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Challenges of cross-border remote working

cross-border remote working

Cross-border remote working presents various growth opportunities for both employers and employees. It helps businesses expand their footprints in other countries while employees enjoy work-life balance and work flexibility. However, remote work is not without its challenges. Businesses need to establish plans to address the challenges before they start their journey to build or hire remote teams.

This blog explains the major challenges of businesses when their remote teams are in another country. Against the backdrop, the blog explores the possible challenges from the perspective of businesses and categorizes them broadly into two groups — soft and hard. 

With a clear understanding of both challenges, you can effectively address or overcome those roadblocks to your remote hiring and management. You also need to explore various remote business models through which you can seek to mitigate the challenges effectively. This way, you can choose the best model and implement a successful remote work strategy

What are the major challenges of remote working?

We can look at the remote work challenges from the perspectives of both employers and employees. From an employee’s point of view, some major challenges are overtime work, blurring the lines between work and personal life, mental health concerns, and career growth concerns. Similarly, as per the 2022 survey by Buffer, employees find it difficult to unplug their work, focus on work, and deal with loneliness.

From an employer’s perspective, managing remote teams asynchronously and ensuring long-term productivity are the real challenges. With the effective handling of these challenges, businesses allow to improve the performance of employees and enhance overall productivity. 

Soft and hard challenges: employers’ perspective

The categorization of soft and hard remote work challenges is based on the operational aspects of companies and their relationship with remote workers. The hard challenges are logistics and transactional-based problems, which are exclusively concerns for companies. Meanwhile, the soft challenges are the business concerns that strive to focus on the improvement of employees’ performance, mental well-being, and physical health.

For instance, time zone and cultural differences are examples of soft challenges for employers while technology and legality issues are examples of hard challenges. Let’s explore each aspect of remote work challenges.

  • Soft challenges

    • Cultural differences: Managing cross-cultural remote teams is a primary challenge for businesses. Every country has different cultures, norms, languages, traditions, religions, and festivals that exert undue influence on the overall work culture of a particular country. Having a diversified cultural group within a remote team can impede communication and collaboration, limiting the approach to comprehensive decision-making. 
    • Communication & coordination: Differences in the way of writing, speaking, and saying native languages are one of the crucial factors causing hiccups in communication and collaborative tasks among remote workers. The lack of technology upgrades and using cutting-edge communication technology among remote associates can affect task coordination. This can cause delays in projects and failure to meet quality standards. 
    • Time zone differences: Accommodating time and work schedules for cross-border remote workers is one significant challenge for businesses. Businesses often need help finding time synchronization for their remote employees, which sometimes fails real-time collaboration and results in miscommunication. Remote work may be least favorable if companies often need urgent meetings or tasks and expect spontaneous employee responses. Building asynchronous work habits is still a challenge for a remote team.
    • Trust and company culture: Building trust through virtual means can be painful for businesses due to the lack of visibility in employees’ time, efforts, and task performance. Aligning remote workers to the company culture and goals is essential for proper coordination and collective will. However, the lack of trust can malign the company culture and harm the long-term business goals and objectives. 
    • Team engagement: Engaging remote workers and motivating them constantly or daily is a key challenge for companies. As per a 2021 survey by the Royal Society for Public Health UK, remote workers face difficulties in self-motivation and focusing on their work, which results in several mental health issues. The survey finds find that the absence of coworkers leaves remote workers feeling lonely, isolated, and inactive.
    • Training: Training is conducted differently in remote work as compared to office work environments. Providing virtual training is problematic for especially freshers or the young generation who have less work experience. Face-to-face training offers more effective results in the case of some technical-related tasks like cybersecurity training.
  •  Hard challenges

      • Technology & infrastructure: Technology is the backbone of any remote working environment. It’s costly for businesses to invest in advanced technology resources such as collaboration tools and maintain or update the core infrastructures for remote work. Challenges in network connectivity, equipment failures, and software malfunctioning can cause frustration to team members and hamper overall productivity.
      • Cybersecurity: Businesses are exposed to cybersecurity risks in remote work environments. Any event of cyberattacks is likely to increase the companies’ risks of losing sensitive data and information if their remote associates fail to use secure networks. The risk is higher for those remote workers who use their personal laptops or unsecured networks to perform their daily tasks.     
      • Legal compliance: It becomes more complex when a company has remote teams across different countries as the legal regulations on labor employment usually differ significantly from one country to another. Navigating different rules for each team for tax compliance and accounting of different countries can be a major business headache. The non-compliance issue can cause a high risk of financial risks and brand image jeopardy, as a part of legal liabilities and monetary penalties. 
      • Productivity: Monitoring the productivity of remote resources is another major challenge for businesses. A lack of proper communication & coordination, technological issues, and the absence of proper training & support for employees can affect a company’s productivity. You need to assign a separate human resource (HR) team for evaluating the daily, weekly, or monthly performance of remote workers. 
      • Operational risks: Businesses may face certain operational risks such as violations of intellectual property (IP) and breaches of companies’ sensitive information. In certain cases, remote workers have the freedom to work for multiple clients working on similar projects, which further adds high operational risks for employers. For instance, many businesses consider employees’ moonlighting practices unethical and against the principle of companies.      

How to mitigate the challenges of working remotely?

Looking at the challenges, one may feel intimidated. However, there are various solutions you can use to mitigate these challenges. By choosing the right remote business model and the right destination, you can overcome those challenges and find effective ways to hire or build a remote workforce. 

Choosing the right destinations and strategies will help you find real-time solutions to the challenges of working remotely. However, it’s never easy to outrightly select the best remote work option and remote location as the priorities of addressing challenges differ from one business to another. 

Yet, you can examine multiple possible solutions and decide the best option for building remote teams, which can suit your requirements and plan strategies accordingly. Let’s explore major possible solutions and see which remote business model can help you address which types of remote working challenges.

Business Models for addressing remote working challenges 

Freelancers/contractors, outsourcing, subsidiary formation, and employer of record (EOR) are the four different models through which you can seek to address your remote business challenges.  

  • Freelancers/contractors: Hiring freelancers or contractors is meaningful if you wish to avoid the pressure of solving problems such as interpersonal relationships and technological challenges. Freelancers are not full-time employees of an organization; therefore, no effort is required for developing interpersonal relationships. They usually use their own devices or equipment to complete the assigned job.  
  • Outsourcing: Through outsourcing, you can avoid problems regarding performance, productivity monitoring, and training of your remote workers. Outsourcing service providers have their ready-made teams that execute the task for you and handle the training program, monitoring the performance and productivity of the remote team by themselves. With the help of outsourced partners, you can minimize the technological and cultural challenges of your remote workforce. 
  • Subsidiary formation: Subsidiary formation reduces the challenges associated with IP risk management, cybersecurity, and technology. Once you establish an entity in another country, your challenges associated with hiring and managing remote workers will get reduced. You can easily solve problems of communication & coordination, training, and cultural & time zone differences of your remote resources. 
  • EOR: If your priorities are to solve legal compliance challenges, improvement of interpersonal relationships (employees’ happiness and security), and team engagement at a fraction of the cost then, the employer of record is your business model. Through EORs, you can overcome the challenges of management and communication of your team and enhance the level of trust & company culture within the team. 

In conclusion, you better compare various models available and choose the one that can help you address your different types of cross-border remote working challenges. To select the model efficiently, you first need to identify your priority of challenges and decide which model will be the most suitable for addressing your challenges. 

Needless to say, choosing the right model helps solve the challenges effectively and boost the productivity of your cross-border remote teams. 

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