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How to Build Strong Business Relationships — Remotely

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Although many managers have adapted to virtual meetings to replace face-to-face ones as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, developing new business relationships online presents a particular set of challenges. Because successful relationships are built on trust, it’s critical to make an effort to work around virtual interactions’ shortcomings.

As described in our book, Searching for Trust in the Global Economy, just prior to the pandemic, we interviewed 82 managers from four regions of the world about how they decide to trust new business partners. Their answers varied by region and culture. For example, we found that managers in both Latin America and the Middle East/South Asia wanted to spend time getting to know potential new business partners in person in order to establish trust. In Latin America, managers were using that time to assess potential business partners’ shared values, whereas in the Middle East/South Asia, managers were focused on assessing respect for different values.

Then in November and December 2020, we re-interviewed 21 of those managers and asked them how the pandemic was affecting their ability to develop new business relationships. We found that their cultural differences were still active. For example, trust did not change during the pandemic. It was still low in Latin America and the Middle East/South Asia relative to East Asia and the West. However, managers’ common experience with having to meet virtually had generated a consensus: It is almost impossible to build the kind of trusting relationships that were sustaining their businesses through the pandemic when only able to meet virtually. They explained that virtual meetings are transactional but deciding to trust new business partners requires deeper relationship building.

Here, we discuss the specific challenges managers have faced in building business relationships virtually. Then, we offer four pieces of expert advice for how to overcome those challenges.

The Challenge

Our pre-pandemic interviews identified four criteria that managers used to make trust decisions: openness, competence, respect, and rapport (i.e., similar values). Our interviews during the pandemic underlined how difficult it is to search for information to judge potential partners against these criteria when social interaction is limited to scripted, time-limited, online interaction.

For example, one manager from Japan explained:* “It is quite difficult for us to evaluate degree of competency before [meeting with them].” Another manager from Hong Kong added, “I think it is very difficult to convince people to sign a billion-dollar deal, let’s say in Cambodia, and not to actually have seen the land or seen the project.”

Participants also lamented that online interaction limited their ability to see and hear how potential business partners interacted with each other. A manager from Thailand explained that it was challenging to understand the decision-making process in a potential partner’s company when meeting virtually. Her company ultimately held off making any final decisions until there was a break in the pandemic and they could meet in person. She told us, “Once we did the ‘look and see,’ we learned that all their decisions were made by one man. Well, it ended up that we did not work together.”

Advice from Expert Trust Builders

Two years into the pandemic, everyone has learned a lot about what they can and cannot do online. The managers we interviewed amassed significant experience and wisdom as it relates to building trust with new business partners. Here are four lessons drawn from their experiences.

1. Don’t skip the personal things.

Although dedicating time in virtual settings to getting to know others is less than ideal, it’s still important for building trust in the context of building new relationships. Here’s why it’s important to be intentional about devoting time to more personal conversations:

Because in the virtual space you have less opportunity to get to know the other person. The time is very limited. You don’t start chatting about your family or how you grew up. I perceive that it is much more difficult to talk about personal things in a virtual environment than going for lunch with someone where the barriers go up or come down after some 30 minutes, one hour of being together. — manager from Bolivia

It is the things which you don’t learn because everything is on the agenda. If you do an online meeting, you do not devote sufficient time to offline discussion, which gives you clues. — manager from Germany

We were all listening and watching the video and all that but there’s still a preference for face-to-face. [In in-person meetings] you’ve got all the other side conversations that will happen after the meetings and stuff. [Those side conversations] are currently happening over WhatsApp or iMessage and on phone calls. But it’s just the [quick] catching up in the taxi or something like that. It’s those in-person moments that you build trust with the partner. — manager from Singapore

2. Use your networks.

People you trust in your existing networks can introduce you to or help you evaluate potential partners. They can act like a broker for you. Make it clear what common interests you might have with the potential partner and what questions you have about them. Here’s what a few participants had to say about networking:

There’s no formula for this. You just have to seek out the people in your network who can be the most helpful to you and who are willing to be helpful. And I’ve identified three or four of those people. I’ll approach them and say, “I need to meet with a certain person. Can you help make that introduction for me?” — manager from the U.S.

