads to better family or personal life. Just think of all the things you could be doing each day with that extra hour or two you’d save by not commuting. 
  • More 'me' time - maybe this is just a re-iteration of earlier points, but due to the flexibility and time saved by commuting, staff have more time to work on personal projects, go for a run, get the car fixed, meet a friend for coffee, the list goes on. Whatever that thing is, having that flexibility and extra time to do those small, but important things, you're taking care of yourself and your mental health.

Distributed teams also experience benefits over those just working remotely from the main office. With a remote working model, there can sometimes be a bit of friction between the different sets of employees. Often those in the office have access to more information (or can be perceived to have), whether it be water cooler conversations, spontaneous meetings or even just things like birthday cake! Remote workers can often feel left out and ultimately feel like they’re missing out on stuff (let’s face it, virtual cake is just not the same!). Meanwhile, the in-office staff can feel like their remote working colleagues are slacking off or have it so easy without having to spend hours stuck in traffic each day.

Benefits the Business

Not only do your staff benefit from the flexibility it offers them, there's also benefits for the business:

  • Hire talent anywhere - the most obvious benefit to the business is that you can focus on recruiting the best talent regardless of their location. The Drupal community in Ireland is quite small, and if we were to have limited our talent pool to just those living in the Dublin area, then we wouldn't have grown as quickly as we have. With a distributed model, we could hire developers in Brunei if we wanted. There are advantages and disadvantages to a global workforce too. A fully global workforce is fantastic for 24-7 support, but it's difficult for co-working on the same project. For that reason, and due to the nature of our work, at Annertech we've decided to keep our team within ± 2 hours of each other. This may change as we continue to grow, but for now it's working pretty well for us.
  • Closer to clients - often we get asked to visit potential clients at their offices, but because they've met us at an event in Dublin or elsewhere they are under the impression that's where we're based. When they realise we're also just around the corner from them in Galway, or a stone's throw away from their Belfast office, they're delighted. It makes meeting clients in person that much easier too.
  • Fewer overheads - a distributed company can also be that bit leaner than their competitors. There's no overheads such as office rent, electricity costs, furniture or even water coolers to pay for. Sure, there's extra travel costs if we want to get together in person, but it's a lot more cost efficient than the traditional in-office working model and we are in control of when and where we meet.
  • Trust - managers of distributed teams trust their staff. They know that just because someone isn't online at the moment, doesn't mean that the work won't get done or that they won't deliver on time. They trust their colleagues to deliver. Staff who feel trusted then feel valued and take more ownership and responsibility for what they're working on, which only leads to a better quality service/product and ultimately happier clients.
  • A happier workforce is a more productive workforce - this is possibly the main reason we've chosen to be a distributed company. The extra flexibility and personal benefits that your staff receives only leads to a happier workforce, and when people are happier, they are more productive. They aren't there stting at their desk at 4 o'clock twiddling their thumbs and wondering if 5pm will ever arrive. They're being productive, and if they aren't in the right headspace, then they can take a break, go for a walk, and finish off their tasks when mentally ready and less distracted.

This is why Annertech is “distributed by default” and we will do our best to remain entirely distributed for as long as we can continue to do so.

I'll be publishing a post next week on some of the tools we use here in Annertech to help us communicate and work together as a distributed team.