Balancing Work and Life Across Borders: Strategies for Global Companies to Foster a Positive Employee Experience

Balancing Work and Life Across Borders Strategies for Global Companies to Foster a Positive Employee Experience

The wide availability of collaboration technology and the shift to remote and hybrid work have made it easier than ever for global organizations to work productively, with better-optimized tools and workplaces paving the way to greater success. Still, while shifting work habits in the post-COVID era have propelled global collaboration into the spotlight, it’s important for leaders to be mindful of the potentially negative effects that these changes could have on employees.

While the curtailment of the traditional 9-5, office-based work culture has significant benefits for employees and employers alike, it’s important to make sure that your company is managing the needs of its global workforce effectively. Global teams can be dynamic, diverse, and highly productive, but without proper management, the distribution of your global team may start to feel like a liability rather than an asset.

In this blog, we’ll look at a few common problems with international collaboration, and share strategies to help keep your team running smoothly.

1) Promote work-life balance proactively—and by example

With the rise of remote and hybrid work, a 9-5 work schedule is now irrelevant for many global teams. This has been a largely positive change for employees, who now have more control over how they spend their time. The end of the 9-5 has also been good news for employers. According to Gartner, organizations that offer radical flexibility have 40% more high-performing employees compared to organizations that don’t.

At the same time, leaders should acknowledge that these developments may also compromise work-life balance, especially in the realm of global collaboration. Sometimes, an early morning or late-night call is necessary when juggling time zones from all around the world, but it can also blur the boundaries between work and personal life—and your team may end up giving up more and more of their personal life to meet these demands.

Work-life balance is more than a buzzword; it’s the cornerstone of organizational success. In addition to lower rates of turnover and burnout, the Harvard Business Review reports that organizations that have strong work-life balance can often be more diverse—that’s on top of other benefits like higher employee productivity and engagement over time.

As a leader, it’s important to lead proactively and by example to show your team that work-life balance matters. Rather than waiting for a morale issue to arise and reacting after the fact, leaders should regularly check in to see how many hours their team is working, and if this aligns with company expectations. If not, help your team prioritize and find ways for them to work more asynchronously with global colleagues to buy them some time back. Beyond that, leaders can promote a healthy work-life balance by practicing what they preach and maintaining healthy boundaries on their own. This is one area where it truly pays to lead by example, according to the HBR.

2) To build a strong culture, go back to the basics

Culture is an indispensable part of any company, and this is particularly true of global workplaces, where professional boundaries can feel fluid or blurry. According to Gallup, organizations with highly engaged employees can see over 20% higher profitability.

The newness of widespread remote work and global collaboration has put an added imperative on global organizations to build a culture among international teams, but the urgency of the task doesn’t make it any simpler to complete. Limited opportunities for in-person teambuilding and informal social interaction, for example, can often make it difficult for international teams to form a bedrock of trust and solidarity. Without that cohesiveness, it can be hard to communicate and cooperate, which exacerbates some of the common issues that global organizations face with international collaboration.

To build reciprocal trust and a healthy corporate culture in a remote, global environment, it’s important to remember that your work modality places unique demands on you and your team. Rather than trying to replicate in-person teambuilding strategies or modify them to “fit” a digital environment (remember those now-infamous Zoom happy hours?), global leaders should operate from a digital-first posture by default. This could mean participating in team activities that (instead of being adopted from an in-person format) are agile and more compatible with digital environments.

But even as digital-first workplaces get better at digital-first programming, leaders should understand that there’s still no easy shortcut to building trust among employees, or between employer and employee. Rather than hosting one-off local events or offering perks, global companies should focus on fostering a culture of respect and collegiality throughout their organization, while also ensuring that employees feel cared for and respected.

3) Track employee sentiment—for their sake, not yours

In the years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting pressures on the workforce have led more organizations to adopt some kind of employee sentiment analysis to better gauge employee well-being. When it comes to physically distant global teams, sentiment analysis and sentiment polling can play a vital role in driving success. Sentiment polls can tell you which of your global locations are more and least satisfied (and with what) while simultaneously helping employees to feel that they have a voice in their organization. Moreover, sentiment polls can tell you if your team might be bowing to the stress of global collaboration.

By distributing sentiment analysis polls on a regular basis, you can proactively “pulse-check” your team, empowering you to form smarter people strategies. When you’re working on a global team, your people can feel far away; sentiment polls are one way to bridge that distance and ensure a uniform culture across your organization.

At the same time, while sentiment data can be transformational to international companies and departments, it’s critical for leaders to avoid micromanaging their teams based on that data. Resist the urge to use this data as justification for intrusive oversight or excessive meddling in day-to-day operations. Micromanaging based on survey responses will make employees feel stifled instead of heard, and research has shown that overactive employee surveillance can have a negative impact on a company’s overall performance. Instead of using data to micromanage your team, view this information as a guide for identifying areas of improvement and fostering open dialogue within your department or organization.

4) Always use collaborative tools

It might seem like an easy decision, but it’s crucial to ensure that your global team is using a shared suite of collaboration tools to facilitate smooth communication, enhance efficiencies, and streamline processes. With shared software, teams can easily collaborate on documents, track tasks, and share updates consistently. This efficiency translates into faster decision-making and project execution. Shared software is particularly important for global teams who may rely on these tools to complete nearly every facet of their jobs.

Just a few years ago, the average remote worker used 4 or 5 software tools in a day. Now, companies maintain an average of 125 different applications. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure that these programs function well together while addressing the needs of your team. If your team doesn’t know how to use them or if the tools don’t integrate seamlessly, it can lead to confusion, inefficiencies, and frustration.

When it comes to international departments or organizations, it’s not as simple as ensuring that everyone uses Slack or Teams; global companies use a vast number of software programs just to communicate and collaborate, and leaders need to make sure that all of the software that their team uses is compatible with the company at large.

Using Microsoft 365 as your collaboration platform? Be sure to check out this guide to Getting The Most Out Of Your Microsoft 365 Investment.

Securing Global Collaboration for a Global Age

Working with global teams can be exciting and challenging in unexpected ways. The widespread availability of collaboration technology and the shift to remote and hybrid work have made it easier than ever to connect and collaborate across borders; however, it demands new strategies to ensure employee engagement and satisfaction. By gathering employee sentiment data, ensuring a cohesive tech stack, and more, it’s possible to make the most out of the growth of global collaboration while avoiding some of the common pitfalls of a globally distributed team.

Still, while leaders can follow clear strategies to reach greater success, it’s crucial to remember that there’s never a shortcut to building trust or a healthy workplace environment. To be a strong leader of global teams, it helps to know your people, and to treat them the way that you’d want to be treated.

For more strategies to help you be a better people leader, tune in to this episode of the #shifthappens podcast with author and futurist Jacob Morgan and AvePoint Chief Brand Officer Dux Raymond Sy.