A current German customer introduced us to its Austrian subsidiary. And we had a good season with the Austrians. But then, there was a corporate realignment and I thought we might lose all of this company’s business. Instead, new management at the top, whom we had not worked with before, reached out to say they want to continue with us next year. — manager from Italy

The importance of the references [skyrocketed], because it’s not easy to make connections with someone you don’t know. People more and more ask for references. Because right now, we cannot do anonymous contacts with people. You have emailing and everything, but that’s not enough. — manager from Turkey

One Japanese manager explained that he identified potential new business in Taiwan, but with the pandemic, he couldn’t do a site visit. Instead, he turned to another Japanese company he trusted and knew had people in Taiwan who could visit the site and meet the people. He told us, “Now, we generally ask the trusted third-party company.”

3. Consider a trial with a new partner.

If someone is reaching out to you about new business, start with a smaller investment than you would have made if you had been able to meet with them in person. Similarly, if you’re reaching out about new business, understand that a potential partner’s preference for smaller deals initially may lead to bigger deals eventually. A manager from Saudi Arabia told us:

There was this transaction that we closed last week. It was the first time that we dealt with this partner, but we really liked the opportunity and we liked the markets and our due diligence was just positive across the board. We were willing to deploy bigger funds into this particular investment opportunity. However, because of our inability to meet the team face to face and see the company by our own eyes, we decided to stage our investment. We said we would like to invest a certain amount now and have the option to invest additional amounts in the future, once a face-to-face meeting happens.

4. Share expertise with trusted partners.

You may be able to help them streamline their processes — generating savings — or provide better service to their customers — developing new business for them and for you.

One manager from Nicaragua explained:

We’re building some online tools to help them sell their products. It helps sell our product, but also helps them sell all the products that they carry. That helped us expand our business with them because they see that we’re out to help them. That it’s more than just a business; it’s more like trying to help each other survive in this new environment.

Another manager from Finland told us that his company’s equipment had the capacity to transmit digital information on performance. Customers who had not opted for this service in their original contracts were asking how to how to turn it on and get the most out of it during the pandemic. The result was new business for his company, and new ways of marketing services that his company could provide.

The Future of Searching for Trust

There was agreement among participants that learning to work online during the pandemic would bring lasting change but by no means total abandonment of meeting in person when deciding to trust a potential new partner. As one manager from Italy put it:

We’ll maybe [do more] online after Covid-19, but I don’t think it’ll be just an online thing, because we’re human. Everybody wants to go back to what we used to do, but still there are some meetings that both parties understand we can have online.

And as one manager from the U.S. told us:

I think it’s going to go back some of the way towards the way it was with in-person meetings, but I don’t think it’ll ever get there again. The pandemic is going to stretch on far too long. And you’re going to develop new habits and new strategies and new communication tools that you’re going to get used to and comfortable enough with. And in lots of cases, you’re going to find that it’s good enough. It’s not as important for me to be in person in some of those cases where I would have in the past. It’s not as good as being in person, but it provides me an opportunity to better use my time and not have to make every single trip that I made in the past.

. . .

As the pandemic has continued to interfere with in-person business development, managers have become more resigned to online interaction, and even see some benefits to it. Nevertheless, what coping with Covid-19 has taught us is that when it comes to relationship building for new business relationships, it’s important to use business relationships intentionally. Resist the urge to skip taking the time to have a personal conversation when online, use your networks to make contacts and vet potential partners, consider a limited trial before taking a big risk or saying no to a deal altogether, and find creative ways to help trusted partners streamline and develop their businesses.

* Editor’s note: Quotes from participants have been edited lightly for clarity.

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How U.S. Employers Can Support Women’s Health

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As physicians, it is all too obvious to us that women’s health in the United States is in a state of crisis. Compared to other high-income countries, women of reproductive age in the United States have the highest rates of pregnancy-related death, preventable death, chronic health conditions, and mental health care needs. They are more likely to die during childbirth than their mothers, and the Supreme Court’s anticipated reversal of Roe v Wade will likely further increase pregnancy-related deaths.

Even more staggering are the inequities: Black women are three times more likely to die during pregnancy, regardless of education or income. The costs of health care are also burdensome, with women delaying care due to cost and suffering financial hardship due to medical bills, even if they have private health insurance.

These poor outcomes negatively affect society and the workplace. When faced with the challenges of navigating work and family without adequate support to do so, many women simply opt to leave the workforce. This attrition results in decreased diversity, lost talent, and less productivity. The Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated these trends. Between 2020 and 2022, 1.1 million women left the workforce, accounting for 63% of jobs lost during the pandemic. While many are gradually rejoining the labor force, many — especially mothers — are choosing not to return.

