COVID-19International PEO

The Complete Guide: How to Successfully Build and Manage a Remote International Workforce

By May 29, 2020 June 11th, 2020 No Comments
People working remotely

Remote work isn’t a part of the future; it is here now. The COVID-19 pandemic changed how businesses and employees get work done by encouraging work-from-home policies to practice social distancing. However, remote work was on the rise long before the pandemic locked down countries and forced businesses to close their physical offices.

Around the world, more workers have access to a reliable internet connection and a desire for a greater work-life balance, which makes the opportunity to work remotely one of the most in-demand job benefits. In the United States, the number of remote employees increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017. In Europe, Dutch and Finnish workers lead other EU states in remote work at 14% and 13.3% of their workforces, respectively.

Virtual work is on the rise and presents many benefits for both employees and companies. Still, some operational challenges arise for businesses looking to make a switch from physical to virtual offices. Read on to learn how to build a successful global team, more about the positive effects of working remotely, and how to keep employees productive and engaged with your team—even when they are thousands of miles away.

Table of Contents:

  • Remote Work Is Gaining Popularity
  • The Benefits of Allowing Employees to Work Remotely
  • How to Build a Successful Remote Work Strategy
  • Keeping Global Remote Employees Engaged
  • Hire Around the World with Ease—and Without Risk

Remote Work Is Gaining Popularity

Remote work is quickly becoming the world’s new normal. Once a perk for only a few employees in select industries (mainly the tech space), working from home is now a common option for employees across many sectors. In fact, stats on remote work are consistently trending up:

  • In the U.S., 7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) work from home at least half the week.
  • 56% of global companies allow remote work.
  • 52% of employees around the world work remotely at least once per week, and 68% work remotely at least once per month.

Twitter, the social media powerhouse, recently announced that its 5,100 employees across 35 global offices can work from home indefinitely if they choose to. Other tech companies, whose workers only need an internet connection to perform their jobs, will likely follow suit.

In a study conducted by Owl Labs, of the 1,203 people surveyed, 62% work remotely at least sometimes, and only 38% work strictly in-office. Of those who work remotely, 54% do so at least once a month, 48% once a week, and 30% work off-site full-time.

Remote trends cover various levels of employee hierarchy. Owl Labs reported that everyone from VPs and C-level executives to individual contributors works remotely at least some of the time.

In a report by Buffer, a social media management platform, 99% of the 2,500 remote workers interviewed stated they would like to work remotely “at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.” 95% of these respondents reported that they encourage others to work remotely as well. One of Buffer’s competitors, HubSpot, operates with a team of over 300 full-time remote employees and offers the option for partial remote work to those in its offices. However, more and more companies will make the shift to operating 100% (or nearly 100%) remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic—and certainly after.

The Benefits of Allowing Employees to Work Remotely

When considering implementing a remote work policy for a team, most employers have concerns about how to manage, communicate, and monitor employee productivity. While remote work does take some adjustment by both parties, it offers unique value for the whole team. Companies will experience the following results if they switch their teams to a work-from-home model.

1. Increase Job Satisfaction

Remote work enhances employee’s lives and increases job satisfaction. 83% of workers, remote or on-site, say that a remote work opportunity would make them feel happier at their job. A study of remote American workers found that they are 57% more likely than average to feel satisfied with their job. Plus, nearly 80% of the same respondents described their average stress level during the workweek as either “not stressed” or only “moderately stressed.”

2. Increase Productivity and Business Performance

A common misconception of remote work is that the workforce loses productivity with less direct supervision. However, the opposite is true. With the increase in flexibility that remote work brings, 85% of businesses say that productivity levels among employees went up.

3. Attract and Retain Better Talent

72% of talent professionals agree that work flexibility (which includes remote work options) will be critically important for the future of HR and recruiting. As more workers expect remote work offered as a benefit, companies that want to attract and retain top talent will have to offer some form of telecommuting to stay competitive.

With this shift to remote work options, employers benefit from larger and stronger applicant pools because their companies will have more access to top talent. For example, employees no longer need to pay expensive Silicon Valley rents to access lucrative tech jobs—and vice versa. Companies no longer have to commit to large rents for brick and mortar locations to access talent in this area.

4. Save Money on Overhead Expenses

Many companies want to cut costs, especially with the current state of the global economy and a recession looming on the horizon. Allowing more employees to work remotely saves money on renting office space, other overhead, and commuting benefits such as monthly parking fees or public transportation passes.

There are numerous advantages to implementing a new work-from-home policy. However, to ensure a team is successful with their newfound freedom, employers must build a clear remote work strategy.

How to Build a Successful Remote Work Strategy

Moving a team to remote work can lower stress levels, boost productivity, and increase job satisfaction. However, working from home doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even offering the option to work remotely part-time allows employees more flexibility and better work-life balance. The key to building a successful remote team, whether fully remote or partially, is having a detailed policy and communication strategy, so everyone on your team knows the expectations.

1. Develop a Strong Digital Communication Plan

Communication remains one of the biggest challenges for remote workforces. Set up your team with proper channels designated for specific types of communication to ease the work-from-home transition.

Ensure your team understands how to navigate whatever video conferencing system you implement. While email and instant messaging platforms are great for detailed information-sharing, face time with employees, clients, and vendors keeps communication personal; eye contact helps you and your teams connect, but also allows each person to communicate and interpret tone and emotion more clearly.

