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

By May 29, 2020May 17th, 2022No Comments
People working remotely

Remote work isn’t a part of the future—it’s 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

Find out more by downloading our free infographic The Age of Remote Work: Benefits of Hiring a Global Workforce

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.

In the age of message boards, communication, and time tracking tools, there are many ways to manage remote workers and monitor productivity. Businesses that use a remote work model along with these tools find that remote team members are actually more productive than office staff.

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.

When hiring, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a wide range of project-based contractors and freelancers who may be open to a broader commitment. Accessing international freelancer networking sites for specific industries such as software development and engineering is also valuable. Actively participating in these sites can result in contact with established contractors in a given region or country.

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.

One way to establish and monitor milestones is through online checklist boards such as Trello or Basecamp, which allow team members to communicate and signal project progress. Slack is another messaging app for remote teams with real-time message boards similar to Skype, but it has the ability to integrate multiple teams and give a sense of a virtual workplace.

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 keep 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.

5. Help Establish Mobile Workspaces

Providing your team with remote tools and a mobile workspace is important for staying connected on the go. These tools include communication platforms, project management software, secure server setups, and wireless internet to create a functional workspace.

An optimal route for providing your team with a mobile workspace is by developing a budget for laptops and other essential tools. This budget can also go toward stipends for on-the-go workspace items, like a laptop stand, Wi-Fi signal booster, or portable battery.

Remote technology is important because it empowers connection, collaboration, and productivity between teams located across different cities and time zones. Meanwhile, providing your team with workspace equipment gives you control over the quality and safety of their setup.

6. Consider Workspace Safety

Mobile workspaces can be set up anywhere, but they should still be safe and promote healthy working habits. By having a makeshift, non-regulated setup, your team may experience ergonomic issues that affect their health and productivity over time.

Ergonomics refers to the study of efficiency in the workplace. One major concern of ergonomics is how sitting at a desk can affect long-term health. To ensure better posture, chairs, desks, and equipment must be adjustable and provide support to reduce the risk of pain or injury.

Ensuring your team’s on-the-go office is ergonomic protects them from chronic illnesses such as back pain and vision impairment.

7. Ensure Data Security

Protecting sensitive company data is essential for remote teams. This means coordinating with IT experts to ensure virus software is up to date and firewalls are installed. To help team members understand the importance of data safety, consider setting up trainings for storing documents, sharing files, and creating strong passwords.

It’s a smart idea to create a data security policy regarding how company devices are used. A typical data security policy dictates that company devices must be password protected and secured while working in shared spaces. It also dictates that company devices should never be used with public Wi-Fi, but rather connected via a secure hotspot or ethernet router.

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.

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. However, managing the different employment legislation between countries is complicated and risky. To compliantly hire employees, HR teams must be familiar with these regulations and source, onboard, and train internal teams accordingly.

Misclassification

When hiring contractors in new markets, companies must realize that each country has its own unique laws regarding contractor classification. These laws make proper contractor classification essential when drafting any contracts. Correct classification involves declaring the right benefits, wages, overtime pay protections, and more. If a contractor is misclassified, it can result in major consequences, including tax penalties.

Intellectual Property

For companies with remote team members, the threat of losing valuable intellectual property (IP) to hackers and competitors is all too real. Whether a remote worker decides to use an unsecured, public Wi-Fi network for work purposes or forgets to save important login information in a password vault, it’s important that all individuals consider IP safety while working remotely.

Typically, non-disclosure clauses would be a part of any employment contract, but these may be difficult to enforce in agreements with contractors living in a remote location. In any instance, non-disclosure policies and terms should be clarified before work begins, and checks should be put in place to monitor or limit a worker’s access to sensitive proprietary information.

Contractual Obligations

Employment agreements are influenced by the company’s home country, as well as the employee’s country of residence. The employment laws of the worker’s own country or where the work is performed may override any contractual notice periods or causes for termination. This means there are several types of contract clauses that may not be enforceable in some countries, including confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses, termination notices, and severance notices.

Start Building a Remote Global Team Today

Velocity Global’s Employer of Record 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, our Employer of Record expedites onboarding and enables new hires to begin working in as little as a matter of days, rather than months.

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.