Reading Time: 9 minutes
While technology has made telecommuting more accessible than ever, the Covid-19 pandemic urged businesses into remote work environments without warning. As companies adjusted to the remote work landscape, they found they could reach job seekers worldwide and reach brand new markets with their mission.
While working in a global team can lead to several advantages for your company, it also comes with communication challenges. Without the ease and accessibility of in-office interaction, virtual communication requires more structure and care than in a physical workplace.
If you’re responsible for leading global teams, you need the right approach to foster trust, facilitate organization, and encourage collaboration between team members.
How Did the Pandemic Impact Global Remote Teams?
The Covid-19 pandemic brought about extensive changes worldwide, and the presence of remote work is one of them. While working remotely and relying on global teams existed prior to the pandemic, the need for safety and social distancing made it more common than it’s ever been.
In a Pew Research study of 5,800 U.S. adults, only 20 percent were working from home before the pandemic. By the end of 2020, that value rose to 71 percent. Even as more teams shift back to the office in 2021, many companies want to make remote work a permanent fixture. Our study of employees across 15 countries revealed that 63 percent of employees work for a company that plans to make remote work long-term.
The growing presence of remote work is just one notable effect of the pandemic. People’s lifestyles continue to change for the sake of their careers. Our study revealed that 22 percent of workers have moved locally or are planning to do so, and 17 percent have relocated internationally or intend to.
As employees move to new locations and embrace the remote work lifestyle, our study showed 48 percent feel happier than they did before the pandemic. Remote global teams have become commonplace in the professional world, and learning how to manage them is essential for helping your employees thrive wherever they are.
What Challenges Do Global Teams Face?
Working in a global team comes with many benefits, like maximized productivity, flexible structure, and a larger talent pool for your hiring efforts. While these advantages may be the reason your company opts for a remote workforce, you’ll still encounter the challenges of having a team spread across several countries.
The logistics of global remote teams involve the small details that make your organization functional. A good example of a logistical challenge is information centralization. Fortunately, cloud-based software makes it easier to give every employee access to the same files and tools. However, making sure this software is accessible to your workers wherever they’re located is essential.
Other logistical issues might include relocating employees and the challenges that come with new labor laws, working hours, and potential connectivity issues with poor internet signals. When considering the logistical side of remote teams, it’s crucial to remain resilient through transitional phases.
2. Workplace Culture
Among the more significant hurdles in remote teams is creating a workplace culture. When you’re leading your team in person, it’s easier to forge professional relationships with your employees and build a space that people feel comfortable working in. Remote teams pose a new challenge — a lack of shared physical space.
How can employers of remote teams create an environment of trust that facilitates feedback? If workers don’t feel they can trust their teams, they’re less likely to initiate discussions and work together to solve problems. This process is essential to any company, regardless of industry, but physical distance may stand in the way.
Beyond the challenges of physical distance in workplace culture, global remote teams also come with cultural diversity and differences that can be challenging to address from your home office. Bridging the gap between different cultures and creating an environment everyone can enjoy is paramount.
The good news is that diversity and environmental differences can improve task performance at work. Diverse perspectives support decision-making, creativity, and problem-solving. If you can create a culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, regardless of their backgrounds, you can develop an effective remote team for the long term.
Communication is tied closely with workplace culture. Once you’ve fostered a culture that facilitates communication, how do you make it happen? Remote teams face the challenge of finding efficient, valuable communication methods based on project needs.
Identifying factors like when communication is needed and what tools should be used can be complex. Depending on the nature of your work, some departments may require more communication than others. On top of keeping team members connected to one another for collaboration, it can be challenging to know what projects your employees are working on and when. Receiving updates about progress and completions can be less common in remote teams unless you make it a point to include them in the workflow.
Leading global teams also comes with language barriers that local remote workforces typically don’t have to confront. If your employees speak multiple languages, your choice of communication tools is even more critical. When organizing your remote team, taking time to consider your unique communication needs can significantly affect your success.
Best Practices for Managing Global Teams
Managing an international team requires organization and consistency. By making use of the tools available to you and facilitating collaboration among your employees, you can create an effective remote workforce. The best practices for leading global teams are closely tied to the system and structure of your business.
1. Be Aware of Labor Laws
Between legal compliance, benefits, and payroll requirements, labor laws will always play a role in how you run your business. Working with global teams means confronting various employment laws. Whether your company operates in two countries or 20, make sure you know what every employee needs based on legislation.
Common differences to look for across countries include required vacation days, minimum wage, social security contributions, and maternity leave. Some countries also require benefits like 13th-month bonuses and paid public holidays. Your financial, human resources, and legal teams should prepare for these possible differences by researching labor laws and maintaining an organized system that separates employees into their given countries.
2. Leverage Technology
Communication in global teams is essential, and leveraging technology is the best way to achieve it. You can find several collaboration tools to support your remote global team. It’s just a matter of finding the right one for your workforce. Almost 80 percent of workers now rely on collaboration tools for work, which is a 44 percent increase since the pandemic began. Find a few that represent your needs and stick with them.
