Cultural diversity is a fact of life in today’s workplace, and working with people based in other countries is becoming more common. We asked 500 employees in India about their experiences.

Cross-country collaboration amongst Indian employees

A globalised economy means collaborating with people and businesses across borders —in more ways than one. For many workers in India, this is a part of their everyday working experience, but are employers doing enough to help them?

Managing global teams —and ensuring good collaboration and productivity between countries, time zones, and linguistic communities— can pose many challenges. To find out how businesses in India approach collaboration in the workplace, we surveyed 500 employees who work in companies with either a fully remote or hybrid model.

This article draws from a larger research project, which also examines workplace collaboration culture and productivity as a whole. You can read more about that in part one of this series and scroll to the bottom of this article to see a full methodology.

Most collaborate with colleagues in other countries every week

Our survey shows that international collaboration is extremely common among workers in India. One third (33%) said they collaborate with co-workers who reside in other countries at least once a day. Another 31% said they do so at least once a week. Only 9% never work with someone outside India. These levels are much higher than in the other 13 countries where Capterra conducted this same survey. Only Mexico, where 24% collaborate with co-workers in other countries daily, comes close. Other English-speaking countries such as the UK (19%), US (18%), Canada (16%), and Australia (19%), showed much lower levels of daily collaboration with colleagues overseas.

Altogether, 81% of our surveyed employees in India work with colleagues in other countries at least once a month. For the rest of this article, we will concentrate on this subset of respondents.

Global collaboration appears to be a relatively recent trend. Of those who do so on at least a monthly basis, 90% said they began in the past 5 years, with 48% saying they started in the past year. This may be due to improvements in collaboration technology such as video conferencing software, and its wider adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic. It may also be because more people choose to work remotely, especially in the nation’s tech sector.

Whatever the causes, respondents think that international collaboration will continue into the near future. Two-thirds foresee an increase in the next 12 months, while only 10% think they’ll have to deal with overseas co-workers less often.

employees expect cross country collaboration to increase

Key takeaway: Global collaboration has become very common in the past five years and looks set to become even more widespread. Businesses that don’t already have collaboration software in place should consider what tools they might need to enable smoother international co-working in the future.

It is worth noting that while worldwide collaboration is common, employers in India tend to keep organisational ties closer to home. Just 9% said they are managed by someone in a different country to them.

Global collaboration works, but time zone differences can make it tricky

Working with people in other countries comes with some pros and cons, and the employees in our survey identified with many of these. No one benefit or disadvantage stood out as being particularly resonant, with the possible exception of volatile working hours.

top benefits and challenges of cross-country collaboration

Although employees recognise how teams in different geographies can struggle to align on processes, tools, languages, and working styles, they equally recognise how cultural diversity can spark creativity and provide new ways of looking at problems. Looking at the bigger picture, 39% of respondents in India agreed that cultural differences in the workplace offer learning opportunities, while another 52% strongly agreed.

The difficulty of matching local working hours to the needs of global business is supported by the fact that many employees in India work with colleagues in significantly earlier or later time zones. The majority said that they sometimes work with people who live in places with between a 4- and 8-hour time difference.

Despite all this, employees who do collaborate internationally seem to take the challenges in their stride and are still able to stay productive. Most said that maintaining deadlines on projects when collaborating with people in other countries is either easy (51%) or very easy (18%).

Key takeaway: Time zones can be a curse or a blessing to projects. On one hand, they can help work to continue around the clock, meaning that when one team finishes in one part of the world, another can take over. On the other hand, they can make it hard to schedule meetings at mutually convenient times, so one team often has to log on early or stay late. 

One thing’s for sure, delivering global projects is significantly more difficult without the right project management software. These tools help workers to allocate resources, track progress, communicate, and collaborate on projects whenever and wherever they find themselves. Some even have features to automatically manage task allocation or calculate timelines whilst taking into account the time zones of project stakeholders

Globally-distributed team meetings are no obstacle to productivity

Our research into meetings in general revealed that employees in India are, on the whole, happy with them. These findings are reflected for those respondents that participate in regular meetings with co-workers in other countries:

  • 87% agree that these meetings take place during reasonable work hours
  • 82% say they start and end on time
  • 88% agree that international meetings have clear agendas set in advance
  • 91% feel comfortable contributing to the meetings

It’s also good news for businesses that employees feel that the tools they use are up to the job. A vast majority (90%) said their company uses software that enables effective international meetings.

However, there was also widespread agreement that the scheduling of meetings tends to favour one location. A majority of 83% said they think that meetings typically take place during a time that’s more convenient for one country over another. Commonly, due to time zone differences, colleagues in Europe will be able to join calls during their normal work hours, but teams in Asia often have to dial in late, and colleagues in the Americas have to dial in early.

Key takeaway: India is already a linguistically diverse country, so managers have experience in managing multilingual meetings and teams, and they can take this into their meetings with colleagues in other countries. In our survey, for example, 51% who work in a multilingual team said meeting leaders always prepare written materials to accompany the content of the meetings. What’s more, 50% said that meetings always include ample time for questions and feedback and 49% said that speakers use visual aids.

Some modern team communication software now includes the functionality to auto-translate messages. Some can even handle live translation during video calls or chats. Presentation software can also be used to create written and visual accompaniments to meetings, which can be viewed during the meeting and shared after.

Building an inclusive global company 

When managing global teams and projects, it’s important that every contributor feels valued. There is the potential for people to get sidelined if they don’t speak the dominant language, or if their work hours are not the same as the project HQ, for example.

Fortunately, the data from our survey suggests that most employees in India are happy with how their workplace handles international teams: 91% said that they think their country is adequately represented in their company culture. 

This organisational culture is a factor of the interactions that workers have with each other, clients, and suppliers. It’s also the standards and practices within the company that ensure a welcoming, inclusive, equitable environment, as well as a well-run and productive business. 

While it might be hard to put into words, it’s easy to see its impact. The vast majority (87%) of employees in our survey said that their company culture directly affects the way that they and their co-workers do their work.

Key takeaway: Creating an inclusive company culture requires input from across the workforce. And some companies look to employee engagement software to help them have conversations about inclusivity. These tools are designed to increase employees’ investment in the company and include features to gather feedback and share information. Management can use the software to listen to employees and then show that they have taken all viewpoints on board.

Are Indian businesses getting global collaboration right?

Employees in India frequently collaborate with colleagues in other countries, so it’s essential that businesses provide friction-free ways for them to do this. Our survey suggests that this is happening, although there is some dissatisfaction with the difficulties of collaborating across time zones.

When international collaboration works well, it results in productive local teams that feel valued as part of a worldwide company culture. And having the right tools and practices in place will help companies achieve it.

Looking for collaboration software? Check out our catalogue.

Survey methodology

Capterra’s 2024 Collaboration and Productivity Survey was conducted online in January 2024 among 6490 respondents in  India (n=500), the U.S. (n=503), U.K. (n=496), Canada (n=499), Netherlands (n=498), Brazil (n=501) France (n=497), Spain (n=501), Germany (n=497), Italy (n=500), Mexico (n=500), Australia (n=500), and Japan (n=498). 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.