Remote work cultures are rapidly increasing in popularity, with millions of people across the world enjoying the increased flexibility of home offices and alternative work spaces.
At Acceleration Partners (AP), we understand this first-hand as our company is a 100 percent remote workforce—and has been since day one.
As we’ve grown on a global scale, we’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the structures and processes we have in place to be successful as a remote organization are well-aligned with what’s needed to build a strong, connected and cohesive global company.
Here are three common challenges that global companies face and what happy, healthy remote work cultures do to mitigate them.
1. Communication Across Different Time Zones
For those who are collaborating with their global counterparts, time zone differences can be a confusing, complicated obstacle. It can be challenging enough to find time to collaborate with your remote colleagues who share your work schedule. When there’s a time difference of 8 hours or more, that difficulty is exacerbated, often resulting in a continuous game of email tag and a laundry list of unresolved questions, issues and unfinished tasks.
Because a remote workplace naturally lends itself to an environment where, by and large, team members are accustomed to delivering clear and concise communication and leveraging communication technology platforms, it can be much easier to streamline communication across global team members.
Here are a few ways we keep communication strong at Acceleration Partners:
Record Company Meetings
At AP, we use video conference calls to update the entire company on a biweekly basis. As not all of our global team members are on the clock at the designated meeting time, we make an effort to record each of these sessions for those regions and then distribute the recording out to them.
This not only cuts down on unnecessary meetings, it also allows global employees to observe these conversations and be tuned in to details that may be forgotten or misconstrued via a traditional email recap or memo.
Instant Messaging Platforms
When your operating hours are opposite to your coworkers, it’s not uncommon to wake up to a hefty inbox filled with brief, one-off questions that could take hours to address.
Finding an instant messaging platform that allows for convenient, immediate communication with anyone on the team – who is anywhere in the world – is key to cutting down on emails and addressing quick, easy-to-answer questions and needs.
Additionally, most remote workers are accustomed to work-life integration, meaning they want to be able to stay connected and address work-related situations while in between picking up their kids from school, attending a field trip or while sitting in the waiting room at their eye doctor’s.
By adding an IM application to their mobile phones, global team members can efficiently communicate with each other when situations that arise that fall into the urgent/important category, making it much easier for everyone to stay on top of issues and work projects without having to be tethered to their computer.
Utilize Project Management Tools for Accountability
With so many global team members contributing to projects, it’s easy for tasks to get off-track or for details to slip through the cracks.
Web-based project management platforms, a tool commonly used by highly-productive remote teams, can make all the difference in helping global teams schedule, organize, prioritize, and track various concurrent projects. These types of platforms allow everyone involved in the project to assign themselves and other’s tasks, share details, ask questions, set deadlines and make timely progress toward completion.
Having a central location where all involved parties can have progress updates in real-time, on their own time, allows for full transparency and accountability across international teams.
2. Building Strong Relationships
As employees build genuine connections with one another, they are also fostering a sense of trust that their colleague will deliver on their responsibilities and be a team player.
However, when you live in a different city or state from your teammate – or a different continent – you can’t exactly invite them to grab a coffee before the next meeting, an interaction that may sound small but can have a large impact on a healthy, happy company culture.
Both remote and global organizations are faced with team members who may feel isolated and disconnected from their peers or from the company as a whole. Global companies can alleviate this by integrating a few strategies remote workers leverage consistently.
Despite the many benefits of being a remote and/or global organization, there really is no better way to build relationships than with face-to-face interactions.
Here at AP, we understand this concept and, when possible, encourage employees to travel internationally for in-person meetings with their coworkers. Capitalize on opportunities such as trainings, award ceremonies and new region expansions to send employees on trips to meet and interact with their global colleagues.
Spending a few days together with global teammates allows for a greater sense of connectedness and provides invaluable face-to-face relationship building.
Summits and Company Meetings
To truly capitalize on building strong relationships through face-to-face interactions, bring your global team members together in one place.
At Acceleration Partners, we bring our remote, global company together for our annual AP Summit.
It’s here where we are able to gather everyone together for a few days of collaboration, communication, and celebration. It’s an opportunity for everyone in the company to get updated in real-time on our accomplishments from the previous year and goals for the road ahead, all while catching up with friends and getting to know a plethora of new faces.
If you’re a global company, consider holding an annual summit. It can be one of the best ways to bring your global teams together to focus on and foster the vision and values of your company.
As a remote organization, in-person meetings can be hard to come by. One fun way to encourage relationship-building is through a Slack integration called Donut.
Participants get randomly introduced to new team members through the app every few weeks and are encouraged to meet for virtual coffee, lunch or just a chat to get to know one another better.
3. Cultural Differences
Oftentimes, language, cultural and even organizational differences exist across a global workplace. It’s important to not only be aware of these differences, but to understand and learn more about them from the perspectives of those who live them.
Last year, we expanded our presence across the EMEA region. Recognizing the cultural differences between UK-based employees and the US team, EMEA managing director, Helen Southgate, created an entertaining presentation about some of the cultural and organizational differences that exist between the US and the UK and shared it with our global team.
Additionally, one of our team members wrote an engaging and light-hearted blog post addressing some of the variations in lingo and vocabulary used by our British counterparts. Small but significant steps like this help bring various cultural nuances to the forefront in a fun and playful way.
Global teams are synonymous with remote teams. The protocols and strategies in place within remote organizations extend into the global workplace because they help to actively build and foster strong relationships among employees, no matter where they are in the world.