Although finishing this article late, I know my workday is not yet over. With the staff at Etica Digital in Australia, the Philippines, India and Europe, my day does not end at 5.30 pm very often!

Whilst my start and end times can be erratic, venting about my work hours has little to do with managing a geographically diverse team. 

Globalisation has been a growing trend over the past few decades, though the focus has changed. In the 1990s, it was to access low-cost labour. The focus was on new markets and access to materials in the new millennium. In both these decades, it was only an attractive option for large, enterprise-scale organisations.

Today, the push to global teams has accelerated due to the pandemic and new technology making it easier to do. There is also an acceptance that a diversified group provides better creativity, inclusivity, flexibility, and productivity. 

With organisations no longer limited to areas where they have a physical presence, they are free to hire based on knowledge and skills, not location. In addition, with modern communications technology now far cheaper than previous decades, these advantages are attractive to small and medium businesses. A recent US study by Clutch found that up to 80% of small businesses surveyed are now looking at some level of offshoring. Clearly, global teams are no longer only for the big end of town!

Global Team Challenges

Managing across borders is far different from a team in one location. The typical water-cooler chats and face-to-face conversations do not exist. Add to the multiple time zones, work schedules, holidays and cultural differences, and it can appear daunting.

The solution isn’t working a long day to cover each time zone, nor is it done through an overabundance of task reporting. Below, I list some practical advice when operating with working groups, but in essence, it comes down to clear communication, shared team goals, trust and flexibility.


Have some communication empathy

As an Australian, it isn’t until you travel that you realise how confusing our flavour of the English language can be. Slang, abbreviations and colourful language might work in Melbourne but lose it all when communicating to your global team. If English is not your team’s native tongue, you need to use clear, concise language and make it clear that it’s ok to say they don’t understand.

Video is a must

As they say, only 10% of what you communicate is through words, but 55% is through body language. Real-time communication with your team where the video is disabled is like trying to juggle with one arm tied behind your back.

Encourage interaction

In many cultures, people are quieter and engage less in meetings than in Western cultures. Yet, to be part of your team, they need to participate. I recommend the following steps to encourage your team to interact more freely:

  1. Enhance their self-esteem; a little well deserved praise goes a long way.
  2. When they speak, you listen and respond with empathy.
  3. Ask for their help and expertise and encourage their involvement. 
  4. Don’t just give a decision; share your thoughts and rationale. It builds trust and helps them understand your cultural differences.
  5. Provide support, but ensure they are still responsible.

Create a team calendar

People in different countries have different public holidays, name days, and religious festivals. Create a team calendar that all staff can edit and get them to populate it. In my teams, we have an end of week meeting, and during this time, we review next week to understand when team members may not be contactable.

Take a moment to shoot the breeze

Where you have a meeting with a lot of team members, please take a few minutes to let them say hello, make small talk and have a laugh. These minor interactions naturally happen in an office environment and help build team unity. However, it would help if you allowed a little time for it in remote working.

Stay Fresh

Often you will end up with one last meeting with some of your team in a timezone far from your own. For example, if you started work at 9 am, and your last appointment is at 9 pm, you could be in trouble if you work the whole way through. Take some time for yourself when you can. Go for a walk, have a 15-minute nap or grab a glass of water. The last thing you want is your team to think you’re rushing or not interested in them.


Although not an exhaustive list, the steps above have made a dramatic difference in my management of globally dispersed teams. If you need advice on managing distributed teams or setting them up through a tailored program, we’re happy to help. Drop us a line, we’d love to help.

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