Employers can take action today to combat these challenges. Investment in women’s health results in a healthier population overall. Companies that offer comprehensive support for women’s health have higher productivity, better retention of female employees, and most importantly, they help improve health outcomes for women.

Women’s Health Is a National Priority

At a national level, recognition of these poor outcomes in the United States has led to new efforts to improve them. In December 2021, the White House made a call to action to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. This effort included a $3 billion investment in maternal health, encouraged states to increase Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months, and established a “Birthing Friendly” designation for hospitals that take steps to improve maternity care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently funds perinatal quality collaboratives that convene a variety of stakeholders to improve the safety and patient-centeredness of maternity care. The National Institutes of Health — whose 27 individual institutes strikingly does not include one dedicated to women’s health — recently announced new funding for research into improved maternal health diagnostics.

The private sector has not kept pace with these advances. Women account for more than half of the national workforce, and most obtain health insurance through their employer. These plans, however, often impose serious financial barriers for essential health care services.

While the Affordable Care Act requires private plans to cover many preventive services, such as prenatal visits and mammograms, other essential services are not covered, such as genetic screening and prescription medications during pregnancy, hospitalization for childbirth, and diagnostic testing after an abnormal mammogram or pap smear. This is in stark contrast to Medicaid plans, where the amount that patients have to spend out of pocket for these services is exceedingly low. Unfortunately, these gaps in coverage are often most detrimental to employees living on lower incomes and those in marginalized racial-ethnic groups.

Employers are powerfully positioned to advance women’s health in the United States. There are several ways in which they can support women and in doing so, ultimately create a healthier society.

1. Provide better health insurance.

Currently, even among women with private health insurance, 98% of new moms in the United States are left with thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket costs after childbirth as the result of “low cost,” high-deductible insurance plans. In fact, more than half of women with private insurance change their plan around the time of childbirth to seek savings. When employers try to maximize the aggregate value of insurance plans, critical gaps still exist at the individual level.

Therefore, it is essential for employers to seek comprehensive insurance plans that include coverage for pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care without high deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-pocket costs. These plans should also cover crucial mental health services, including treatment for substance-use disorders, and evidence-based management of chronic conditions across women’s lifespans. Women must have a seat at any table where insurance plan benefit design tradeoffs are being decided.

Since health care payers are sensitive to market pressures, demands by purchasers for high-quality women’s health insurance coverage will drive market change within the health care delivery system. This should not be seen as a short-term expense, but rather, as a long-term investment.

Employers’ comprehensive insurance plans should include access to safe abortion, which unequivocally saves lives, helps people achieve their life goals, and is an essential part of comprehensive health care. However, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, as a leaked draft opinion suggests it may do, abortion will become illegal in at least 13 states with trigger laws, and other states are also likely to restrict abortion access.

Multiple companies have therefore pledged to reimburse travel and lodging expenses for employees seeking abortion services, since many may soon have to travel out of state. Should access to safe abortion become restricted, such corporate provisions, alongside insurance coverage for abortion care itself, will become increasingly important to foster access to the full scope of health care and avoid deleterious effects on employee retention and recruitment. Employers unable to cover costs of travel or treatment can protect safe abortion access by providing paid medical leave as some have done.

2. Provide paid parental leave.

The United States is the only high-income country without national paid parental leave. Lack of paid leave means that pregnant and postpartum people take less time off work, which is associated with increased birth complications and worse maternal and infant health.

Paid leave doesn’t just benefit maternal and infant health; it benefits everyone. A recent study compared companies in states that have enacted paid parental leave with those that haven’t. It found that in the states with paid leave, performance rose by 1%, productivity rose by 5%, and employee turnover decreased. What’s more, longer paid parental leave keeps more women in the workforce. Companies that have begun to invest in paid parental leave are already reaping rewards.

3. Redesign the workplace to support women.

Women face many barriers and stigmas around basic health and wellness in the workplace. A 2020 survey study found that only 10% of new mothers had designated breaks to support breastfeeding, and only 17% had support from supervisors or coworkers. Support for preventative health appointments, childcare, and mental health is often lacking as well.

With input from women employees, employers need to design a workplace that supports positive health behaviors and recognizes that women often shoulder an unequal burden of caregiving at home. Many have begun to reimagine the workplace as one that includes on-site subsidized childcare, spaces for pumping breaks and breastfeeding, and flexible work-hour arrangements to accommodate appointments and caregiving responsibilities.

