A Taxonomy of Remote Work

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Multi-Location

Multiple offices. Often teams are organized to be based in one office.

Benefits: Employ people in multiple locations (e.g. outside of the bay area).

Challenges: Communication cross-site, competition for projects, frequent travel (esp for leaders in the organization).

Remote By Location Not By Timezone

People don’t work in the same place but work on the same timezone.

Benefits: Employ people in multiple but close-by locations. People’s working hours tend to overlap as much as they would in an office.

Challenges: Remote communication, implicit expectations about working hours.

Remote By Location but with Core Timezone

People don’t work in the same place, or the same timezone, but close enough that there can be 4-6 standard working hours of overlap.

Benefits: Employ people in multiple and slightly further apart locations.

Challenges: Can mean that some people start very early or work very late. Have to figure out some more async communication.

Fully Distributed (Location and Timezone)

People work anywhere, and at any time.

Benefits: Employ people anywhere.

Challenges: Async communication and decision making.

5 thoughts on “A Taxonomy of Remote Work

  1. Can we find a word for that special failing where the work is fully-distributed across regions, and the teams have figured out async communications, but anyone director-level or above just happens to be at HQ. Meaning all the core decision making and strategy are coming from HQ exclusively – that’s got to be an anti-pattern for distributed companies.

  2. I think there’s some special differences between two remote employees and two remote teams as well (I usually break those out into separate groups). Lately though, I’ve been thinking that some of these can even co-exist at the same time. Examples of some I’ve seen more recently: Remote from your team, but with one other remote employee also nearby. Two teams remote from each other, but with some individuals on those teams farther remote as well. A hub and spoke model, like similar to what @JPDAIGLE says above. It also seems to be more common to encounter lately where one level (e.g. management) meets one of these definitions, but a different layer of the company has a team that is organized like a different one of these definitions (e.g. fully distributed team).

    1. Yeah there are a bunch of hacks like that to make “remote work” “work”. Generally it’s because places are trying to go remote incrementally, rather than starting with it in mind.

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