Difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many people began working from home for the first time. Many got so used to the option that they’re ready to accept offers from their companies to continue working that way for the foreseeable future. Research suggests that 25-30% of the workforce will engage in several remote shifts per week by the end of 2021.
One of the primary advantages of allowing remote work is to benefit from a global workforce rather than one restricted to a single state or country.
Here are seven best practices to keep in mind when managing international remote teams.
1. Respect the Boundary Between Work Hours and Off Time
Many of your employees may be clocking in from different time zones to get stuff done.
Failing to remember that your work hours may be their downtime (and vice versa) could make it more difficult for workers to strike a healthy work-life balance. France even has a so-called “right-to-disconnect” law that lets employees avoid dealing with work emails during their off-hours.
Come up with a system whereby each international employee plans their workweek and gets managerial approval. You can even have them list their scheduled hours in your time zone and theirs to avoid confusion. Refer to that schedule and don’t expect people to deal with anything urgent when they’re off the clock. You might write an email that says, “I know you’re not at work right now, but could you please look at this as soon as you start your next shift?”
2. Maintain Frequent Communications
When team members are stationed in various countries, you don’t benefit from seeing them face-to-face every day and having brief but meaningful chats. This scenario can make it difficult to accurately gauge how an employee feels about their remote work situation. A 2020 survey found that 20% of remote workers said collaboration and communication were their top struggles, while another 20% mentioned loneliness.
Making a purposeful effort to stay in touch could alleviate all those difficulties. One executive director of a nonprofit holds virtual daily office hours for people who can get their questions addressed in less than 10 minutes. When one person enters, she “locks” the room, giving others a signal to try back soon. Making it easy for employees to check in from wherever they are allows tackling small issues before they become major problems.
3. Tweak Your Hiring and Onboarding Processes Accordingly
Knowing how to manage remote teams effectively means understanding how to adjust your hiring and onboarding processes.
One option is to hire through an employer of record (EOR). That entity gives you a single point of contact when hiring globally. You decide which candidates to hire, plus their roles and salaries. The EOR then drafts a locally compliant contract.
Explore how to improve the training for international remote team members who have just joined the company, too. You can help those people feel like they belong by planning virtual coffee breaks or pairing the new hires with seasoned mentors. As you get employees acquainted with their new roles, it could work well to provide them with checklists and milestones for completing necessities within certain timeframes.
4. Give Team Members Access to a CRM Tool
When a company has team members working across the globe, it’s not always easy to keep everyone on the same page.
However, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that works in the cloud makes it much easier to track and manage leads and other activities. Nimble is a CRM product that works with products your teams already use, such as Teams, Word, and Excel.
A CRM product also makes it easier to track the activity of remote teams. You can see completed activities versus those left to do, for example. Plus, when team members see the various notes about particular customers, they know which things to address so that the communications stay consistent and customer-centered.
5. Understand the Productivity and Mental Health Link
Some people love working from home almost immediately, while others require a longer adjustment process. As you manage remote teams, be aware that some individuals may become more prone to burnout.
For example, if they’re in a high-pressure position while trying to get set up to work from home for the first time, individuals may start to feel depleted. If you notice a sudden drop in someone’s output, realize that poor mental health may have caused it.
However, in a recent workplace trends survey, 70% of people said mediation helps reduce work-related stress. This segment of respondents increased to 83% for those dealing with child care or homeschooling. Whether you suggest sticking to a meditation routine or encourage people to go for brief walks to get fresh air, recognize that people who have better mental health may find it easier to stay motivated.
6. Provide Self-Service Resources
One of the potential challenges of a remote workforce is that people may encounter problems when they’re on the clock outside of the business’s operating hours. An easy way to prevent people from getting tripped up by tech troubles or common questions is to create dedicated resources, such as step-by-step guides about how to use tools and refer to company policies.
Imagine a scenario where a person who started working for the company a month ago wakes up feeling sick, and their manager won’t be in the office for several more hours.
A shared document where any employee can quickly get guidance on what to do to formally ask for time off and get their schedules cleared for the day lets workers show proactivity by independently finding the resources they need.
7. Help Workers Set Meaningful Goals
Some remote workers find it challenging to see how their daily contributions tie into the company’s success or further their career. When that happens, they may quickly feel discouraged and become bored or unmotivated. However, setting clear goals to help them grow enables international remote teams to stay on track for continual progress. It also makes it easier for managers to identify potential obstacles and take corrective action.
When collaborating with a worker to choose goals, try to relate each one to personal and company growth. For example, a remote copywriter may have a goal to reduce their revision requests by 1% in the next six weeks. Achieving that goal suggests they have strengthened their skills, plus increased the chances of customers feeling happy with the business overall.
Manage Remote Teams With a Flexible Mindset
Besides working these seven tips into your managerial strategies, don’t overlook the benefits of staying flexible and adapting to challenges as they arrive.
For example, the weather might be beautiful outside your New York office, but a team member in Ireland might tell you their internet access went down due to a strong storm. Be aware of how things like national holidays and cultural traditions could require more flexibility on your behalf, too.
Flexibility is a handy character trait in any case, but when you oversee international remote teams, more factors could potentially affect workflows. Being aware of that and adjusting as necessary can keep your teams productive and upbeat.