Are Virtual, Distributed Teams, and Remote Teams Synonyms?

Running a remote team of software developers or work away from the office but confused about the terminology used in these scenarios? This article will hopefully point you in the right direction.


Virtual, distributed and remote are terms that refer to off-site employees, but they are used interchangeably. First off, it’s essential to define the notion team” in its traditional sense. 

The team shares common goals. 

  • The team members are united by the collaborative effort for the purpose of achieving their goals. 
  • The team typically has one leader or several leaders. 
  • The end result of the team effort exceeds that of the same people working independently.  

The key difference between a traditional team and a team which is not co-located: The first entails team members who work in the vicinity of each other and can communicate without barriers. The second model means leverage of communication tools at hand that allow them to overcome those barriers.  

What is a distributed team?  

Distributed teams entail employees spread across different countries and time zones. This means that all the team members are based in different locations. They could be working either at home or in an office but not co-located with their team members. Typically, distributed teams are associated with flexibility and a startup environment. However, it’s not the employees who experience the advantage of flexibility. Most of them work full-time, five days a week.  

Companies successfully running distributed teams are Github, Zapier, Buffer, Invision, Trello. 

What is a remote team?  

The members of remote teams work remotely from their central office, but not necessarily away from each other. When someone says that they run a remote team, it means that they have two teams – an in-house core team and a team that operates in a different country (remotely). Both teams are equally capable of performing complex tasks. Remote team members usually work from a brick-and-mortar office. For employees, being a part of the remote team means that they daily see their colleagues in an office but connect with the core team and the leaders across distances.  

Examples of remote teams are, for the most part, companies that have chosen one country as a talent pool. For example, Ukraine has offices of global companies such as CrossEngage, Encore, Veritone where Ukrainian technology experts work. 

What is a virtual team?  

Virtual team is a synonym of distributed team, and it’s a relatively new term. It’s defined as a group of people who work together on a project but are not tied to the same office space. They could be working on the same project from anywhere in the world, from homes and offices and not meeting face to face on a regular basis. The word “virtual” in the phrase virtual team means that the team works in a virtual environment maintained by online collaboration tools and software technologies like Slack, GitHub, Zoom, Hangouts, among others.  

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