Resources and guides are available to make these changes. By intentionally integrating support into the workplace itself, companies are more likely to retain talent and improve the employees’ health, wellness, engagement, and productivity.

In a social and political environment that sees growing threats to women’s health and autonomy, the steps outlined above represent ways for corporate leaders to make women’s health a priority. The moral case is obvious, but the business case is just as strong. By investing in comprehensive support for women’s health, companies can improve productivity, realize their employees’ full potential, and reverse the troubling health outcome trends that continue to unfold in the United States.

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Using Emojis to Connect with Your Team

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Employees don’t check their emotions at the office door — or Zoom room. But it can be harder to read how your team is feeling when you’re working remotely or in a hybrid office. Managers can use emojis as a fun and easy way to connect with their team. They can offer deeper insight on how your team is feeling, help you build your own cognitive empathy, help you model appropriate emotions, and help reinforce your company culture. Emoji usage can be an intergenerational and cultural minefield, however, so if you are new to the practice, the authors suggest starting with simple emojis (for example, a thumbs up) rather than those that represent complex emotions.

Leaders have often relied on physical cues, such as facial expressions and body language, to gauge and communicate emotions or intent. But doing so is more difficult in the remote workplace, where facial expressions and physical gestures are difficult to both read and convey.

Anecdotal evidence, as well as conversations we’ve had as part of our ongoing research into effective leadership in the digital age, is pointing to the growing use of emojis in the virtual workplace as an alternative to physical cues. They can help clarify meaning behind digital communications, as well as the type and strength of emotions being expressed. But they can also be an intergenerational and cultural minefield. For example, Gen Z’s are reportedly offended by their colleagues’ use of the smiley face emoji, which they see as patronizing. And cultural and geographical differences can mean that one person’s friendly gesture is another’s offense.

To lead in the remote or hybrid workplace, managers need to be aware of these pitfalls and need to understand how to use emojis effectively.

Using Emojis to Connect with Your Team

Based on recent research on emoji use in the workplace, our interviews with leaders who self-identified as using emojis for team management, as well as our own research into effective leadership, we identified four ways using emoji can help you connect with employees and enhance your leadership in a hybrid or remote environment.

1. Get deeper insight on how your team is feeling.

When employees at Danske Bank A/S, a Danish banking and financial services company, log on to join their remote management meetings, they share an emoji. “Our virtual meetings start with capturing the mood of the day. We each post a sticker with our name and an emoji that represents how we feel,” explains Eduardo Morales, a Danske Bank product owner. As these meetings usually are attended by more than 40 people, emoji sharing allows attendees to get a sense of each other’s moods, as well as the collective mood of the group, with just a single glance at the screen. “It saves time, and yet our interactions are richer,” Morales says. “Emojis allows us to reflect upon and express a broader range of feelings beyond the standard verbal response of ‘I’m fine.’”

The simple task of emoji selection gives team members a moment for self-reflection, which has been found to positively impact performance. And those with higher self-awareness become more thoughtful in expressing their emotions, which results in a better accuracy of emoji selection to represent their given mood.

2. Build your own cognitive empathy.

Your employees’ emotions are a data point that can help you understand what motivates them and how they experience their work.

“How do I as a leader understand what my team is working on and how they’re feeling about their work when everybody is remote?” asks Luke Thomas, founder of software startup Friday.app. He decided to start using emojis as part of his weekly check-ins. He asks direct reports to select an emoji to indicate how their week went, and then follows up with open-ended questions, such as: What went well this week? What was the worst part of the week? Is there anything I can help with?

Thomas explains that these updates allow him to have richer one-on-one discussions and then act on his employees’ needs. “I spend less time doing status updates and check-ins, and more time engaged in building better relationships, removing blockers and coaching,” he says.

3. Model appropriate emotions.

Emotions are contagious, and research suggests they may be even more amplified in the digital space. Managing your team’s emotional state and mood is a critical element of leadership, and emojis can help leaders express and role model emotional cues suitable for certain situations.

One senior leader at a global consumer products company explained that he uses emojis and GIFs to help motivate his team members and colleagues: “I use them as “pick-me-ups” to energize and to drive positive moods and behaviors within my team.” He described a recent example of how he used a humorous GIF and emoji to bring a moment of levity to a challenging financial discussion that was taking place on an online chat. The digital cue served as a transition, enabling the discussion to be steered towards a more positive orientation.

