One of the most incredible benefits of remote work is that employers are not limited by factors like location or time zone. As a result, they can attract global talent and build better-performing, more productive teams.
Global remote teams offer numerous benefits. However, they also present unique challenges — including supporting cultural differences.
Below, you’ll learn how to accommodate and celebrate the differences among your employees from different countries, cultures and backgrounds.
Challenges of cross-cultural remote work
Managing virtual teams can be tricky, but it’s especially tough when your employees are spread across the globe. The following are some of the most frequently cited challenges associated with cross-culture remote work:
Differences in work style
In some countries, individual employee opinions are highly valued, and team members are expected to speak up and share their insights. In other countries, employees are generally expected to follow the leader and only share an opinion if directly asked for it.
Depending on your background, you might view employees who speak up regularly as disrespectful, or you might see reserved employees as disinterested. Take note of where your employees come from and how cultural norms might affect their work style.
Along with differences in work styles, global remote teams also experience unique challenges when it comes to communication.
People express themselves differently based on numerous factors, including age, race, gender and country of origin. Therefore, remote team leaders must be extra careful to consider everyone’s communication styles and preferences to prevent employees from feeling left out or unsupported.
Information gaps can be detrimental to any team, even one where everyone works in the same office. With global remote teams, where communication can already be challenging, information gaps are even more problematic.
If all employees aren’t working with the same documents and details, or if they don’t fully understand the information they’ve received, they’ll struggle to meet expectations and perform their jobs well.
Differences in motivation
Employee motivations vary depending on their cultures. For example, some employees may be motivated by tangible benefits like raises or cash bonuses. Others may be motivated by recognition from their employer or a greater sense of work-life balance.
Remote team leaders should consider how culture affects motivation and use those specific motivators to keep their employees engaged at work.
How to embrace remote employees’ cultural differences
Do any of those challenges sound familiar to you? The good news is that you can overcome them and run a successful cross-cultural remote team by making some simple changes to your leadership approach, including the following:
Utilize various communication tools
One of the best ways to overcome communication challenges is to utilize various communication tools for setting expectations, answering questions or sharing feedback.
Examples of communication tools include email, chat apps, voice messaging, phone calls and video conferencing. All of these tools have benefits and drawbacks, but video conferencing is especially helpful for team meetings and 1:1 check-ins.
Video allows you and your employees to factor in elements like body language and voice inflection. They’re not limited to words on a screen, which can easily be misconstrued.
Invest in DEIB training
DEIB stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. DEIB training helps you and your team learn to be more culturally sensitive and ensure everyone is treated fairly.
Invest in this kind of training for yourself and your employees. Keep it in mind when you’re creating policies and protocols for your team, too.
Considering everyone’s unique background and experiences makes it easier to develop processes that support everyone and don’t accidentally alienate employees.
Be aware of time differences
Just because you work from 9 am to 5 pm Eastern Standard Time, that doesn’t mean your schedule is ideal for everyone on your team.
For example, 9 am EST is 3 pm in France. You’re just starting your day when someone in France is probably beginning to wind theirs down. If you schedule a meeting at noon your time, you might require them to work later so they can attend.
Depending on how spread out your team is, you might not be able to find meeting times that work for everyone all the time. However, you can try to accommodate as many people as possible. Give them a few different times to choose from or record the meeting so they can watch it later.
Celebrate a wide range of holidays
You might celebrate Christmas and Easter, but that doesn’t mean all your employees do.
When giving employees days off or planning holiday celebrations, do you limit yourself to Christian-centered holidays in the United States? What about Hanukkah, Kwanza, Diwali or Ramadan?
Think beyond what you celebrate and be willing to accommodate events that matter to your employees. Host a virtual celebration for the whole team or allow them to take the day off to celebrate with their loved ones. Either way, you’re showing respect and cultural awareness
Seek and accept feedback
No matter how hard you try or how much you want to support and celebrate every culture, you will get things wrong occasionally. That’s okay. A willingness to accept feedback and adjust based on people’s responses is more important than being perfect.
If someone says they felt you made an insensitive comment, resist the urge to get defensive. Instead, listen to what they’re saying, apologize for your mistake and commit to not repeating it.
Let your employees know you want their feedback, and create opportunities for them to share it. Perhaps you could host “office hours” where employees can chat with you about their concerns or have a virtual “suggestion box” where they can leave anonymous comments.
Support and empower all employees with Outstaffer
Cross-cultural communication can be difficult with a remote team. However, it’s not impossible if you follow the tips suggested above.
At Outstaffer, we can help you build a diverse team from around the world in just a few clicks. As a global EOR, we help companies find, hire, onboard and manage top talent legally and compliantly. Plus, with our solutions like managed devices, time and attendance tracking and VR workplaces, we enable employees to connect and #WorkFromAnywhere.