Daniella Latham

Top tips for companies to support globally distributed teams

Scaling a company is tough, and the challenges get even more complicated as you grow your teams globally. How can companies ensure transparency, good communication, and shared culture on a daily basis when employees are literally thousands of miles apart?
As a satellite-based employee for a company headquartered in a different continent, I struggle on a near daily basis with time zones! If you have teams from different business units distributed, it can be an efficiency nightmare. A simple solution is to install the Figure It Out Chrome extension or a similar tool, which conveniently displays your teams’ times in color-relevant glory every time you open a new browser tab.
Employees shouldn’t just be aware of their colleagues’ time zones — they should be considerate of them too! It can be tough for those in office hours behind another to deal with busy mornings and message overload. Conversely, it’s not fair to those in offices that are ahead in time to constantly be pinged late in their evenings.

Practice good internal communications etiquette

Therefore, you should practice good internal communications etiquette. For example, don’t send an urgent message to someone if you know it’s 2am their time, and ensure employees use the ‘mute’ and ‘Do Not Disturb’ options on tools like Slack wisely. Be aware of setting up calendar invites across multiple offices so you don’t have to constantly reschedule. Just because they work in a global company, employees shouldn’t feel like they need to be constantly ‘on’.

Appreciate the local cultures in all offices

Employees may all speak English despite being in various countries or even continents, but it’s important that employees understand different backgrounds and life experiences. This helps build a sense of shared culture, as well as broaden mindsets without the need for physical travel.
Show interest in the countries and cultures of your employees. Be sensitive and patient with those whose native language isn’t English. Appreciate your employees’ diversity. Ask questions sincerely and steer clear of reinforcing national or cultural stereotypes.

Agree on standardized formats for comms wherever possible

Seems like something obvious, right? However, a spreadsheet filled with important dates can quickly turn into a confusing ordeal without format clarity. The mm/dd/yy standard in the US is alien to most other countries in the world! Make it clear what you’re using.
Similarly, be clear and upfront about national spelling variations, and how this will affect your brand and platform. E.g. you may use a certain spelling on your website or app, but will you use the same when fielding customer support or in other comms? This won’t always be practical, but it can save a lot of time and confusion.