Five Tips for Working from Home When You Have an International Team
Over the past several months, many employees have switched to working from home instead of commuting to an office.
If your company has offices in multiple countries, this has likely occurred at varying times for many of your team members. If you have offices in China or Italy, for example, your international employees would have needed work-from-home accommodations sooner than your US-based team members.
This change comes with its own set of challenges, as you and your company’s team members have adjusted to this routine and schedule, especially if you have other new responsibilities during the day, such as caring for young children or other family members full-time, or assisting with remote learning on top of your own work load.
While your individual situation may not lend itself to implementing all of these strategies, even making one or two seemingly small changes can really impact your ability to be as productive as possible from home when you have team members across international locations.
Here are five tips for working from home when you have international offices and team members.
Tip 1: Encourage your team to create a dedicated workspace where they are less likely to be interrupted or distracted to help switch their brains to “work mode”
The first thing you may wish to do when you begin to work from home is choose a dedicated workspace.
This does not mean that you need to construct an office from scratch or convert a room into one (unless you want to, of course!).
The space can be much less permanent, especially if working from home won’t be permanent for your team members. It can be the couch downstairs, a desk in your bedroom, or wherever works for you and your space!
The main goal for choosing a dedicated workspace is that it be consistent. Choosing even one small area where you work each day will help your brain shift to the work day focus.
Just as your brain readied itself for a day at the office when you got in your car and drove to work, for example, it now needs to ready itself another way.
Create a morning routine that gets you in the right mindset and then “go” to work! It can be as simple as making a cup of coffee, getting dressed for the day and then heading to your workspace.
It won’t take long, and your brain will begin to associate this small routine with going to work, allowing you to get in the right mindset for your work day, instead of feeling like it’s just an “off day” at home.
Encouraging your team members to create a dedicated workspace in their own homes will help everyone feel more at ease each work day.
Tip 2: Ask your team members to remove as many distractions as possible from your workspaces to help them focus on the tasks at hand
In large part, we are a society that enjoys instant gratification. If there’s anything around to distract us from something we don’t feel like doing, it can be hard to avoid the temptation and focus.
You and your team members can avoid these distractions altogether by removing them completely from your respective workspaces.
If you know that you get distracted easily by notifications on your cell phone, for example, put your phone in another room.
If you need the phone for work calls or you are waiting on an important personal call, turn off your data and WiFi so that your phone will not connect to the Internet. That way, even if you do pick up the phone to use it, you won’t be able to do so, which will serve as a reminder to focus on work instead.
If you are easily distracted by certain websites on the computer, you can use website blockers to prevent you from being able to visit those websites during certain hours, or just simply turn them on at the start of your shift, and off at the end.
The possibilities for distractions are endless. So whatever distracts you personally, remove it from your dedicated workspace if possible.
Tip 3: Ask your team members to set expectations for office hours (and remind them not to forget to take breaks!)
We realize it isn’t always possible, but if you and your team members are able to do so, set office hours (and stick to them!). Your team members, both international and domestic, need to know when to expect to hear from you, and you need to know when to expect to hear from them. This will be extremely helpful so that you can all determine each other’s availability, as it may look quite different than it does normally.
Schedule the beginning and end of your work day, as well as breaks, just as you would at the office. Keep in mind time differences from one time zone to another.
Your body and brain need breaks to remain productive, so try not to let yourself skip them. Use this time to make some healthy food, take a quick walk if it’s nice outside, play with your kids, or even start a load of laundry if you feel like it’ll give you the reset you need. Encourage your international team members to do the same.
When the work day is over, let it be over. It’s so easy to bring work “home” with you when you are already working from home, but sticking to your off hours to decompress will help you mentally prepare for the next day’s shift.
Each employee’s situation is different, so it’s important to remember that not everyone will be able to work a normal schedule while also working from home.
One person may also have a spouse or roommates who work from home with access to only one computer. Another may also have children who need the computer or other devices for their school work. Perhaps yet another has small children who need a lot of attention and focus, no matter the work hours you set for themselves.
When possible, you and your team members should set hours of use for each person so that you can all get your work done as needed.
If everyone is using the same devices, you and your team members may have to get creative with your office hours so that everyone has enough time to complete their tasks. That’s okay! But creating that shared schedule, and sticking to it as much as possible, will help each team member stay focused and productive.
Tip 4: Be up front with your boss and colleagues about any potential issues with your new routine and schedule
Caring for children, e-learning, sharing a computer with your spouse, needing to care for a neighbor or family member . . . all of these situations can impact your ability to work a set schedule in the same way that you do at your usual office.
If your work load is too heavy, or if you need to adjust your work hours to accommodate everyone, speak up and let your employer know what is or isn’t feasible for you. Each employer is different, of course, but most will be happy to accommodate you.
Your colleagues may be experiencing similar struggles, and voicing your concerns will allow you to create a path to success that works best for everyone. If your team members come to you with these concerns, try your best to accommodate whenever possible for your company.
Tip 5: Give yourself some grace as you manage domestic and international teams from home
Most importantly, be sure to give yourself some grace as you adjust to managing domestic and international teams from home. If you’ve never worked from home before in your current role, there is bound to be a learning curve for you, as well as for your boss and coworkers.
As restrictions lift (and are possibly applied again) in countries or regions where you have different international offices, know that your company will need to adjust, and continue adjusting again, until you find the best fit for all of your team members and offices.
Whether you’re working from home and also parenting/assisting with online learning for your children, or it’s just you at home trying to figure out this new routine, you’re facing a lot of changes in an uncertain time.
Try not to expect perfection from yourself or from your colleagues. Keep in mind cultural differences, challenges with time zones, and try to create clear communications throughout this season.