Designate specific channels for different communication types. Is email the preferred method of delivering detail-rich information? Or do you prefer to use instant messaging platforms? Each has its pros and cons, but establishing a transparent process prevents communication frustration.

2. Determine Team Communication Expectations

Teams accustomed to sitting, working, and communicating in shared physical spaces will find the abrupt change in daily work challenging or isolating. While digital communication is no substitute for team member interaction, there are ways to mitigate the stark shift in working styles.

Schedule your team’s meetings, tag-ups, 1:1s, and deadlines as you normally do—with in-person interaction. Schedules help leaders manage expectations and help employees develop a routine.

Unless you have specific reasons for deciding otherwise, encourage your teams to have their cameras turned on while taking video calls. Seeing familiar faces helps everyone feel more connected and makes it easier to engage with team members that you and your team do not know very well.

Set working hour expectations and take into consideration time zone differences. For team members who are hours ahead, are they required to work in their time zone or yours? Remember, regularly working from home isn’t easy for some, and setting clear expectations and routines helps your employees better adjust. If employees need flexibility, make sure they make accommodations in advance.

3. Establish Daily Personal Routines

Daily routines help ensure consistency, productivity, and a sense of stability. It also gives leadership the chance to show their teams how they structure their days and encourage teams to adjust based on their needs.

Speak with your team members about how they best manage their personal lives and remain flexible to meet their daily responsibilities. Remember, working from home at this scale is uncharted territory for many of your employees.

Establish daily check-ins and check-outs. Even with set morning routines, kicking the day off with specific expectations paints a clearer picture of the day ahead. These tag-ups keep consistent communication between team members and managers, and help maintain the relationships formed in-person while working from home.

4. Set Clear Performance Expectations

Leaders must set realistic expectations for their team members as they establish a work-from-home policy.

While this is standard for employees during all circumstances, communicate that quality and output must remain on par with on-site work. Still, know that there is an adjustment period as your team moves to a full-time work-from-home situation. Make yourself available to answer any questions and set (or reset) expectations.

In order to keep business moving at the same pace, managers and all team members must be aware of how quickly they need to reply to all communications. This means setting a timeframe, which depends on your individual business needs and varies between organizations. Whatever you decide, make it explicit and include it in your work-from-home policy.

Keeping Global Remote Employees Engaged

Adapting to a new remote workflow requires not only effectively managing a remote team but also keeping employees engaged. To be successful, employees must feel connected to their coworkers, especially when they work thousands of miles away. This physical disconnect is likely why more than half of remote employees say they feel disengaged from in-office employees.

Adapting to new workflows creates some operational hurdles, but employers are able to set their internal teams up for success in a variety of ways.

1. Give Your Employees the Resources They Need to Succeed

 First, provide your employees with access to any documents or files needed to continue executing their responsibilities. If your company does not have a well-maintained file-sharing or document storage repository (like Google Drive), now is the time to establish that process. Access to critical information ensures a smooth experience for your employees, and reduces time spent locating documents, tools, and training materials, keeping productivity high.

2. Provide Regular Updates

Internal communications from leadership to your teams is crucial for a remote team. Ensure that company-wide announcements are made often and on channels that everyone in the company has access to. It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected, so ensure they receive updates on important business initiatives at all times.

3. Get Creative with Team Bonding

Even if your workers live in different cities or countries, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun as a group. Use video chat platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts to host team happy hours or remote game nights.

4. Help Employees Find Work-Life Balance

When your home is also your office, it’s easy to lose track of time and put in more hours during the day than you typically would in an office setting. Remote work capability means that your office can be anywhere in the world, so unplugging can be difficult. Managers must encourage their employees to set and honor at-home working hours.

Hire Around the World with Ease—and Without Risk

The future of work is remote, whether domestic employees work near your HQ location or your teams stretch across the globe at in-home offices. As you start hiring global workers, there are essential steps you must take to ensure they’re onboarded compliantly.

No matter how many global employees you have, ensuring compliance with a country’s employment laws is critical. But managing the different employment legislation varies between countries. To compliantly hire employees, HR teams must be familiar with these regulations and source, onboard, and train internal teams accordingly.

Many employers face difficulties finding qualified talent to fill critical job openings, leading 46% of U.S. tech firms to seek talent overseas. Often, companies hiring in foreign markets rely on independent contractors, which opens them up to several compliance risks and avoidable headaches, fines, and penalties. For example, if courts find that a contractor’s duties fall under a full-time employee’s responsibilities, then the business is guilty of misclassification. Additionally, the fines that follow severely limit or upend a business’ ability to financially support that employee or others abroad.

 Velocity Global’s International PEO (Professional Employer Organization) solution helps your firm hire anywhere in the world to fill critical roles and diversify your workforce—without setting up an entity. Velocity Global onboards international employees through locally compliant employment contracts. Because businesses bypass entity establishment, International PEO expedites onboarding and enables new hires to begin working in as little as a matter of days, rather than months.

Start Building a Remote Global Team Today

Velocity Global employs over two hundred employees on five continents, so we know what it takes to successfully run a remote global team while keeping employees all over the world productive, engaged, and connected.

When you’re looking to build your remote global team, our International PEO solution makes the process easier. We handle onboarding, payroll, and benefits administration, as well as compliance and risk mitigation. Our experts are here to help you hire workers compliantly, but also help them feel connected and supported—no matter where they live. If you’d like to learn more about how remote teams are an excellent opportunity for global growth, reach out to us today.