In this issue, we talk about what distributed teams are, why we’ve found value in switching from “remote-first” to “distributed-first”, and some tools and resources you could use to try it for yourself.

Psst: Let us know what content you want to see more of in future newsletters by hitting the “like” button in each section.

Spot the difference

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In the left image, one person is working away from the central office. They have a different experience from everyone else. They don’t see and hear everything in the same way that those in the central location see and hear things. In this image, one person is remote.

The right image looks more equal. Despite different life commitments, locations, or office setups, everyone is on an even playing ground. A few folks even seem to be in the same room and yet they’re on separate video chats. In this image, the entire team is distributed.

Words matter.

Using the word “remote” implies there is a central workplace that people are separate from. Normalizing that language can create a disconnect between central and non-central team members.

While there are benefits to working both “remotely” and “distributedly”, at CDS, we found “remote-first” wasn’t inclusive. For us, it affected the entire team’s ability to do our best work. It frustrated people outside of the main office who couldn't fully participate in team goals. But it also created challenges for people in the main office who were missing out on what remote teammates could fully offer.


We are all distributed, even when we are in the office.

Remote work can lead to isolation and disconnection, putting the onus on the non-central team to keep up with those in the main office.

Being distributed puts the onus on everyone to be inclusive. It creates a culture where having team members outside of the office isn’t a burden - it's an opportunity to recruit strong talent, collaborate more, and get better results.

What's happening in the community?

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Here are some upcoming events and learning opportunities related to digital service delivery in government:

Policy Ignite! Bureaucracy Hacking
May 6, 2019
Ottawa, ON

Civic Hall Toronto: Agile for Civic Tech
May 6, 2019
Toronto, ON

IoG: The Future Forum
May 6-7, 2019
Ottawa, ON

OneTeamGov Global Unconference
May 21, 2019
Victoria, BC

Design Thinking for Public Servants
June 20, 2019
Ottawa, ON

Canadian Digital Gov Connections
Open Slack channel
Digital Academy Podcast



Work with us!

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Interested in working at CDS? We’re looking to fill these roles as soon as possible:  

- Senior developer
- Senior policy advisor
- Senior procurement advisor

Check out our full list of job openings here.

Not in Ottawa? No problem! Distributed is how we roll!


What's it like to work on a distributed team?

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Meet Emily and Phil, distributed team members from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) who have been working on the Benefits Finder partnership with CDS. Check out what they have to say about working distributedly: 

Q: What tools helped make working distributed easier for you?

Emily: I cannot say enough good things about Slack. When it first came out I didn’t really get it. I kept using it and in my opinion, it’s the best industry standard communications tool. I’d used Trello before but not in the same context as we’re using it with this project, so that was a bit of a learning curve for me. We were able to integrate Trello into Slack so anytime there was an update made in Trello we would get notified about it in Slack.

Digital policy is shifting to make it easier to get access to those kinds of tools, not just at VAC, but across the federal government.

Q: On a personal level, how has working distributed made your life easier?

Phil: I have a family. I’ve got two kids in their teens that are constantly on the go. My wife tutors in the evenings, so a lot of that responsibility is on me to get them from one place to another. Travelling anywhere for a longer period of time can be a challenge. For my wife, it’s not too bad to work it out for a week or two, but any longer than that just really wouldn’t be possible. Getting to work with a team like CDS and experience the way they work wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Read more

Iterating on empathy: a recap of distributed week at CDS

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From March 6 - March 14, CDS vacated the Ottawa office and worked distributedly for a full week. We did this as an experiment to develop empathy for our teammates outside of Ottawa and to build better habits. 

We documented how the week went, tips for working distributed, and how we’ll iterate to make the experience better.

Read more
Interested in trying this with your team?

Check out these blogs about tools and practices that can help you get started:

Getting external Wi-Fi in government offices

Use the tools that you need to do good work

Small acts, big impacts


CDS Website
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CDS LinkedIn Page
CDS YouTube Channel
CDS GitHub Repo
CDS Medium
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