October 2020 • 3 min
5 struggles of international employees and how to help them
Although there are many struggles your international employees are likely to encounter, cultural and time zone differences, language barriers, loneliness and separation, and bureaucracy in unfamiliar systems are major considerations to keep in mind.
1. Cultural differences
Cultural differences make it difficult for companies to understand the motivations and expectations of their employees. Cultural differences include varying beliefs, behaviors, languages, practices, and expressions. This could include how your international employee is used to dressing at work or even how they communicate with colleagues. As HR professionals, we can combat cultural differences with cross-cultural communication courses. These are extremely helpful in training and managing our international teams. Having a deep understanding of cultural norms and tailoring our workplaces to accommodate these is the most effective way to encourage cultural integration.
2. Time zone differences
We all know the feeling of jetlag. Place yourself in the shoes of your international employee. Often our talent is traveling great distances across multiple time zones when relocating. As a result, their body and brain clocks may take some time to readjust to their new normal. Time zone fatigue affects work outcomes as employees will often show signs of daytime fatigue, an unwell feeling, or a difficulty staying on track. The impact of time zones becomes more relevant if your international employee is working online from abroad. This requires delicate consideration of time differences, scheduling meetings and webinars at appropriate times. Provide some normality and routine to your international employee and help them adjust to their new time zone. Be clear about expectations, reduce meeting length, and alternate when meetings happen, so it isn't always early or late for the same people.
3. Language barriers
Language barriers are the number one most commonly cited struggles for international employees. In Europe alone, there are over 230 spoken languages (including those by foreigners who call the continent home). The likelihood that your international talents' mother tongue is different to your organisation’s operating language is rather high. Even if your operating language is English, there are 160 different native dialects that come with their own workplace jargon to contend with. It is crucial to ensure that your international employee has sufficient skills in the operating language of your workplace and country. This will ensure that they will be able to communicate with the team effectively and function as a member of society in their new host country. Communicate as much as possible, clarify anything that could be a misunderstanding, and be proactive in speaking up.
4. Loneliness & separation
We will spend over a third of our lives at work, to a certain extent your co-workers become your social circle. A common struggle we must consider as HR professionals is loneliness and separation. With the nature of work moving online, some days the only socialisation your international employees get is with their house plants! Without those in-office moments of social interaction, international employees in unfamiliar surroundings can become reserved and fall into ‘expat bubbles’. The solution, shared office space (where possible), employee check-ins, and out of office-hour activities. Co-working spaces provide comfortable ambient noise that help reduce separation anxiety. Employee check-ins make your talent feel valued and looked after. Out of office-hour activities provide that necessary distraction and social interaction to promote work-life balance. Social remote working tools such as Slack, Donut, or Polly are another great way to keep in touch with your international employees and provide a level of social interaction.
5. Bureaucracy & unfamiliar systems
As you may have already encountered, your international employees are in for a large assortment of paperwork and compliance. Not only will they have to contend with this necessary administration, they also have to do so in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar and often confusing systems. This process is typically stressful and overwhelming for your international employee. Positive onboarding experiences lead to improved employee retention. Fortunately, with Localyze you can manage your international employees bureaucracy and take care of the necessary admin on their behalf. The struggle of paperwork for your international employee will affect their work outcomes and overall happiness.
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