Leaders can greatly influence an organization’s emotional culture. Using emojis that represent positive workplace emotions, such as happiness, pride, enthusiasm, and optimism, is a first step for leaders looking to effectively role-model digital cues.

4. Reinforce your company’s culture.

Organizations have emotional cultures that can impact everything from employee satisfaction to burnout to financial performance. Emojis can both reflect and enhance the emotional culture of your organization in your daily communications.

“Our corporate culture is very fun and friendly — we hug a lot,” shares a manager at a global home furnishings retailer. After moving to remote work, managers at the company had to find a new way to express this aspect of their culture. “We can’t close a single department meeting without sending emojis and GIFs. A lot of them,” one told us. If the emotional culture is ebullient, as was true for the one described above, emojis can be used liberally and without necessarily having the leader set the norm.

In other workplace cultures, leaders use emojis to reinforce their organization’s core values. Take the example of material science company, DuPont. “We like to show appreciation and recognition for each other, so I often use the applause emoji to recognize people’s accomplishments,” explains Lori Gettelfinger, a DuPont global brand leader.

Take the time to gauge your organization’s emotional culture, which may be codified in mission statements, values, and daily behaviors. Then think about digital gestures, such as emojis, that can help reinforce it.

Minimizing Opportunities for Offense

If you are new or hesitant to using emojis in the workplace, we advise starting with simple emojis (e.g., thumbs up) rather than emojis that represent complex emotions (e.g. laughing emojis with tears) in order to decrease the likelihood that an emoji will offend.

Offense usually stems from a misinterpretation of a sent emoji or when someone uses an emoji that they think means one thing but really means another. For example, if a manager sends the emoji that features two hands pressed together, does it send a message of gratitude? A request for a favor? Or is it hands clasped in prayer? And is the emoji with the smiling face and two hands signaling a friendly wave “hello” or giving a hug? If you’re not sure, better to avoid using the emoji and to stick with something that is more straightforward and less open to interpretation.

Employees don’t check their emotions at the office door — or Zoom room. And when you’re leading in a virtual space, it can be harder to read how your team is feeling. Using emojis can help managers connect with their employees and strengthen their organization’s emotional culture.

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Distributed work is here to stay — how your business can adapt

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It’s no secret that the business world and working environments have changed drastically since 2020. With fierce competition in recruiting for skilled labor becoming a critical issue for businesses, having employees in varied locations around the U.S. or even internationally has become an increasingly common solution. It looks like this distributed work model is here for the long haul, so it’s time to get your business on board.

What is distributed work?

Distributed work is defined as a business that has one or more employees who work in different physical locations. This can range from having different in-person office locations, remote work or a blend of the two — often termed “hybrid work.” Large companies having a distributed workforce is nothing new, as having multiple locations allows companies to meet more of their customers’ needs.

The difference now, though, is the massive increase in remote work triggered in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, ramped-up competition for skilled workers, and how those factors have combined to impact smaller businesses.

If you’re struggling to keep up with today’s workforce demands, take heart. Distributed work can provide some solutions.

Millennial and Gen Z workers strongly prefer flexible working environments and a distributed work policy fits into that preference nicely. Additionally, distributed work structures have the benefits of increased access to international talent, more productive employees and higher job satisfaction.

How to adapt your small business for distributed work

Making the leap to a distributed workforce can feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Software solutions tailored specifically for supporting a distributed work environment can help ease the transition and make your business run efficiently.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at important adaptations needed to bring your small business up to speed for distributed work and how to accomplish them.

  • Get your business security up to date.
  • Tap into global talent pools.
  • Maintain quality communication between employees.

Let’s take a closer look at each point below.

Get your business security up to date

When remote work exploded in early 2020 due to COVID-19 office closures, it quickly became obvious that improvements to business security protocols were necessary. Now with many businesses planning how their company will operate going forward, security continues to be a crucial consideration.

What are some security considerations important for businesses with distributed work environments? Here are a handful of important security features you’ll want to think about:

1. Avoid losing business documents with automatic saves

The stress from losing hard work or entire documents altogether is something most people have dealt with at some point. Having to backtrack and redo lost work is tedious and unproductive.

The best way to avoid that ordeal? Automated saves.

With Microsoft 365, your Office documents are automatically saved for you. Whether it’s a document in the company Sharepoint or in your own OneDrive account, your hard work won’t go to waste.

