team structure definitions

The team structure definitions you need to know

The world of work has recently gone through a fast-paced evolution that’s brought to light a lot of new terminology and options for team structures almost overnight. 

With many organisations moving to distributed team structures due to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing outbreaks, looking towards the future we have a choice on our hands. Will we take our distributed teams back to working as co-located teams, or will we continue this evolution by moving to hybrid teams instead? 

Let’s explore the differences between co-located teams, distributed teams and hybrid teams while comparing the strengths and weaknesses of these team structures.


The team structure definitions you need to know.


What is a co-located team?

A co-located team is made up of individuals who work together in the same physical workspace. It’s a very traditional approach to team structure, with team members typically commuting to the same office to collaborate, complete tasks and conduct meetings face-to-face. This type of team structure is strongly associated with the ‘9-5’.

Strengths of a co-located team structure:

  • Provides an opportunity for instant, seamless communication
  • Team members are able to brainstorm and share ideas spontaneously
  • Managers may find this team structure easier to manage and lead

Weaknesses of a co-located team structure:

  • May find ‘presenteeism’ a more common occurrence
  • Commuting to work may reduce productive hours
  • Heightened costs associated with maintaining an office


What is a distributed team?

A distributed team, also known as a remote-first or remote working team, is made up of individuals who work in different locations (usually their home office) and collaborate and complete tasks with the help of digital communication tools. Distributed teams are often spread across different cities, states and even countries. While there may be expectations around work hours, it’s more common for distributed teams to work in a way that embraces asynchronous communication. 

Strengths of a distributed team structure:

  • Individuals are often able to work to their most productive daily schedule
  • There may be less distractions and interruptions
  • Organisations are able to secure talent from various locations 

Weaknesses of a distributed team structure:

  • Communication may be less frequent and less spontaneous
  • Transactional relationships may be formed, impacting workplace relationships
  • If the correct systems aren’t in place, information may prove difficult to share and find


What is a hybrid team?

A hybrid team is made up of individuals who work both in a co-located and a distributed fashion. This type of team structure is usually adopted when there are some specific job roles that require team members to be on site and in the office to complete core tasks. However, a hybrid team structure is also adopted as a way of providing flexibility through distributed work options while also offering a ‘home base’ in the form of an office that team members may visit when and if they choose. 

Strengths of a hybrid team structure:

  • Provides flexibility and more opportunities for team connectivity
  • Organisations are able to secure talent from various locations 
  • Offers the opportunity for the team to gather face-to-face for specific purposes

Weaknesses of a hybrid team structure:

  • Opportunity for disparity between the way in-office staff and distributed staff are treated
  • May result in an increase of meetings or additional communication 
  • May be more complex for managers to manage staff and lead their team


What’s the difference between a hybrid and distributed team?

A hybrid team would still have a commitment to in-person get togethers at regular meeting points and places of work, where a classic distributed team has no centralised office and rarely come together, if ever. Both would use similar platforms and methods to stay in contact, but hybrid teams would likely use their regular get togethers to meet, strategise and brainstorm, whereas a fully distributed team will have to find other platforms and methods to achieve the same results.

Which is better, a co-located or hybrid team?

Neither. Personal preferences may see some individuals preferring one or the other, but classic measures such as productivity, quality and engagement can be achieved in either format. Both have their benefits and challenges. But regardless of personal preference, there will certainly be a proliferation of hybrid teams. There’s a mountain of evidence pointing towards the hybrid team becoming the dominant team construct into the future.