International teams (i.e. teams with colleagues working from different countries) requires careful planning to prevent time zone gaps or cultural differences from derailing collaboration. To provide insights on the benefits and best practices for international teams, we surveyed 250+ Canadian employees who work with people in other countries at least once a month. 

best practices for international teams

Today, the rise of remote work —and remote work software, like virtual collaboration tools— has changed the way international teamwork is carried out. Colleagues can communicate and work on projects together in the same cloud-based platforms from anywhere in the world. 

However, distance, different work hours, and cultural differences at work all have the potential to derail the progress of global teams. How exactly are international teams in Canada handling these challenges, and which strategies best empower employees in different countries to work together?

As we saw in our first article about collaboration in hybrid and remote workplaces, the timing and frequency of meetings can negatively affect employee focus. This is especially important in international work environments, where scheduling collaboration faces even more difficulties. 

To discover what techniques global teams use to work together and how efficient those techniques are, we surveyed nearly 500 Canada-based remote and hybrid employees (267 of whom work with colleagues in a different country at least once per month). 

For the full methodology, scroll to the end of this article.

66% of Canadian respondents collaborate with colleagues in other countries 

Canadians are no stranger to international teamwork. Of remote and hybrid employees we surveyed, 66% collaborate with a colleague in a different country at least occasionally and 53% of respondents work with them at least monthly. Only 34% of those surveyed say they never work in global teams.

international teams frequency in canada

Workplaces in some regions are more likely to have globally-distributed teams than others. 56% of respondents in Ontario work with international colleagues once a month or more, while only 49% in Quebec report the same. This is likely due to Toronto’s status as a powerful business hub, where nearly 1 million employees have jobs in multinational businesses

Some may think the emergence of multinational teams coincides with the pandemic's influence on remote work models. However, looking at the time periods where employees say they started international teamwork, it seems this trend existed even before COVID-19 appeared. 

Here’s the information on when employees who collaborate with colleagues in other countries were introduced to international collaboration:

  • Almost a quarter (24%) started between 2-5 years ago
  • Just over a quarter (26%) started between 1-2 years ago
  • Almost a third (31%) in the last year

Based on these numbers, it’s clear that the trend of multinational work is continuing to grow. As new teams are being formed or existing teams are being merged, taking a look at creating or aligning processes with the help of change management software can help keep track of all the moving parts. 

For the rest of this article, we will focus on the sub-set of respondents who work with colleagues in different countries at least once per month. 

Over a third expect globally-distributed teamwork to increase

With many Canadians collaborating with colleagues across the globe, many wonder if the trend is here to stay. Although 52% foresee this type of collaboration staying the same, over a third (38%) think the rate will increase in the next year. In the Capterra 2024 Tech Trends Survey, 83% of business leaders predicted some level of growth in the next year, some of which could be global expansion. 

To find out where employees in multinational teams are spread out, we asked about their colleagues’ timezones. A large majority of transnational team collaboration (93%) happens across time zones. Teams with a 1-5 hour-difference between coworkers (44% report this as the largest time difference between themselves and a co-worker they collaborate with) could correspond to being spread across North America. The 43% who have time differences between colleagues of 6-12 hours may be stretched beyond our continent and into Europe. 

time zone differences in the workplace in Canada
Organizing workplaces with different time zones

The majority (87%) of remote and hybrid employees agree that their workplace uses effective tools for collaboration. However, that still leaves 13% who don’t. It’s important to both set up a digital workplace that enables effective teamwork and provide training sessions and materials on how to best use these tools. 

For teams with members in different timezones, these tools could be helpful:

More than half easily maintain project deadlines in international teams

On top of time zone differences, there are many other aspects to keep track of when sharing a project with colleagues in different countries. Each person works on their tasks and passes it over to their teammate to pick up when their working hours begin. However, this can be difficult when team members’ working schedules rarely overlap.

Although over half of those with international colleagues (64%) say maintaining project deadlines is “easy” or “very easy,” 36% rated it difficult to some degree. 

international teams deadlines project management

For collaboration across different countries or time zones, it’s important to manage projects and timelines efficiently. Project management tools help frequent collaborators as they track milestones, processes, and tasks within one platform. Some tools have features that automatically calculate deadlines and allocated hours based on the time zone of each stakeholder, meaning team members can rely on software to anticipate issues that may arise from time zone differences.

The top benefit of collaborating in international teams is the flexible work style

After diving into the specifics of international teams in Canada, it’s time to look at the value they bring to businesses. The top benefit of collaborating in a global team, according to those who do it regularly, is the flexible work environment, cited by 33%. Sharing only a digital workplace with team members does have it’s difficulties, but it can also provide an easy-going rhythm of work as employees are free to access and work on tasks when it suits them best. 

Other benefits of international team collaboration include:

  • Getting to understand other work cultures (reported by 32%)
  • Creativity and innovation (31%)
  • New perspectives for problem solving (30%)
  • A technology-enabled workplace (30%)

Not only is flexibility a perk of working in a multinational company, but it’s also a top priority for job-seekers in Canada. International firms who want to focus on attracting talent in 2024 could use this to their advantage. When writing job descriptions and posting on job boards, include the benefits that international teamwork brings to your company as selling points.

No workplace is without their challenges. International workplaces face their own set of obstacles from time to time, often related to volatile work hours, language barriers, and cultural differences in work and communication styles. 

work challenges of multicultural teams in different countries 

The good news is that, while there is a learning curve to working in an intercultural team, there is a lot of potential to gain new experiences and skills. 85% of surveyed employees agreed that they view cultural differences in the workplace as learning opportunities. 

Preparing teams for effective intercultural collaboration
In Canada, The Centre for Learning in Intercultural Effectiveness provides training courses on cultural diversity and inclusion. They even provide a dictionary of important terms and concepts to be aware of when working in a multicultural environment. To further equip your teams with the knowledge they need to succeed, you may even consider customizing onboarding modules that correspond to the specific cross-cultural learnings most useful for your company. 

Takeaways for workspaces with multicultural or international teams

There’s a lot to consider when adapting your organization to the needs of international teams. Let’s consider the crucial points to be aware of when building a global digital workplace.

  • Depending on the time difference between your employees, it could be tricky to find time to work together. Using cloud software to store your projects saves and shares the most recent work from colleagues around the world.
  • When setting up the digital workplace for virtual team collaboration, make sure your arsenal of tools covers all your employees’ needs. Find more tips on how to select the right software for your business in this article. 
  • If international teamwork is new to your organization, take care in merging or creating new processes, and make sure all stakeholders are informed of new norms of working.
  • Flexibility is a major benefit of international teams, but staying strict on deadlines is still important. Turn to project management tools to help keep your teams on track wherever they are. 
  • Remember that being a part of a multicultural team is a good selling point, as it provides opportunities for learning. Give your employees the chance to make the most of these moments by training them to work with cultural differences.
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The data for Capterra’s 2024 Collaboration and Productivity Survey was conducted online in January 2024 among 499 respondents in Canada. The goal of the study was to learn about the challenges workers face collaborating remotely across countries. Respondents were screened for employment at companies that offer either hybrid or fully remote work styles.

For the purpose of this article, we have mainly focused on a subset of 267 respondents who indicated that they work with colleagues located in other countries on either a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.