While international teams offer companies several benefits, they can face various challenges, such as time zones and cultural differences and lack of face-to-face interactions. But what can businesses do to ensure a successful collaborative workplace among hybrid or remote teams? Read more to find out.

Collaborative workplace

Various factors of employee job satisfaction, such as interpersonal relationships with supervisors and coworkers, diversity and inclusion, or effective meeting culture, play a significant role in contributing to a collaborative workplace. Employees who are content with elements such as these are more likely to engage positively with coworkers and the company as a whole. While employee job satisfaction can help to improve teamwork and communication, it may also lead to increased productivity.

But what about companies that rely on employees based in other countries for team collaborations? Working with a globalised workforce can be rewarding but can also come with challenges related to general communication barriers, misinterpretations of languages, cultural sensitivities, or time zone differences. All of which could impact employee job satisfaction and work-life balance if not addressed by leadership.

Ensuring effective collaboration among global teams involves a strategic approach, mainly relying on communication tools to help facilitate virtual meeting interactions. But what steps should companies implement to aid their overall remote team collaboration strategy? Capterra surveyed 500 employees in Australia who work for companies that offer remote or hybrid work models. The same survey was also conducted in other countries internationally, and we will compare the Australian results with other country samples where relevant. The full methodology is at the bottom of the article.

Aussies rate work-life balance and company culture lower than employees from other countries 

Employee job satisfaction is crucial for both individuals and companies as it can affect various aspects of the workplace, employee performance, and overall organisational success. We asked survey takers to rate some elements of their current job on a scale of one to ten (one being “very negative” and ten being “very positive”). This included aspects such as flexible work hours or location and career recognition.

Employees in Australia were slightly behind the other English-speaking countries surveyed regarding work-life balance and company culture, averaging seven out of ten for both factors. Other countries surveyed rated these elements higher, with ten being the most selected score for work-life balance by respondents in the USA and India (23% and 28% of respondents, respectively, compared to 15% in Australia).

A strong company culture is essential for international organisations due to the challenges of managing a global workforce. Late-night or early-morning meetings can contribute to fatigue and strain the work-life balance. Language differences can result in miscommunication and require additional efforts to clarify information or resolve issues, which could further encroach on personal time. Adapting to accommodate diverse cultural differences may also be tricky when creating an inclusive global culture, which we explore later in the article.

Productivity and collaboration are the most cited goals of company meetings

When collaborating on projects, whether with colleagues based on-site or remote coworkers in another country, team meetings are an opportunity to brainstorm ideas and collectively make business decisions. A fifth of Aussie survey takers said they think productivity is the top goal of the meetings they attend at their company (20%), followed by collaboration (18%).

Meetings are a platform for employee communication, creativity, and innovation. However, not all companies will have an efficient meeting culture, and disorganised or poorly run meetings could waste employee time and engagement and even lead to meeting fatigue

Survey takers said meetings that are too long were a top factor in causing them to switch their focus to something else (43%). Information that is irrelevant to their work (42%) was also highly selected, as well as if one person talked too much (37%).

Causes of employees losing focus during meetings in a collaborative workplace

Another reason for a lack of focus or distraction during meetings could be language barriers, especially within international teams. Australia is regarded as a multicultural nation as a 2021 census found that just over 50% of the population was born overseas or had at least one parent who was. This is perhaps reflected in our survey results as 69% of employees in Australia said their teams include colleagues with a native language different from their own, which could include coworkers in the same location or based remotely in another country. However, it seems that leadership already factors language barriers into meeting planning on some level.

Tips for businesses

Capterra provided respondents with a list of actions companies may use to overcome potential language barriers during meetings. The following options (which were evenly selected at 38% each by survey takers who work with colleagues with different native languages to their own) can be useful to any international team: 

  • Meeting leaders always prepare written materials 
  • Presentations are always accompanied by visual aids 
  • Follow-up materials are always provided post-meeting
  • Space for questions and feedback is provided during the meeting

60% of Australian employees collaborate with coworkers in another country at least once a month

The frequency with which coworkers from different countries collaborate can vary widely based on the nature of work, the company structure, and specific projects or initiatives underway. We asked survey takers how often they collaborate with coworkers overseas. 

Compared to employees from other English-speaking countries surveyed, Australian and Indian participants were most likely to collaborate with colleagues overseas on some level: only 9% of respondents in India and 28% in Australia said they never do so. Of the employees we surveyed, 60% in Australia said they collaborate with coworkers in another country at least once a month. The rest of this article will focus on only this subgroup of 296 respondents.

