Teams Working Remotely from Another Country: The Ultimate Guide
Remote work is a trend that is not slowing down any time soon. Having the liberty to be able to work from wherever is great for both employees and employers, and its popularity is increasing dramatically each year. In fact, the Office of National Statistics in the UK has predicted that 50% of the workforce will be working remotely by 2020.
If you are an employer, you might want to jump on this trend while it is still a privilege rather than an expectation. This is great for remote work culture; it means that employees will feel a sense of gratitude and will have a better work ethic.
However, as great as remote teams can be, they also can be difficult to manage – especially if the teams are based abroad. If you’re wondering how to make remote offices work, this guide will detail exactly what you need to know!
Where will they be based (time zone wise)?
One of the first important things to think about when managing a team who is working remotely in another country is where exactly they will be based or, more importantly, what time zone they will be based in.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may need a team who will check in throughout the day. This means that, while the team has flexibility about where exactly they work, they might need to stay in a certain time zone to maintain similar working hours (unless, of course, they’re totally fine with working nights!).
Teams working remotely in Europe are generally best for British companies, as they only have a maximum 1-2 hour time difference. So, while you may be doing a 9-5 day in the UK, they can easily work 10am-6pm or 11am-7pm without their days being turned upside down too much!
If your remote workplace allows for some flexibility, and you don’t mind your team starting at different times, there is, of course, a wider range of places that they could be based. You might need to clarify a certain time when everyone must be online, though.
This might mean that you can’t really hire two remote workers who are based in Los Angeles and Bangkok, as the times are so different – but at least there will be more of a scope of where your team can be based.
Of course, if it is not important to you that all of your team are online at the same time, things become a lot more flexible. In Britain, we have the advantage of being on GMT, meaning that even if you have colleagues based in Asia and the Americas, you can generally chat to them both at either ends of the workday.
When will they check-in?
This is highly dependent on your team and what you do for work. If you are a team that is very involved in each other’s work, you might want to check in every day. If you work more independently and trust your employees (which you should do!), it might be ok for you to check in a few times a week or even once a week.
At the start of managing your team who are working remotely from another country, you might want to check in more often to assess if there are any teething problems. Remember that time zones need to be factored in when finding a time to check-in and remind yourself that you, as the boss, should be flexible with these times.
How will you share ideas and assign jobs – what programs will you use?
Successful remote teams are always collaborating, even from abroad. Sharing ideas between each other is important, and the invention of virtual software has enabled more people to work remotely from another country.
Some great platforms for remote working include:
- Trello for idea sharing
- YouTube for live streaming
- Slack for project management
- Zoom or Teams for video collaboration
When managing remote teams, it’s also important to be mindful of the fact that some websites may be hard to access in other countries, or maybe challenging for some people to use.
What hardware will you use for remote working?
As well as appropriate software, you’ll need the right hardware for remote working too. One of the advantages of having a remote team is that most of the employees pay for their own equipment, like laptops and mobile phones, which saves costs for employees.
However, one bit of kit is well worth the investment. Interactive displays are a fantastic interactive whiteboard alternative, with more modern features and functionalities that perfectly complement remote work and are great for bringing the team together, as they can remotely connect to employee’s devices, wherever they are in the world.
The hardware can generally be installed in an office – if your team still has one – or in the employee’s house. Remote teams do still have a headquarters, even if it is virtual, and interactive displays do act as a sort of virtual HQ.
How will you provide feedback?
One of the most important things when managing a remote team is to provide ample opportunities for feedback – on both ends.
It’s important to give your employees feedback and provide an open platform for them to give any feedback that they may have. Building an open, honest environment is conducive to success in the remote workplace.
Great ways to do this are:
- To stress that the workplace is somewhere where everyone has a voice, and to encourage people to be honest about any thoughts that they have about how it is run.
- Schedule a feedback time – maybe once a week to begin with, and going down to once a month after the remote team has been running for a while.
- Make sure that feedback is honest but constructive – don’t criticize people without offering solutions.
When will you get together?
If it is at all possible, organizing a face-to-face meeting with your remote team is a fantastic way to build it. Remote offices are great for a multitude of reasons, but meeting your employees in person will help with business relations within the company.
If it is in your budget, consider organizing an event in one place. Maybe there is a conference that is relevant for your team to attend, and you could have a meet-up afterward?
If there is no way that you can finance people traveling internationally to meet up, it’s still a good idea to stress that if they are ever in your city, you are open to meeting. You don’t have to talk work at this meeting (if they are in your city for leisure they might not want to!), but it’s a great idea to put a face to the name!
Of course, if you cannot get together in person, chatting over video call is the next best alternative.
Factoring in cultural considerations
If you are hiring a new team of remote workers from different countries and backgrounds, you’ll need to factor in a few cultural considerations.
These may include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Timekeeping – in most Western offices, being late is frowned upon – and in several countries, it’s immediately punishable. Other countries may be more relaxed about when work begins. If certain times are very important to you and your business, be sure to lay them out when offering work.
- Holidays – of course, people around the world will have different holidays to celebrate. Giving, for example, Muslims time off to celebrate Eid (and being mindful during Ramadan) and Chinese employees time to spend Chinese New Year with their families is essential. If they are still on a contract with paid holiday, it may also be bad form to insist that they take these days as a holiday; instead, maybe suggest that they work extra over British public holidays.
- Bereavement – every country commemorates death in different ways, some needing a longer mourning period than others. As it is such a sensitive time, it should be ensured that people are fully respected when grieving according to their culture.
Of course, there are many, many more things to consider when working with people of other cultures – a great thing to do would be to sit down with each employee and go over the foundations of the business, what they expect with their cultural background, and ensure that there are not any clashes.
Being mindful of social life, health, and wellbeing
Working remotely from another country, for all its advantages, can have its downfalls. One of the biggest is that when things aren’t so great, not physically seeing employees makes it difficult to get the situation across.
When something goes wrong for a remote employee in their personal life, it may understandably impact their work. Because they are not physically in the office it can be easy to forget this and do not understand why their work isn’t 100%.
It’s important to be compassionate and understanding to anyone who is having issues, as well as to make reasonable allowances with them – just as they would get if they were in a traditional office.
It is also crucial to ensure that the remote workplace is still somewhere that people can be open about any struggles that they may be having; it can be very easy to hide behind a computer screen, but successful remote teams do stay honest with each other and explain any difficulties they may be having with their work.
Ways to create this space include:
- When remote employees begin working for your company, stress to them that you are always on hand to listen to any issues that they may be struggling with.
- If an employee comes to you with a situation or condition that you do not know much about, do a bit of research to understand the situation better.
- Celebrate wins, marriages, babies and birthdays. Sending e-cards is a great way to do this!
- Equally, if your employee opens up about something bad that has happened to them, offer your sympathies, and if it is appropriate, send a card or flowers.
- In general, remember that each remote worker is a person behind the computer screen, and treat them as you would treat employees in person.
It’s not easy to work remotely from a different country and can be even more challenging to manage successful remote teams, but these tips will help you to do just that, and factor in all cultural considerations and the geographical issues with remote work as well.