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  • Working remotely: Pros and cons in the coordination of international teams

    by Myriam de Cabo | Feb 21, 2019 | Reading time: 4 minutes | Blog

    Teleworking is a hot topic. Today we have chosen to look back at our experience and reflect on the key takeaways for our company.

    In the past years, we have seen an increasing trend in work flexibility policies, in terms of both place and schedules. These new ways of working allow employees to benefit from a better work-life balance, as well as improved time management.

    These trends have two ways of being implemented in the workplace:either companies are merely copying others because they find that it’s the “cool” thing to do, without any specific objectives in mind; or they set clear goals for the implementation and track the results, evaluating if it would be a good fit for their company.

    The business world seems to be drifting away from the idea of rigid 9 to 5 schedule as a way of measuring productivity, allowing employees the flexibility to choose when, where and how they are more productive. However, these changes can be challenging to implement, and carry with them a shift in management mentality for them to work out smoothly.

    When companies look at these new trends, they must be careful: it is important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of implementing new policies. As it happens with humans, companies have their own unique set of traits and circumstances, which means that not all of them can implement such modern workflows in the most efficient way.

    International companies are the best places to find these trends at work

    Not only employees benefit from having a higher flexibility in where or when to work. Companies can leverage this new trend when they identify new countries suitable for their expansion, allowing them to tap into new markets without immediately incurring the high cost of opening formal offices.

    What challenges do these new policies face?

    In our experience, there are many pros (and cons!) to having teams working remotely. When Evolution began entering new markets, we relied on the capabilities of our team based in our Madrid Head Office who would travel to to see our clients and prospects across Europe.

    Although this traditional approach seemed to work for a while, it soon became inefficient: the impact that frequent travel has on workers’ health, time management, and ability to focus in their daily tasks, makes the seeming prestige of being a frequent flyer unsustainable in the long term.

    Furthermore, markets like the Middle East or the Nordic countries demanded our sales team to be on the ground: being able to hold meetings face to face, and having teammates that share our clients’ culture and identity became the key in the establishment of solid business relationships.

    We asked two of our teammates, Eyal Kenton in Israel and Eirik Langeland based in Norway, about their experience working remotely. Although their markets are arguably some of the most different amongst the current markets we work in, they indeed both shared very similar inputs:

    • Working remotely allows you to choose the setting you want to work from, be it your home, a cafeteria or a coworking space, and matching it to your needs depending on your daily tasks. In the case of Eirik, joining coworking spaces becomes an enriching experience since it allows him to meet professionals in all kinds of fields, allowing him to broaden his network and share knowledge.
    • Flexibility allows you to deal with any situation that comes up, making it easy to find balance between personal and professional life.
    • One thing to take into account is that not all cultures share the same schedules. In Eyal’s case, we have worked out our strategy and weekly timeline around the fact that he has to adapt to different working days — in Israel, the weekend starts on Friday and ends Saturday!
    • Solving technical issues can be challenging too. Not having your company’s resources at hand can make you improvise more than you had wished for until you get back to headquarters!

    How can companies implement these policies?

    As a closing topic, we wanted to look into the feasibility of the implementation of telework. As much as this trend seems to be becoming “the norm”, it may be about of reach for some companies, a consequence of their culture, management, or simply due to a requirement to have their teams fully coalesced.

    Every business looking into its viability should first analyze the pros and cons that it might bring in their own unique context, as well as the readiness of its employees to assume the level of responsibility that managing their own time and space brings.

    For our company, we have some key points that we found to be necessary in order for it to work:

    • Looking for the right skills when hiring: The person you’re interviewing for remote working should show self-motivation and time management skills. At Evolution we look for candidates with a natural propensity to steer away from the silo mentality, made even more paramount when working away from the central team.
    • Kickstart your on-the-ground team with solid company training:Training is always key in order to align a person with the company objectives. We strive to provide this with our own employees with a 2 month training in our Madrid headquarters as a great way to begin their enrollment. Spending a few weeks in the office can help them live first-hand your culture and values rather than it being described to them, as well as developing relationships with coworkers.
    • Digitalization is key: If your company tools are not updated, it will be really hard to efficiently implement telework. Make sure your CRM, video-conferencing platforms and work management tools are ready and easy to use!
    • Invite them to the office: The best way to keep them in the loop is ensuring they touch base from time to time even if it’s only for a few days. In our case, we try to have them over every 6 to 8 weeks. Company events are always nice, but make sure they’re there for some meetings too!
    • Set up your strategy to make sure everyone’s in the loop: One of the main challenges for international teams working abroad, is trying to make everyone feel like they have the same chances as everybody at headquarters. We have done this by scheduling weekly one on one meetings, making attendance mandatory for team meetings, and having projects where cooperation with people in the home office is needed. This way, we ensure that they are integrated with everyone else, avoiding the feeling of being left out and providing them with the same chances of having their voice heard.