7 Ways to Manage a Remote International Workforce

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Managing every team became more challenging in the past few years as remote or hybrid working become the default for many organisations.

And nowhere is remote management more challenging than in an international organisation, where your workforce may be separated by time zones, language barriers and culture as well as geography. 

So how do you manage a remote international workforce? Here are seven key ingredients…  

1. Be considerate with deadlines and meetings

An international workforce creates potential challenges for arranging meetings or setting deadlines within ‘normal office hours’. In part, that’s because ‘normal’ may not be the standard 9-5 of northern Europe and America. It’s also because time zone challenges may shorten the available window when everyone is at their desk. 

Managers (remote or otherwise) would do well to limit the attendees required in meetings to only those essential to its success. That becomes doubly important for remote international meetings, where limiting attendees can help increase the hours available in which to hold it. 

If you require your global workforce to work to your time zone, be as considerate as possible with meeting times. Remember, just because an employee is contractually required to attend your 10am meeting, doesn’t mean you’ll get the best out of them when it’s their 5am. 

2. Use a common communication/collaboration platform

There’s a near infinite number of workplace tools available to help aid workplace collaboration. Where you can, settle on a single tool, roll out its use across the organisation, and make sure everyone gets the training they need to use it effectively. That way…  

  • There’ll be a common ‘language’ of collaboration 
  • Your team won’t have to learn multiple platforms depending on which part of the organisation they’re dealing with. 
  • You won’t miss deadlines because the team expected the task you inadvertently set on Trello to arrive via Slack.    

3. Support your remote workers’ workspaces

Your HQ may have a standard support package for remote workers but be aware that it may not suit every member of your international workforce. As an alternative, consider offering a budget for remote workers to source their own IT, broadband, Wi-Fi range extenders, desks and chairs, so they can customise their space in a way that works for them. 

4. Establish clear expectations and routines

Regular routines help employees plan their day. Clear expectations save time, help people work more effectively and support them in getting it right first time. If you need a regular daily meetup, try to hold it at the same time every day. If you hold regular Zoom meetings, let everyone know if you expect their camera to be turned on and explain why (for example, that it may help a remote team connect more effectively if everyone can see each other). If you expect comments to be made against a certain document by a certain time, ensure everyone knows when and to which time zone (e.g. 5pm ECT). 

5. Develop employee engagement

It’s easier for managers to foster a team ethic when that team is in one place. It’s considerably harder when everyone’s working remotely, and harder still when every member of an international team has a different understanding of workplace culture and engagement. 

For the manager at the centre of an international workforce, the goal must be to help everyone feel part of it. That means you should vary engagement activities. A Friday Zoom quiz or movie watch-along may appeal to some member of the team but not others, and it’s important to ensure everyone has the opportunity to connect with teammates in a way that works for them. And connection is great for boosting employee wellbeing.

So mix up your approach, combining regular manager/worker one-to-one interactions with opportunities for team members to chat together, and encourage ideas from the group, which could be anything from book clubs to gaming groups. 

Always ensure every member of the team gets to share in the team’s successes.  

6. Ask for feedback

Consistent with the above, it’s important in any team to ensure that no one feels as though they aren’t included or are in some way being left behind. This becomes more important than ever with a remote team because it’s so much harder to pick up on any signals of dissatisfaction. Workers may not, for example, wish to admit that the language barrier is proving difficult for them to overcome. 

The only way to understand how your people feel is by asking them, and you can combine one-to-one discussion with questionnaires to build an understanding of how your team feels, and to ask for their ideas for improvement.  

To ensure feedback is honest and forthcoming, it’s important to deliver on any promises and ensure that team members can see that their feedback is being listened to.  

Make international work easy

When a team is in a state of flow, being part of a remote international workforce doesn’t feel so remote. Managing that team feels much less challenging too. Applying all of the above will help achieve that flow state, but there’s something more. 

When the administration associated with every workspace is simple, it doesn’t have the chance to frustrate workers’ days and clutter their or your thinking. The right international HR support can make it easier to ensure your people are onboarded in the right way, managed in the right way, and reported on in the right way. 

With International HR from Cintra Global, you can enjoy the sort of consistent, compliant international HR services that help your managers get on with managing. 

To explore how we could support your managers, talk to us. 

Danielle Nicholson
Danielle Nicholson
Danielle is our Communications and Content Manager, leading the content strategy for Cintra. Outside of her passion for all things copywriting, she loves being on the water in a kayak or taking long walks with her Golden Retriever!