Global Culture and Remote Work: Tips for Telecommuting Internationally

When you embark on a remote position abroad, it can enrich your life both personally and professionally through expanding your sense of global culture. Make the most of your experience with these tips for adjusting to a new culture while telecommuting internationally.

Global Culture and Remote Work: Tips for Telecommuting Internationally

There are many ways to telecommute in our ever-expanding digital workforce. If you live outside the U.S., you can increase your opportunities by contracting with a U.S. based company. Conversely, if you are a U.S. citizen and want to explore new places, you can travel while you work for your current company back in the States. However, these are not the only options available.

There are many international companies doing inspiring work who look to recruit talent to work abroad. You can continue your remote work arrangement while you explore a new culture. Lastly, you could stay in the U.S. and contract with a company from anywhere in the world.

With all of these choices available to work internationally, determining which is best for you depends on your citizenship status, family life, and sense of adventure. If you are considering traveling abroad or working for an international company, recent research suggests you will be in good company. The opportunity for cross-cultural exchange is growing rapidly.

Trends in International Telecommuting

Professionals worldwide are taking part in remote work options to increase opportunity and work-life balance. According to an impressive study by Payoneers, the rate of telecommuters is increasing across the globe. The study also reveals that the majority of virtual workers live outside the U.S. and work for U.S. companies. Meanwhile, a growing number of virtual workers are employed by companies in Asia, Latin America, and Europe. This opens the door for professionals to increase their knowledge of other cultures, diversify business practices, and exchange ideas in a manner using digital technology.

The above-mentioned study also shows the majority of telecommuters are men between the ages of 30 and 39.

Increasing diversity in the workforce can improve company culture as well as the bottom line.

Equality increases cash flow and can boost returns because when there is more representation, companies can avoid cultural biases that impede the success of their campaigns. Similarly, adding a more diverse perspective to your own business logic can increase your opportunities for growth.

Related: 6 Ways Telecommuting Helps Businesses Champion Diversity and Inclusion

Another encouraging statistic related to international telecommuting concerns pay equality across educational levels. In contrast to traditional work environments where the salary is often subjective, virtual workers are paid for their experience and expertise. This gives you the opportunity to advance in your career even if you don’t have an advanced degree. Although gender inequality is still a major issue in many countries such as the U.S., some countries like Mexico and Romania report pay equality between genders.

Additionally, some industries are more lucrative regardless of geographic location. Legal professionals, information technology professionals, and multimedia workers make some of the most competitive wages worldwide. These trends help bring into focus a path towards career success in the global economy.

The more you can expand your worldview by working with teams from different backgrounds the better you can market your skills for unique positions around the world and experience a greater sense of global culture.

How to Know If Being a Digital Nomad Is for You

Many international applicants use Virtual Vocations to find job openings in the U.S. However, a small yet growing number of U.S. professionals travel and/ or work remotely for companies around the world. Professionals who travel while they work are often called “digital nomads.” Digital nomads use their remote work arrangement to travel frequently, making connections and increasing their portfolios with the added bonus of invaluable life experience. Digital nomads can be freelancers, entrepreneurs or full-time virtual employees.

Related: Digital Nomad vs. Freelancer: 8 Differences in These Remote Work Styles

If you think the digital nomad lifestyle might work for you, you should consider what working sans a permanent location will look like day-to-day. Cecilia Haynes of HelpScout details her experience as a digital nomad and offers solid advice on how to get started. She notes that is it very important to have the tenacity to constantly plan your next trip. Being a mobile worker means having to schedule travel and housing arrangements, sometimes without having prior knowledge about your destination. You have to invest in a stable internet connection, be comfortable researching option for workstations and network online to find resources for your next location.

Digital nomads have to develop a disciplined budgeting and accounting system. You will need to keep track of your expenses and build an emergency fund for the inevitable unexpected mishaps that accompany traveling such as a missed flight, getting sick or an unplanned trip home. 

Adaptability is paramount if you are considering a modern nomad lifestyle. However, if you are energized by the idea of constantly meeting new people, trying new food and experiencing new ways of life, remote work and travel could be the perfect option for you. Nonetheless, just because you are well suited for living abroad, does not mean you will be immune to culture shock.

Culture Shock Affects Everyone

Regardless of whether you are a U.S. citizen working for a company abroad, or an international worker starting a new position with a U.S. based company, culture shock can impact your work performance.

