Guide to Working in Cross-Cultural Remote Teams

  • Niharika Sinha
  • May 25, 2023
  • 4 Minute Read
Guide to Working in Cross-Cultural Remote Teams

Worldwide employment by U.S. multinationals stood at 43.9 million workers in 2019. Over 60% of virtual teams comprise workers from three or more cultures. With remote work eroding geographical boundaries and more and more employees preferring to work remotely, participation in cross-cultural teams is set to rise. Cross-cultural teams are a standard in the remote industry today. 

However, cross-cultural communication comes with its unique set of challenges. For instance, punctuality in meetings could be different for everyone. While some people may prefer to be right on time, being five or ten minutes late could be “okay” by some. Similarly, some people may jump straight to business when starting a meeting, while others may take a minute or two to chit-chat before talking business. So whether you’re working for a global company, managing a cross-cultural team, or aspiring to, working with cross-cultural teams is an essential skill in the workplace and beyond.

Understanding cross-cultural team workings

Today, it’s normal for an employee from the U.S. to have a colleague from the Philippines or Netherlands. When people from diverse backgrounds come together, including nationality, ethnicity, race, culture, age, and socio-economic status, the difference in thought patterns, way of working, language and communication, etc., call for an understanding and awareness of the similarities and differences to avoid conflicts and build trust. However, culturally diverse teams bring varied skills, ideas, and perspectives to the table that prove beneficial. 

Cross-cultural working is more than just beneficial to organizations. Employees working in multicultural environments develop essential traits like cultural sensitivity, adaptability, widened perspective, patience, and creativity, all of which are important in their global careers. 

However, it’s easier said than done! Differences are bound to crop up when people from different backgrounds come together. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this hurdle, as every cultural melting pot is different. Still, there are certain things one should keep in mind while conducting themselves in a multicultural environment. 

Tips for working with cross-cultural teams –

Be aware of the cultural differences 

Awareness is the first step toward effective communication. Different cultures have different languages, communication styles, and habits. You need to be aware of it. Do your homework and try to get to know other cultures. For instance, if you work for a company in the Netherlands, it would help to learn about Dutch culture, their way of talking, common words, etc. Of course, remember that people may have individual preferences, so it’s best to refrain from forming preconceived notions about anyone and try to get to know them. Do not hesitate to ask things like

  • What is your preferred mode of communication i.e., written or calls
  • How they’d like to be addressed etc. 

This would help you start on the same page and develop a mutually beneficial and productive relationship with your colleague.

Do not assume. Ask 

When communicating with people from across geographies, recap the entire conversation after a call to ensure everyone is on the same page. It could be as simple as finishing the meeting with a simple phrase like, “ To rehash what we’ve just discussed………..” or maybe, “ I hope you understood what I mean, I….” This simple yet effective practice can help you avoid frustration, headaches, and confusion and achieve the desired goals. 

Actively listen

When in a meeting, do not just nod your head in the affirmative or say ‘yes’ for the sake of it. Instead, actively listen and try to understand what the other person is saying. If you are distracted or don’t understand something, do not hesitate to apologize and politely ask the other person to repeat it. This shows respect towards the other person and your interest in the conversation. 

Steer clear of stereotypes 

There is a fine line between being mindful of cultural differences and relying on stereotypes to form certain opinions. There is a prevalent stereotype about India. Indian food abroad has become synonymous with curry, which isn’t true at all. Indian cuisine is multi-faceted and diverse and includes a lot more than just generic curry. Chowmein is a popular street food in India! It is essential to understand that the fact that somebody is from a particular country or culture does not dictate their every decision or move. 

Ultimately, everyone is an individual and may have their own choices or opinions regardless of their cultural upbringing. While it’s essential to know a particular culture, getting to know your colleague as an individual is critical. Culture may shape the behavior of an individual but does not dictate it. 

Get to know people beyond work 

One of the easiest ways to build relationships with your virtual team from across borders is to learn more about them. Learning about their lives, hobbies, likes, and dislikes can go a long way in building trust and empathy. Simple gestures like a “How are you” message to a colleague who was off sick and has just resumed work can go a long way to show that you care! Similarly, meetings or calls don’t have to be just about work! Setting aside some time, maybe every Friday, where you can get on a call with your colleagues to unwind, chit-chat, and relax is also a great idea. 

Invest in facetime

Working with a team across borders, you must communicate well. Talk to your colleagues often. Don’t just rely on written communication like emails or chats. Video calls add another layer of understanding as it’s easier to pick the context of the conversation when you can see the person face to face. Facial expressions, body language, and visual cues tell you when someone is happy, sad, or distracted! Of course, everyone may not be comfortable on camera at all times but make it a point to do Facetime whenever possible as it’s the closest we can come to a physical meeting in a virtual setup and helps us to know each other better. 

Consider any special needs of the team members

You may be a developer from India working with an international team in the U.S., and you need help with a problem. Bear in mind the possible differences in time zones. Be mindful of their working hours and avoid the urge to call or message them during odd hours unless absolutely necessary. It would be best to clarify such things and develop a plausible solution. Asynchronous communication could be the key. Also, they may celebrate different holidays. Simple gestures like wishing them on Thanksgiving or Halloween can help build mutual trust and respect and lay the foundation for a long-lasting and productive relationship.


Working with cross-cultural teams remotely takes time and effort. It isn’t something that you can learn overnight. You get better at it with time. What is important is to have the right mindset and take baby steps to practice; each step takes us further on this path of growth and learning. It isn’t about where you come from but what you can do together, and that’s what makes a great organizational culture.

Niharika Sinha

Sr. Content Writer
A digital marketer turned content writer, I firmly believe in the adage "pen is mightier than the sword." I find solace in books and listening to people and that’s what fuels my love for words. Writing stimulates my mind and soul. An introvert by nature, when I am not writing, you can rest assured; I am busy churning thoughts into words!