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News » Global collaboration faces language, culture hurdles: Capterra study

Global collaboration faces language, culture hurdles: Capterra study

Photo from Capterra’s 2024 Collaboration and Productivity Survey

VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES — As remote work continues to gain traction worldwide, a new report highlights the mounting challenges faced by organizations in maintaining seamless collaboration among their global workforce. 

With 59% of employees navigating the complexities of working across borders for the first time, issues such as inconsistent work hours (44%), language barriers (42%), and cultural misunderstandings (33%) are emerging as significant obstacles, according to Capterra’s 2024 Collaboration and Productivity Survey.

While 88% of U.S. employees found international meeting schedules reasonable despite a seven-hour time difference, their counterparts in Japan (69%) and Australia (74%) were less likely to agree, often being “stuck taking meetings at odd hours which can affect both their job satisfaction and their ability to focus and contribute.”

“If you have a sizable workforce in the APAC [Asia Pacific] region, it may be beneficial to trade off when meetings take place and who has to work at odd hours,” said Brian Westfall, Capterra’s principal HR analyst.

To address these challenges, the report emphasized the importance of consistent virtual meetings, understanding when email or instant messaging should be used over meetings, and leveraging technology to facilitate collaboration. 

Language barriers emerged as another significant challenge, with 62% of respondents working with colleagues who have a different native language. 

“Software can help this process go faster. Translation tools that use neural machine translation (NMT) won’t produce a perfectly written translation, but they can help you get 90% of the way there very quickly,” Westfall noted.

Cultural differences also played a role, with the report revealing that collaboration means different things across cultures. Eighty-two percent of employees in the Netherlands prefer in-person team bonding, while 52% of workers in Japan want them to be virtual.

“If employees abroad don’t feel connected to your company culture, it could be a symptom of a lackluster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program,” Westfall emphasized.

Companies have been increasing their investments in DEI in recent years, not just to diversify their workforce, but to ensure everyone is adequately represented throughout the organization.”

The Capterra study was conducted online in January 2024 among 6,490 employees who collaborate globally, including in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Canada.

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