Get remote work best practices for an international workforce. Learn how to coordinate time zones, create an effective ex-pat employee policy, and more.
Around 25% of full-time United States employees are also full-time remote workers. That means these employees may have the ability to work on a flexible schedule from wherever they live in the world. There are currently around 9 million Americans living in more than 160 countries around the globe, according to the Association of Americans Resident Overseas. Companies that provide fully remote opportunities can hire from this group of ex-pats. They can also find talented candidates who are nationals of foreign countries.
Remote work opens up the talent pool and provides flexible options for companies. There are also special considerations for managing remote workers who live abroad. To successfully manage remote workers in a global workforce, you need the right technology, ex-pat employee policy guidelines, and other remote work best practices.
The following tips help both employers who are managing overseas employees and their workers to achieve success in an evolving global workforce.
There are currently around 9 million Americans living in more than 160 countries around the globe.
1. Set up clear expectations
With a distributed team, both managers and employees should have clear policies in place so everyone’s on the same page with business operations and expectations. For example, some questions to consider are:
- What communication chain should an employee follow when they need help or an answer to a question?
- What’s a reasonable expectation for how quickly someone needs to respond to an email, a voicemail, or an instant message online?
- Do you want global employees to work on a regular schedule? Or do they have the freedom to choose their own hours?
Answers to questions like these should be part of an employee onboarding guide. They should also be stated in work policies for international employees. Set up these expectations to help keep employees working abroad accountable. Provide all team members with the knowledge they need to communicate successfully and meet their deadlines.
2. Coordinate time zones
Depending on the time zone of the remote worker, they may be working while U.S.-based employees are asleep, and vice-versa. Employee time zone differences will affect communication and project deadlines, so it’s important for both staff members and their managers to be aware of what their typical work hours will be.
If there’s overlap among time zones, you can prioritize those hours for synchronous communication needs. These are the hours when you can schedule group meetings, one-on-ones, and team brainstorming sessions to encourage collaboration among your stateside and international remote workers.
For teams with employees all around the world, it may be impossible to coordinate meetings for entire teams. In this case, you may want to assign check-ins based on time zones and report back to the wider team.
3. Use efficient collaboration platforms
Various time zones will likely force frequent asynchronous communication and collaboration. These are emails, messages, and project uploads that occur on the fly and that may be checked hours later due to time zone differences.
When you’re researching efficient collaboration platforms, look for ones that:
- Are easily accessible from and user-friendly for any device
- Include clear update capabilities for real-time status updates
- Are secure to protect company information
As you introduce new communication platforms and onboard new workers, provide proper training on each technology so that your employees feel comfortable using them. You might enlist someone from IT to provide a virtual walkthrough, create training videos for anytime access, and/or set up an online repository for these guides. When you can, make technology training available in a variety of languages to accommodate your global employees.
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4. Hold managers accountable
Managers and team leaders impact at least 70% of the variance in team engagement, according to Gallup research. Your international employees’ managers play one of the most important roles in retaining employees and increasing employee engagement to drive business results.
The manager and those they manage may not be living in the same geographic location, but it’s crucial that managers check in regularly with their team. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 85% of workers who have weekly check-ins with their managers have higher engagement ratings.
Businesses with distributed teams should create a work policy that sets up expectations for manager-employee check-ins. Determine how managers will effectively guide those in their charge and how you’ll determine manager efficacy. Let employees know even when their manager isn’t immediately available, they’re still able to schedule a check-in whenever they need one.
5. Create an inclusive culture
More than 40% of American workers say company culture is a top consideration when they’re selecting a company to work for.
Company culture remains a top factor impacting employee retention and the ability to attract top talent. More than 40% of American workers say company culture is a top consideration when they’re selecting a company to work for.
Distributed team members may not feel as included or in the loop with home base operations as your local workers. To create an inclusive culture and strengthen bonds among coworkers, consider the following:
- Create equitable workplace policies, and provide the same employer benefits for all workers, wherever they’re working
- Set up virtual social events, such as employee birthday celebrations
- Provide learning and development opportunities and career development plans for all employees
- Offer mental health wellness programs and physical health resources
- Encourage social connections online, such as through a company forum for non-work-related topics
Also, make sure to keep international employees up to date about company developments and successes. If an all-hands company meeting isn’t possible virtually due to time zone differences, it may be worth hosting a regular in-person summit to bring your employees together to bond in person.
Global teams can succeed
An international workforce can increase diversity at your company and lead to more innovation. To succeed, it’s important to:
- Create clear expectations
- Design equitable workplace policies
- Set up effective communication and collaboration methods
- Prioritize strong manager-employee relationships
- Build an inclusive culture among distributed teams
Measure your progress and solicit frequent feedback from your employees. Evolve your policies and invest in effective, secure technology to set employees up for success, wherever they’re working around the globe.