Collaborative workplace with coworkers residing in other countries

Over half of respondents (51%) said there is a maximum time difference of three to six hours with their overseas coworkers with whom they work regularly. Time zone differences can make it hard to meet project deadlines, as handovers and collaboration may be delayed. This can lead to project bottlenecks and impact the team's overall efficiency. Spontaneous discussions and quick decision-making, often occurring in co-located teams, may be limited due to the need for pre-scheduled communication. This can affect the team's responsiveness.

Tips for businesses
For international collaborations, document management tools can help log important discussions and project updates to ensure team members in different time zones can access the latest information. For effective workplace communication with remote teams, managers should ensure they check in with employees regularly and schedule progress updates, as well as clearly communicate project objectives and deadlines for team alignment.

Volatile work hours cited as biggest challenge of collaborating with coworkers in other countries

Working in distributed teams, especially when there is a significant time difference, can pose some difficulties for team members. This was reflected in our survey results as volatile work hours was rated as the biggest challenge of collaborating with coworkers in other countries by participants in Australia (44%). This was also true for participants from Canada (51%) and India (45%), whilst employees in the USA and the UK most selected language barriers as the top challenge (at 47% and 46% each).

Collaborative workplace and challenges of working with colleagues overseas

Coordinating with coworkers in different time zones will sometimes require individuals to adjust their working hours, likely affecting their work-life balance. Employees may have to work outside their normal hours to accommodate meetings and irregular schedules. However, most survey takers said they find it easy to maintain project timelines when collaborating with overseas co-workers, with employees in the USA finding it the easiest (72%) compared to 61% of those in Australia.

As one team is halfway through its workday, another team in a different time zone can perhaps join or pick up where their colleagues left off to ensure continuous progress on a project. However, there are advantages to collaborating with coworkers residing in other countries, and networking opportunities proved to be the top benefit for employees in Australia (35%). According to Australian employees who work and collaborate in global teams, the benefits of doing so include:

  • Diversity and inclusion (33%)
  • New perspectives for problem-solving (30%)
  • Understanding of other work cultures (29%)
  • Flexible work environment (29%)
Tips for businesses
Companies can provide leadership and staff with cultural competence training to enhance understanding of diverse cultural norms, communication styles, and work practices. Virtual town hall meetings can also help to facilitate direct communication between leadership and employees. Town halls are opportunities for management to address questions, share insights and create a sense of connection across geographical boundaries.

How to get the most out of team collaborations across different countries

Various factors can help build a robust meeting culture regardless of employee location. A majority (84%) of participants in Australia said that their company uses software tools to enable effective international meetings. In addition, 81% said they feel comfortable contributing during international meetings, which emphasises the importance of having the right tools and culture in place to facilitate and encourage this type of collaboration.

Strategising for meetings with coworkers based in different time zones is vital for maintaining a collaborative workplace and avoiding issues such as miscommunication, project delays or misalignment in expectations. So, what should companies implement as part of an international team strategy? The following steps can help to manage global teams:

1. Define clear objectives: clearly articulate the goals and objectives to the international team to ensure everyone understands the expectations and desired outcomes.

2. Select the right team members: consider individuals with diverse skills, experiences and cultural backgrounds. Ensure team members are open to working collaboratively across borders and time zones.

3. Regular virtual meetings: schedule regular meetings to keep the team connected and rapport flowing. These meetings can include brainstorming sessions and team-building activities. Rotate meeting times to accommodate different time zones.

4. Leverage technology: project management tools can help track project progress, while collaboration tools can aid file sharing to keep everyone in the loop, regardless of location. 

5. Set clear expectations for working hours: establish guidelines for working hours, considering time zone differences. Clearly communicate when team members are expected to be available and when flexibility is allowed.

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Capterra's 2024 Collaboration and Productivity Survey was conducted online in January 2024 among 6490 respondents in the USA (503), UK (496), Canada (499), Netherlands (498), Brazil (501), India (500), France (497), Spain (501), Germany (497), Italy (500), Mexico (500), Australia (500) and Japan (498).

The goal of the study was to learn about the challenges workers face collaborating remotely across countries. Respondents were screened for employment at companies that offer either hybrid or fully remote work styles.

In this article, we have focused on respondents from English-speaking countries; Australia, Canada, India, the UK and the USA.