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Employer’s Guide to Internationally Compliant Communications Standards

May 22, 2024 | Business, Culture, Remote Work

Communication in the modern age is a complex and interconnected system. This is especially true for employers who work with a team that spans national and continental divides. Every country has a different standard for both workplace and off-work communications. And the growth of remote work has made it more likely that even small teams can be built of people from many different countries. This has led to the need for an aligned internal communications policy for any company with international team members. It is especially important considering that some countries have specific laws regarding when and how an employee can be contacted.

To remain in compliance as an international employer and maintain a comprehensive approach to communication, it becomes necessary to develop an internal communications policy compliant with international standards.

The Right to Disconnect

One of the things to be aware of is the Right to Disconnect laws that are increasing in implementation across Europe. France and Germany are among the most prominent countries that have enacted this law. However, several other smaller countries have joined the trend.

The Right to Disconnect is an employee’s right to refuse communications from their employer that occur outside of work hours. This defends employees from being asked to work during hours in which they are not paid for their labor. It also protects employees from receiving penalties for refusing to answer messages outside their paid working hours.

This means that many European workers do not have to participate in team meetings, answer questions, or take phone calls if they are not on the clock. This, of course, makes matters a little more challenging for international employers.

Adapting internal communications policy - A male employee working at home typing on his computer keyboard.

Adapting to International Working Hours

Another part of the internal communications standard to watch out for is adapting to international working hours. The challenge is not that your overseas employees are unavailable when off the clock – that is perfectly reasonable. The challenge is that their clock is offset, often by several hours to half the day, depending on latitudinal differences. European working hours are typically more than six hours offset from working hours in North America. The more scattered your international team is all over the globe, the less everyone’s schedules will align.

This means employers must adapt to international working hours to manage teams that can share a few hours a day.

Making the Right to Disconnect Universal

Among the first steps to creating a consistent internal communications policy is to grant the Right to Disconnect to every member of your team, whether or not their country provides the Right to Disconnect by law. This means training your managers to avoid calling or texting employees after hours, and to never expect a response except during the employee’s scheduled shift.

This takes the best of the mandatory policies for some international employees and uses it to improve the experience of all your employees. At the same time, your managers are far less likely to accidentally expect off-hours communication from a European employee who has the legal Right to Disconnect. They will more likely default to respecting the home, family, and personal time of all employees on every team.

Improving internal communications with employees - A businessman using a laptop to plot employee schedules.

Building Off-Shift International Schedules

Another important option in improving your company’s internal communications policy is the possibility of building custom shifts. This way, everyone on a team can be on the clock at once. For example, you might have an early morning shift for some employees while an afternoon or late night for other team members across the globe. Each employee accepts the schedule when they sign on so they know that they might not be working normal hours.

Rather than trying to keep all communications between the standard daylight working hours for each employee’s location, you can rearrange schedules so that working and communication hours all align, even if the schedule doesn’t quite align with anyone’s typical 9-5.

Mastering Asynchronous Communication

Another trick is to master asynchronous communication. What this means is communication that does not happen in real-time. Phone calls and live chat are real-time or synchronous, while emails and conversation threads are asynchronous. Messages can wait for the recipient to log in and read them, which means that team members on different schedules can leave messages for each other and even collaborate on projects even if they don’t often share a time when they are both on the clock and active.

Mastering asynchronous communication is not just about taking turns and being patient. It’s a method of framing each message to contain the maximum amount of information so that the other person (or people) in the conversation can draw conclusions and make decisions based on the message even if they cannot get a quick reply to any possible questions.

Aligning Night Owls and International Team Members

You can also take advantage of the fact that some people are night owls. People who are awake at night in one country may overlap perfectly with people who are awake during the day on the other side of the world. Night owls have had international friends since the dawn of the internet because they are awake at the same time.

This makes having a few night owls on your team an incredible asset. After all, a night owl across the world will be up and awake when your daytime team is on shift. They are less likely to mind an offset schedule because they are often afternoon-night people or night-early morning people. They are also used to a somewhat offset schedule from everyone around them.

Respecting international standards for internal communications - A male manager using his smartphone to message his employees.

Access International Communication Experts

How do you know which countries have special communication laws or the right approach to building an international team? Working with hiring pros who specialize in international team building can help. Here at BrightR, we connect Canadian talent with nearshore employers and companies all over the world. We can help you create internationally compliant internal communications standards and ensure your diverse team is ready for international collaboration.

Contact us today to explore the opportunities of a Canadian EOR on your side.

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