Additionally, Sharepoint allows your company to collaborate on documentation without having to worry about whether the current document is the correct version. An average of 83% of the current workforce loses time daily due to document versioning issues. Microsoft 365 makes it easy to avoid lost time and frustration, with the added benefit of simplifying collaboration.

2. Maintain business security across all user devices

In the United States, 68% of organizations reported being hit by a public cloud security incident when polled in 2020. Attacks like these can cripple your business’ productivity and lower public perception of your company as a whole.

Both Sharepoint and OneDrive offer multiple layers of security to keep your business documentation safe on the cloud servers themselves, including:

  • Virus scanning for documents
  • Suspicious activity monitoring
  • Password protected sharing links
  • Real-time security monitoring with dedicated intrusion specialists
  • Ransomware detection and recovery

With these built-in protections, you can keep your company safe no matter where your company’s distributed work happens.

3. Adopt company-wide security policies

Effective company security policies protect your organization’s data by clearly outlining employee responsibilities with regard to what information needs to be safeguarded and why.

Having clear guidelines set ensures that both your company information and your employees are safe from security threats.

Items to include in your security policy might include:

  • Remote work policies
  • Password update policies
  • Data retention policies
  • Employee training guidelines
  • Disaster recovery policies

This list obviously isn’t exhaustive, so we’d recommend using a security risk assessment tool to pinpoint specific areas your business should address.

Note: Social engineering and phishing are major security threats for businesses of all sizes. To avoid becoming a target, your company must implement strong security practices for your users. For example, using a secure two-factor authentication setup can help prevent unauthorized users from accessing company documents.

4. Ensure communications are secured

Having a distributed work environment tends to mean that most (if not all) communications occur digitally. As such, keeping digital communications secure should be a top consideration.

Using Microsoft 365, you can ensure that your communication remains encrypted.

If video calls are a major part of your business needs, Microsoft Teams offers robust encryption for your calls. Additionally, email through Microsoft 365 offers top-tier anti-phishing protection for your business.

To learn more about available tools for secure business communication, refer to the Microsoft documentation here.

Tap into global talent pools

world map on a computer

The pandemic triggered a drastic reshuffling of how workers view their jobs, leading to what has been dubbed the Great Resignation. In the United States, more than 11 million jobs were sitting unfilled as of January 2022. With jobless claims on the decline, the domestic labor pool is small and competitive.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed as a small company attempting to attract talent in the current labor market. You’ll want to ensure that you’re offering competitive wages and benefits, but it can be difficult to go toe-to-toe with large corporations.

However, this is another instance where distributed work can help. One solution? International talent.

The distributed work model makes employing remote workers worldwide more seamless than ever before.

A few considerations here to keep in mind, though.

  • You’ll need to apply for certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to hire outside the country.
  • Be aware of additional taxes that might result.

For more information, review the official documentation for this process.

Note: The same standards do not apply to international contractors, but there are special considerations for contractors as well. Read this guide for more details.

Maintain quality communication between employees

Successful businesses rely on open communication for everything from keeping employees up to date on company information to maintaining morale. Let’s go over a few ways to implement quality communication in a distributed work environment.

1. Cultivate a healthy work environment

Company culture can feel like an afterthought when your teams work separately from each other. However, cultivating a strong company culture is vital, especially for distributed work environments.

The first step here is to clearly define the company culture that you want. By setting the company standards early, your employees will be able to benefit from a solid starting point.

Second, reinforce the culture that you’d like to create. Setting goals, establishing performance metrics, fostering accountability, building trust with employees, and being open to feedback from workers all help reinforce a healthy company culture.

And third, it’s important to prioritize the mental and physical health of your employees. Encourage vacation time, allow for flexible working arrangements, and make mental health support a priority.

2. Foster open communication

Digital communication is key for distributed work environments, so keeping open and transparent channels for communication is imperative.

Email and chat tools are communication fundamentals, but fostering communication itself can feel a bit daunting.

Here are a few suggestions on building healthy communication for your distributed work teams:

  • Make empathy a priority.
  • Greet employees every day.
  • Create a virtual water cooler to encourage socialization.
  • Announce company updates directly.
  • Give recognition and feedback regularly.

By encouraging clear, focused — but also fun — communication, your teams will grow to trust each other and interteam collaboration can flourish.

Distributed work is the ‘new normal’

Building your business toward a distributed work model is a solid investment in growing your company in the future. Tools like Microsoft 365 offer an all-in-one solution to take the pain out of transitioning your business, so take charge of your business’ future today.



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