Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.
The rise of the global consumer economy has allowed businesses to expand their teams across the globe. Since the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, remote work has become more common than ever before, and global teams are able to work together despite different time zones thanks to advancements in technology.
Despite the possibility of collaborating with team members across the globe, managing an international team still poses many challenges for team leaders. As a global localization company with teams and clients scattered across different time zones, our team at BLEND has some tips and tricks up our sleeve for seamless communication – no matter how far apart your colleagues are.
Companies often find that collaborating on a global scale makes for more innovation, better ideas, and increases productivity. While differences in culture can cause friction in communication, it also leaves room for fresh, creative ideas and insights. Team members can learn more about other cultures and places they might not have known much about beforehand. Hiring in different regions also has the potential to reduce organizational costs as certain countries have lower labor costs than others.
More than anything, global teams are often a necessity for modern companies today that are present in multiple markets. Having local teams in key markets is essential for understanding various aspects of local markets, including consumer culture, networking, logistics, legal policies, and more.
While in many ways, globalization enables a stronger workforce, organizations are also faced with challenges when it comes to optimizing communication within teams that are spread across different time zones. Some of these challenges may include:
Inevitably, global companies must schedule meetings with employees who are working in a different time zone. Scheduling in such settings requires extra effort and communication, as team members must find a convenient time that accommodates everyone’s work schedule and time zone. As our time is already limited, accommodating others’ schedules is a commitment; availability is limited, and team members may find it difficult to communicate with those across the globe.
Working in a global organization may require certain sacrifices, such as committing to work some early mornings and late nights in order to accommodate others’ time zones. While not always ideal and preferred, team members may find themselves scheduling meetings during non-traditional office hours in order to connect with clients and co-workers in different regions.
Finding a work-life balance is a particular challenge faced by many employees, however, global workers may come across this challenge more often than others. Working irregular hours such as early mornings and late nights might cut into your personal life. Struggling to maintain a strong balance between working sufficiently and prioritizing one’s personal life may lead to emotional and psychological distress both within and outside the boundaries of the office.
Working with team members in different locations has its challenges, even within the same city, such as technological issues and virtual limitations. When you’re working with people in different countries from different cultures, language and cultural differences can lead to some misunderstandings. This can cause delayed communication and feedback misunderstandings if teams aren’t trained to deal with these challenges.
Just because a company works with a global workforce doesn’t mean that team members are isolated, but it isn’t uncommon. Despite the many benefits of remote work, in-person communication is important for connecting, collaborating, and socializing with colleagues. Human beings crave socialization– engaging with others via face-to-face interaction– therefore, consistently working remotely may result in feelings of isolation and disconnection. Employees may struggle to maintain a high morale and the beneficial emotional support that is sustained through in-person interactions and feeling connected to their team.
In order to navigate through time zone challenges, team members must establish clear communication expectations. Transparency is crucial for team members to understand how to communicate effectively. Team leaders should set expectations like being responsive in a timely manner and agreeing on a convenient platform for communication (i.e., Outlook, Teams, Gmail, Slack). When in-person communication isn’t an option, team members need to make an extra effort to communicate as much as possible — over communicating is better than under communicating.
Creating a shared calendar enables employees to view each other’s availability. Moreover, employees can more easily schedule meetings according to others’ availability, improving your team’s communications. Add a world clock app or widget to your desktop so you can easily view the time in multiple time zones.
At the end of the day, working with an international team requires flexibility from all parties. To connect with clients and co-workers across time zones, you might have to work during untraditional hours to accommodate meetings and respond to urgent messages and avoid delays.
Being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle is crucial to succeeding as a team member and establishing a productive and safe work-life balance. While working on a global team requires some flexibility, you shouldn’t be sacrificing your health and happiness to make things work.
We are all human beings before we are employees! In order to succeed in a global environment, it is crucial to understand where clients and co-workers are from, how their work environment operates, and ways in which you can contribute to alleviating communication challenges. By identifying cultural differences, team members can further understand how to approach each other, and may learn that they must adjust the way they communicate with each client or co-worker since they may be located in a different region.
Remember to have extra patience when communicating with other cultures and make an effort to embrace differences and accommodate each other’s needs. Trying to connect with global team members and partners, acknowledging individuality, and wanting to learn from others will create a safe, productive, and successful work environment for all.
If possible, do your best to organize in-person meetings once or twice a year with colleagues, clients, and partners you work with across time zones. Meeting face to face will help you and your colleagues feel more connected and comfortable with each other, making virtual communication easier and more effective in the long run. Once you get to know a person, their culture, and their communication style, it’s easier to understand them with less effort.
Since localization is a profession rooted in diversity and understanding of various cultures, global teams are very common and are often part of the nature of any localization team. Localization professionals tend to work with many stakeholders such as project managers, translators, voice actors, product teams, internationalization professionals, marketing teams and more. Today, it’s not likely that all of these stakeholders will work together at the same physical office location. Even with the localization team itself, localization managers will often come from different cultural backgrounds and may be working from various locations as well.
To simplify the localization process and empower international collaborations, BLEND’s localization platform enables quick and easy communication directly with global translators. Our in-house project managers can even help you manage your projects and global translator teams, so you don’t have to! Most importantly, BLEND is here to support you by offering professional, high-quality results from an international team that understands the ins and outs of localization.
Ready to streamline your localization process? Get in touch with our experts today to learn more about BLEND’s end-to-end localization services.