As businesses start to embrace global remote workforces, one of the challenges they must deal with is managing employees spread across different geographies. It’s important to understand that this task involves much more than just being considerate of different time zones. For a global remote workforce to be truly successful, organizations must also take into account important differences in culture. The prevailing values, behavioral norms, and personal situations in different parts of the world can affect how organizations support and manage their people effectively.
You’re not just managing remotely: You’re managing globally and during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Clarity is key.
Closing the Affinity Gap
Slowing down to give your people full transparency into your day-to-day expectations is important when managing any employee, but even more so when you’re working with remote employees abroad. Not only must you navigate cultural differences, but also your employees may be new to working from home and therefore experiencing additional levels of stress.
So, communicate clearly and keep in mind the three kinds of distance involved in managing global remote teams:
- Physical distance: An employee’s geographical location and time zone
- Operational distance: How “far” an employee is from you in the organization in relation to team size or your bandwidth
- Affinity distance: How connected an employee feels to your corporate values, which in turn affects their level of trust and emotional commitment to the organization
For newly remote teams, physical distance is a constant and operational distance is in flux. However, managers can effectively shorten affinity distance by prioritizing clear communication.
Working remotely across international territories requires emotional intelligence. For instance, leaders who can demonstrate genuine empathy will develop more open and mutually trusting relationships with colleagues than those who don’t. Building empathy requires understanding the motivations, concerns, and capabilities of other people, and this means managers must go beyond stock, surface-level conversations with employees to uncover shared values and personal situations. In our current climate, leaders should not only be asking “How are you doing?” but also “How are your kids doing? Your parents? Are you able to find time for yourself around your responsibilities?”
The Cultural Considerations of Remote Work
Global companies with employees in different regions of the world should also remember that what’s considered appropriate behavior in one location might not be the right approach elsewhere.
In certain regions, for example, working remotely is not a widely accepted practice, so an easy transition for one culture may be difficult for another. In these cases, keeping lines of communication open is critical. Leaders who proactively engage those employees for whom this may be an especially difficult transition can go a long way in easing the associated stress…