Making cross-border collaboration work

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The value that face-to-face interactions bring to the table is much more than virtual interactions ever could. That said, the HRO team prides itself on team spirit across borders – and here are three things we’d like to share.

As much as we’re all growing accustomed to working in a hybrid setup, we can’t deny there are times we’ve wished our remote colleagues were sitting right here next to us, having spontaneous brainstorming sessions, catching up over a five-minute tea break, or simply, working in companionable silence. With my own team distributed across the region, we’re no strangers to a number of issues facing such teams.

  • Because sometimes we can’t see what a colleague is doing at their desk, we might be wary of messaging them without knowing if they are in the middle of something that needs their full attention, or simply if they prefer a late lunch.
  • Instead of pointing out something on our computer screen, whiteboard, or in our notebook, there’s the extra step of screen-sharing – and it’s not always easy to convey or understand what we need this way.
  • Not to forget, internet connectivity! We can’t count the number of times we’ve “lost” our teammate during a call (or vice-versa) due to a frozen screen (cue the weirdest facial expressions!), broken sentences, or a lag between the video and audio, which can potentially slow down communication.

The value that face-to-face interactions bring to the table is much more than virtual interactions ever could. That said, I must say, despite the distance, our team never fails to find ways to make things work, even if we’re working on different product portfolios and priorities.

We may not be able to chat and share laughs as much as we would like, but we do still pride ourselves on a strong team spirit.

Here are three things we do, and we hope they serve as some food for thought:

  • Foster regular, clear, and open communication: We make a conscious effort to check in with one another regularly. And in instances where we work closely together on certain tasks, we set clear timelines/calendar invites/task trackers to keep everyone on the same page, so everyone can check on the progress/status of the task at any time.
  • Cultivate a culture of encouragement and trust: Respect is possibly the most important element of boundaryless communication. Expressing gratitude, empathy, compliments, and rants helps break down technological walls, and shows that we can count on one another at any time. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders!
  • Nurture a positive work atmosphere: We share what we know with one other, are not afraid of asking questions and making mistakes, and always look on the bright side. We focus on what we can achieve together rather than what we can’t do, and find solutions together if things don’t go well.

All in all, challenges will always be there when working in a team across borders, but when everyone puts their heart into it, the experience will be even sweeter.


How are you and your team making cross-border collaboration work? We'd love to know - do share with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!


This column first appeared in the Q3 edition of Human Resources Online's Southeast Asia e-magazine. View a copy of the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and more!

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