Connecting the Continents: How We Operate a Global Team

Catherine Mulder on

a woman staring at the globe with marked locations

The United States, Canada, France, and Germany - the Metadot team is spread all throughout the world. While we live in these countries, we represent many different cultures and diverse backgrounds - all connected through our organization, Metadot. Our diversity is something we celebrate, and we consider it to be one of our greatest strengths. Each member of our team brings a unique and different skill set, as well as perspectives and belief systems that help us tackle even the toughest challenges. However, managing a team separated by thousands of miles and many different time zones is a challenge in itself.

Time Zones & Technology

Living in times of such impressive technology is what makes our company possible. While I hop on my morning meeting in Texas my colleagues in France are hopping on before they enjoy some evening dinner. However, we often manage to collaborate on projects as if we were sharing the same time zone. This works partially because we prioritize our time together to focus on the most important tasks, but also because we have adapted the ways in which we communicate. At Metadot, we use “Discord” which is an instant messaging and digital distribution platform where we hop on video calls, exchange messages, and share important information all in one place. It stores important conversations, and allows us to view if a person is active, inactive, or busy with another task. This allows me to contact my French colleagues after hours, without interfering with their personal time. At the end of each day, they can shut down their workspace and enjoy time with family, without having to communicate with work until the next day. These resources allow us to collaborate in an effective manner, and function as one unit despite the miles between our team.

Building a Connection

While I know the familiar faces fairly well, there are very few of my colleagues I’ve ever met in person. A few years ago - when the majority of workplaces were in a physical environment - this structure was nearly unheard of. So how did we build these connections without sharing an office space? As you’ve read in our previous blogs, we are intentional with how we spend our time. Activities such a weekly stretching, coffee-dates, and happy hours give us the opportunity to collaborate outside of the typical work environment. Every Friday, we dedicate time to take a break from our weekly tasks and hang out in a virtual happy hour. To be considerate of the differing time zones, we have two happy hours - one which takes place in the mid-morning for those of us in the US, and one to close out the workday. While the European team is not expected to hop on the second virtual happy hour, we often still connect to play some games, enjoy some drinks, and talk about exciting news. There are some rules to keep the happy hours productive and fun, and to make sure they are fulfilling their true purpose:

A portion of our team lives alone, and may be in a region with stricter regulations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This can limit the amount of social interaction, which can quickly lead to burnout. Happy Hours have been a fun and effective way to help ease the isolation, and spend time with others.

Work & Well-being

While we prioritize emotional and mental well-being as a team, we also prioritize physical health. Throughout the pandemic, we utilized our resources to create healthy and fun challenges to improve our team relationships and our physical well being.

Quick fact: A study from Dr. James Levine, the director of Mayo Clinic, concluded that “people who spent more than 6 hours per day sitting with low levels of physical activity have a 71% increase in mortality rate.” (Muller). Statistics like this drive us to be even more creative in how we encourage one another to keep moving, while balancing work and life.

Learning through the Language “Barrier”

One question I am frequently asked when I tell people about the diversity of our company is: how do we deal with the language barrier? While our main form of communication is in English, there are times where colleagues work together in virtual rooms and speak in their native languages. As a person who only speaks one language, my multilingual coworkers impress me more than anything. They’re able to communicate about a variety of topics, and easily switch between languages. While others may view the language barrier as just that - a barrier - I view it as one of our greatest strengths. From a business standpoint, it opens our ability to expand into different markets, and reach a whole new audience that would otherwise be difficult to connect. From the standpoint of personal growth, I’ve also had the opportunity to learn words, phrases, and grow in my communication skills.

While we still face challenges like occasional technical difficulties and other obstacles, we have successfully managed to grow our team and onboard new individuals virtually. This was made possible by utilizing our software, implementing new strategies, and ultimately working together as a team to create an efficient, welcoming remote environment. As we continue to build our team, we aim to maintain this environment that prioritizes efficiency, well-being and teamwork.