Understanding what culture shock is and how to manage it can determine your success at your telecommute position as well as your wellbeing. Culture shock is the disorienting effect of encountering a new culture. Symptoms of culture shock include fatigue, depression, and even anger. Usually, culture shock occurs in several stages beginning with an initial state of euphoria from the excitement of being in a new place and transitioning into anxiety and eventually into acknowledgment.

Although the traditional definition applies to being submerged in a new physical location, remote work is closing the geographic barriers between teams and allowing seamless communication. However, just because teams can communicate easily, doesn’t mean an end to all the barriers to effective working relationships. Culture shock can strike in the remote work environment if you are working with clients from another culture, collaborating with co-workers in a different country or trying to interpret a joke made in a video conference. 

A country’s culture underpins the values that are most important when building work relationships. If you are working in a country like Japan where cultural norms dictate group loyalty and age as a symbol of senior positioning, you must be mindful of too much off-topic conversation while working on projects and pay close attention to how you approach older colleagues.

If you are entering a new virtual work environment, take the time to do your research first. Not only by studying cultural norms but also by exploring the arts, popular culture and joining online communities. Taking the initiative to learn as much as you can will help reduce the disorienting effects of culture shock.

If you do start experiencing some of the symptoms of culture shock, it is important to not isolate yourself. Set up a weekly chat with a friend back at home or reach out for online support through a therapy site like TalkSpace. It is crucial not to back away from the opportunity to push your boundaries. Just because you work remotely, doesn’t mean you should spend all your time at your workstation. If you are stationed in the country where you are working, take a class in the language of the region, or use an online platform to find other nomads in your area.

If you are still in the U.S. but are working with an international team, find online resources to better understand your coworkers. There are endless options for online community building using social media. The key is to find commonalities through your work. Use every project you collaborate on as an opportunity to learn more about how you can relate to others despite your differences.

How Companies Can Improve Communication within Global Culture

Harvard Business Review details common setbacks international companies face when cultures clash. Although individuals carry the responsibility of building interpersonal relationships across barriers of culture, companies can help remote international teams by facilitating an open dialogue to ask questions and highlighting the strengths of diversity.

As a manager, you can help set the tone for a positive experience for your team. Establish central goals, clear expectations, and values that promote your teams success. If you are managing a team of designers working in four different countries, everyone can find commonality around a vision of simple, clean lines and a polished finished product. Be sensitive to cultural differences that can make meetings awkward. Some workers may seem serious and unfriendly when they are attempting to show respect. Other professionals may observe holidays you aren’t familiar with so it is always a good idea to research common calendars for the countries where your team members live.

Connections Are Everything

Adjusting to a new culture while working remotely takes grit and a developed sense of self. Working internationally will bend and stretch your comfort zone in ways that are hard to anticipate. However, if you embrace the change, you will find that you grow even more than expected.

It is equally important to remain connected to your personal values. Absorbing new concepts and exploring new ways of being is trust you into a vulnerable space; you must ask questions and learn as you go. If a situation feels uncomfortable, stop and ask yourself, “Does this conversation, project or environment violate one of my core values?” or “Is what I’m feeling based in a sense of unfamiliarity?” Answering these questions can help you determine if you should continue to engage or not.

There may be a time during your international telecommuting where you need to back away. If, after a few months of working through culture shock, you still feel uneasy and uncomfortable, you have the right to change directions and projects. The beauty of trying something new is learning, and some lessons result in a better understanding of what doesn’t work for you.

The exciting thing about remote work is that it facilitates avenues to try international work at your own comfort level. A great first step is to apply for a part-time or freelance position. Many organizations offer remote positions helping children learn English. You can find a virtual teaching or tutoring position that helps you explore a new culture while you determine if you are interested in visiting the country of your students.

Another option is to start learning a new language at home. Online courses and software can help you prepare for an exciting role abroad. Having foreign language skills will increase your hireability and boost your confidence when entering a new position with an international company.

No matter how you decide to engage with international remote work, Virtual Vocations offers thousands of positions with companies based in many locations worldwide. Register to browse our constantly growing database and increase your cross-cultural connections today!

Do you want to experience more of the world’s global culture while working remotelyShare your answer when you connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you! 

Photo Credit: 1.iStock.com/AlexBrylov


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