In addition to facilitating communication, collaboration tools support information consolidation, a primary logistical challenge for remote teams. Cloud-based technology makes your vital documents and files accessible from any computer, and it often has intensive security features to protect sensitive data.
Two factors to consider when leveraging technology are the number of tools you choose and how accessible these tools are to your team. Having too many tools can be overwhelming and disrupt the collaboration process. Finding a few that represent your needs will be the most effective. You also want to ensure your tools have two-way communication. Technology is not valuable to your team if it doesn’t facilitate conversation between workers.
3. Hold Virtual Meetings
While email, messaging platforms, and project threads are valuable communication tools, some conversations require a meeting. Holding regular virtual meetings to catch up with your workers and learn about their progress is an easy way to keep track of your objectives.
You might choose to hold group meetings with whole departments from time to time. One-on-one meetings are also helpful. These meetings establish accountability with individuals and help you build professional relationships that contribute to workplace culture. One-on-one meeting time also gives you space to share meaningful feedback and praise individuals for their hard work.
Creating a regular schedule for group and individual meetings is an excellent way to stay in touch. Whether you opt for weekly or monthly meetings, they’re a helpful management technique to include in your remote infrastructure.
4. Acknowledge Time Zones
Working in a global team likely involves several time zones, and you need to find a way to navigate them. Encouraging your employees to use international clocks on their desktops can keep them aware of their team members’ time zones.
When scheduling meetings, it’s best to avoid using up all the overlap hours across employee time zones. Taking away from this time will limit collaboration between your workers outside meeting hours.
5. Encourage Participation
Make sure every member of your team feels comfortable using your tools and processes for collaboration. Everyone deserves a voice in your remote workforce, and no one should feel like they can’t speak up. Individuals who connect with their team members daily feel more engaged in their work than those who don’t.
Communication Tips for Managers of Global Teams
On the human resources side of management, communication is about connecting with your team and creating a space where employees can thrive. Processes and structure are often straightforward, but building trust is more nuanced. While you won’t be around to assist your team in person, you can make up for it in a few ways.
1. Be Available
As a manager, you need to be available to your employees so they can start conversations with ease. A remote workforce doesn’t have the convenience of a nearby office they can drop into, but you can mimic one. Set hours where you’re available, making sure they span multiple time zones to maintain accessibility for every employee.
Your availability also depends on the tools you use for communication. It’s best to leverage multiple channels for this purpose. Make sure employees know you’re available over email, video chat, and phone so they can reach you the moment they need you.
2. Acknowledge Employee Value
Working outside an office may lead to a sense of disconnect, but taking time to acknowledge your workers’ value can help. When employees feel important to a business and its mission, they’re more likely to contribute and commit to the job.
You can use one-on-one meetings to praise your workers’ efforts. You can also send small gifts, offer rewards for benchmarks, and create a recognition fund that allows employees to celebrate one another. All these approaches can boost morale, improve workplace culture, and encourage communication among your employees.
3. Educate Yourself on Local Customs and Culture
Every country will have different customs and cultures, and you should make a point to understand them. Work styles and perceptions of workplace hierarchy are different worldwide. You should also consider sensitive topics among specific employees and perceptions of politeness in a particular region.
Getting to know your employees’ cultures can make them feel more valuable, and it can make your communications more effective. Starting conversations with your international workers about these differences shows that you respect their perspectives and care about their comfort.
4. Follow Consistent Standards
Setting consistent standards across communication channels and other aspects of your business can offer clarity for your team. During the pandemic, 74 percent of working Americans said their company’s organizational values helped guide them. Setting standards will provide a sense of structure among uncertainty, especially for remote workers who might not be able to reach management right away.
The standards you set will depend on your workflow. For example, if an employee has a question about the project they’re working on, should they email or call you? Is there a different platform they should use? When something goes wrong, how should employees react?
Creating these communication standards removes uncertainty and makes your team more efficient.
5. Schedule Team-Building Exercises
Building a sense of camaraderie among a remote workforce may seem challenging, but you can leverage a few methods to build trust and encourage communication among your employees. For example, creating a virtual break room over a video chat platform can give your employees the chance to chat during lunch.
Potential team-building exercises include virtual happy hours and game nights. Encouraging socialization within your team during off-hours makes it easier for employees to interact on the job. You can also create professional development workshops or classes for your workers to attend online. They can interact in a more casual environment while learning new skills for the job.
Choose Globalization Partners When Working With Global Teams
Perfecting communication in global teams can be challenging, but the right structure and approach can give your remote team members the support they need to succeed.
At Globalization Partners, we provide valuable resources for growing companies with legal and HR expertise. As your add more remote workers to your team, you can count on us to keep you compliant and efficient. As an Employer of Record (EOR), we handle the administrative burdens and take on the associated risks of managing a team.