Software Advice’s study reveals how 63% of UK employees work with someone whose native language is not English. This represented British employees as the least likely of all English-speaking countries to work with employees of different languages, the rate stood at 66% in the USA, 69% in Australia and 70% in Canada. 

Despite British employees working less with non-native speakers, Software Advice’s study shows that workers had a proactive approach to overriding language barriers in collaborative situations like meetings. Measures used by businesses to help non-native speakers include providing a space for questions and feedback during meetings (40%) and issuing follow-up materials post-meetings to consolidate knowledge (39%).

A majority of 91% of employees agree that cultural differences among staff offer learning opportunities. According to associates, the key benefits of working with colleagues based abroad include:

  • Understanding other work cultures (34%)
  • Networking opportunities (34%)
  • Diversity and inclusion (33%)
  • Improved communication skills (32%)
  • Having a flexible work environment (29%)

However, employees also highlighted the main disadvantages of collaborating with co-workers based abroad, these include language barriers (46%), volatile working hours (44%), cultural misunderstandings (33%), conflicting communication styles (30%) and the use of alternative work tools (29%). Moreover, just under one-quarter of employees stated that it is difficult to maintain project timelines when collaborating with co-workers based abroad.

The impact of differing time zones on meetings

44% of employees work from once a day to once a week with co-workers based in other countries. Meanwhile, 41% expect their collaboration with co-workers to increase in the next 12 months. 

The data suggests that 83% of respondents who work with colleagues overseas have a difference in time zone of up to 8 hours, thus making communication harder. Despite this, 92% of internationally dispersed teams have a manager operating in the same location as them. This brings many benefits, meaning employees have a point of contact within the same time zone. 

The majority of respondents stated that despite working in different time zones their meetings still take place at reasonable work hours (87%), and for over three-quarters of employees they start and end on time. Despite this, 79% claimed that meetings still take place at a time that is more favourable for one country than another. 

 David Jani, Content Analyst at Software Advice UK, comments:

“Whilst UK companies appear to be more likely, proportionally, to work with other native English speakers, it is still important for firms to plan for factors that may help facilitate communication. This might include measures like providing follow-up materials and adding extra time for clarifying questions when language barriers do arise.  

Furthermore, respondents in our study who collaborate with international colleagues on a regular basis indicate many benefits of these working arrangements such as improved learning opportunities, networking, and communication. However, as we saw in the findings, it is common for people to work across time zones. In these situations, companies should schedule work and meetings carefully to accommodate everyone’s availability when collaborating directly.”

About Software Advice

Software Advice helps businesses navigate the software buying journey. Industry-specific advisors guide people through the selection process and provide personalised software recommendations. Founded in 2005, Software Advice has helped nearly 800,000 businesses find the right software for their specific needs through 1-on-1 advice, objective research and actionable insights. 

Study Methodology

Software Advice’s 2024 Collaboration and Productivity Survey was conducted online in January 2024 and surveyed 6,490 international respondents, 496 of whom were based in the UK.