Remote hiring and international teams are becoming common practice for enterprises. However, managing employees worldwide can be challenging—and productivity can be hindered by ineffective tools and processes.
Remote and international teams: the numbers
Remote and international work are not new trends, but both work models grew exponentially due to the pandemic. According to the U.S Census Bureau, between 2019 and 2021, the number of people working from home grew from 5.7% to 17.9%.
In a study conducted in 2021, about 58.6% of the total U.S. workforce are remote workers. Remote work grew 44% over the last five years and 91% over the last decade.
According to the Census Bureau’s Journey-to-Work and Migration statistics branch, "Work and commuting are central to American life, so the widespread adoption of working from home is a defining feature of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Working remotely is convenient and supports work-life balance, so many workers prefer not to go back to the office in the post-pandemic market, choosing to shift to permanently remote or hybrid work.
This phenomenon is not exclusive to the U.S, and European companies have managed international branches and remote workers for decades. According to Fortune, Germany heads the list of countries with the most remote workers, followed by Denmark and, in third place, the U.S.
6 typical HR processes that don’t work with remote teams
Companies offering work-from-home will quickly identify which legacy processes work with remote teams. Here are some areas where your traditional staff management techniques need to change.
1. Traditional interviewing, hiring, and onboarding
Recruiting new staff is always challenging. If the quest for the perfect fit was harrowing when conducting face-to-face interviews, it is much more so now that recruiting, interviewing, and hiring all occur without ever meeting in person. Video conferences via Skype or Microsoft Teams are now commonly used to meet candidates.
The results are mixed, with remote hiring lengthening the hiring processes for some companies and simplifying them for others. What is common to all is that even after candidates are hired, you still need to deal with onboarding.
Remote onboarding has its own challenges, including employee isolation, new hires not knowing who to ask for help, and a feeling of disconnection.
2. Employee engagement
Research shows that teams with a high level of engagement are 21% more productive. HR managers may find it challenging to find ways to keep employees engaged. Remote employees tend to feel less connected and may suffer from distractions and a lack of work-from-home infrastructure.
This can lead to low motivation, productivity, and retention if companies don’t actively engage with their teams. However, with the proper company support, employees’ engagement levels can significantly increase.
3. Remote workforce communications
One of the main challenges for remote and international teams is communication. For instance, scheduling meetings can be difficult when teams work in different time zones, andfeedback and responses to messages may be delayed due to time differences.
Communication issues go beyond time zones, including poor dialogue between managers and employees, misunderstandings, and poor collaboration. Technology tools that simplify collaboration or virtual team-building activities can help solve some of those issues.
4. Aligning goals across teams
For in-house teams, aligning different departments toward organizational goals can be challenging. It’s even more difficult for remote teams. Managers must remember to include remote and international teams in their strategic policies and guidelines. The organization should also involve remote employees in performance measurement systems and organizational procedures. Sharing organization and department goals with all stakeholders, including remote employees, is vital to ensure everybody is on the same page.
5. Tracking time
With in-house employees, it’s easy to choose a method for clocking in and tracking productivity. However, there is a fine line between tracking productivity and invasion of privacy with remote employees. That’s why many organizations with remote teams opt to use a results-based or project-based approach instead of tracking time. Those who do track time often use dedicated software that makes it easy to do so on remote devices.
6. Finding work-life balance
Working from home can be very convenient, but it can also blur the lines between work and personal time. Many work-from-home employees tend to overwork beyond regular office hours. When you can work anytime, sometimes you end up working all the time.
Time tracking software can help identify when employees may need guidance around time management or self-care.
How to better manage remote teams with technology
How can businesses use technology to improve remote team management? Read the next post to learn about how leading companies address these challenges and ways technology can help.
About the Author: Dean Mathews
Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time tracking app that helps over 15,000 companies all around the world track time.
Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many people’s lives are touched and changed for the better.
When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family and friends, and finding ways to make the world just a little better.