How we work has changed and that’s not just because of COVID-19. Over the last decade, technological advances - such as improved video conferencing and scheduling apps - have made it easier than ever to work with colleagues around the world.
That ease, however, comes with its own challenges. How do you schedule appointments with a large group of people when they’re based all over the world? Or avoid offending someone because how you work is different from how you do? Let’s look at some problems that come with working in an international office and how we can overcome them.
If you’ve ever worked in an international office, you know managing meetings across different time zones can be a real headache. Whether you're trying to schedule a call with a colleague in London or getting hold of a client in Sydney, figuring out the best time for everyone can feel more complicated than the reason you’re getting together in the first place.
But don’t stress, panic or throw your laptop at the nearest wall. With a little planning and the right tools, managing time zones can be a breeze. Here are a few tips to help you out:
Be mindful. Always remember that what works for you, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Make sure to plan ahead and think of who you need to attend your meeting. Once you know that you can make a poll that takes into account different time zones. Offer plenty of options and you’ll be sure to find the perfect time.
Set clear expectations. If you make sure that everyone knows what you want to achieve in the meeting including its duration, it will allow everyone to plan ahead and adjust their days to suit. If you’re in LA it’s likely a meeting with colleagues in Berlin will have to eat into their evening, so letting them know how much time you need and what topics you want to cover will let them know how much time to set aside in that evening.
Remember to take breaks. It’s important to be conscious of breaks generally but even more so when meeting with people from around the world. What could be an early meeting for you could be late for someone else. They could already be more tired and less able to focus for long periods of time. Encourage everyone to speak up and if things are going too fast for them to ask for a pause. Breaks will deliver a more productive meeting when used right.
Technology may have made it easier for us to meet anywhere, but business culture varies widely from Asia to Europe and North America.
For Business executives and CEOs working internationally, there’s a minefield of obstacles from communication to etiquette that are all important to get right if you want to have stronger connections with colleagues and clients.
Before the meeting, take time to understand how the culture of those you’re meeting is different from your own. This could include researching customs or traditions that may be specific to a particular region, adapting your communication style and tone or having a 1:1 meeting with someone in your office who has relevant life experience. Think of this as a great way to expand your knowledge base and personal development.
During the meeting, don’t waste all that energy you’ve used in prepping. It’s important to show respect and be open-minded to different ways of working. Avoid stereotypes and assumptions and be patient if language barriers arise. Some video conferencing tools offer live translation but, in its early stages, it might not offer the solution. If you think communication could be a problem, consider hiring a professional interpreter to help facilitate the meeting.
It's important to remember that cultural differences can be challenging but are also a great opportunity to learn and grow. Be mindful and make an effort to understand not everyone is going to work and live the way you do.
After the meeting, don’t forget about those differences. How you follow up with colleagues or clients could be different. Be sure to understand their working practices and tailor your follow-up to suit.
Using the right tools
Having a good grasp of the technology available to you and a strong internet connection are key to mastering global meetings.
Whether you’re a business leader or entrepreneur, the time you have is finite and you need to make the most of it. Using the right tools is your game-changer.
Scheduling Software. Tools like Doodle make it easy management meetings no matter where your participants are. Booking Page and Group Polls for instance can automate time zones, send invites and reminders and turn a process that could easily eat up your whole day into one that takes minutes.
Video conferencing. There are a number of different options out there but the trick is to find the one that works best for you and integrates into your workflow smoothly.
Collaboration. If you have teams all over the world, finding a way to work together can be a challenge. Tools like Slack can help to keep communications relevant and make it easier to work together even if you’re not in the same room.
Translations. They might not be suitable when it comes to producing copy but for helping in a meeting, tools like Deepl can help overcome language barriers and ensure the meeting can finish with actionable results.