A. Know Remote Work Challenges

Dealing With Remote Work Problems


Communicating with a co-located staff is already challenging as it is, but working with remote workers poses even greater challenges, especially when they are from a foreign country.

Aside from dealing with personality and individual differences, distance and language and cultural differences add another layer of complexity. These factors may have a huge impact on your working relationship with your Filipino remote contractors, and consequently, affect work dynamics and performance. 

It is important to be mindful of possible communication challenges because doing so will provide you with ideas on how to deal with them effectively. 

Below are remote communication challenges to consider when communicating with your Filipino remote contractors:


Physical Distance

The absence of physical presence in a remote working arrangement requires you and your remote contractors to communicate online. When you communicate online, much of the context is lost due to the absence of nonverbal cues. It becomes challenging to understand what your remote contractors think and feel about certain things. 

Depending on the agenda, you may need to do video calls. Video calls help employers reinforce intention, give additional support, provide confirmation, or emphasize certain points to improve understanding. 


Temporal Distance

It is important to remember that you and your remote contractors are operating on different time zones. Knowing when your remote contractors start and end work as well as take their lunch break allows you to schedule calls with them without disrupting focus and momentum or interrupting downtime.

Everything should be scheduled. Spontaneous calls are not advisable. Giving your remote contractors a 15-minute heads-up when you like to chat with them and scheduling upcoming meetings can help them be prepared. 


Cultural Distance

Cultural differences can get in the way of effective remote communication as they might spark unnecessary inefficiencies and affect overall productivity results. Here are some examples of cultural differences between Filipinos and Australians and the consequences of those differences that may affect your communication. 

Philippine Culture

Australian Culture

Filipino time. The importance of scheduling and committing to schedules may initially affect the assumptions you make about the remote contractor’s availability. 

Fast-paced work culture. In Western cultures, time is often seen as money. Therefore, you may be much less relaxed with time when it comes to working. Know that initially, working at a fast pace can be an alarming experience for your new remote contractors. It could take up to two to six weeks for them to make an adjustment.  

Avoidance of confrontation. You may have to encourage your remote contractor to freely express their views and opinions as they may be a bit hesitant to do so during the first few months of working with you.

Being straightforward. Westerners are known for being frank, which is not something Filipinos are used to. Your honest remark might make your remote contractor uncomfortable, especially when done in the presence of other people. 

Need for approval or permission. You will have to make instructions and objectives clear to your remote contractors if you want them to accomplish tasks in a way that you expect them to. And if you want them to do things their way, you will have to give them the go signal for that as well.

Initiative and independence. Westerners are able to apply themselves in their jobs without needing much supervision. If you want to your Filipino remote contractors to do the same, you will have to express this clearly to them.  

Adherence to hierarchy. Filipinos are mindful of their position in the company. They have a perceived boundary between who’s in charge and who’s not as well as who has the final say. You will have to initiate friendly conversations to get them to warm up to you.

Equality in the workplace. Although, there is still hierarchy in the workplace, Westerners value equality in the workplace. Everyone is considered a valuable member of the team who is allowed to express themselves and contribute. Try to involve your Filipino contractors in company affairs as much as possible. 

Being sociable and accommodating. With their friendly nature, Filipinos will do anything to please others. However, you might find them too accommodating sometimes and saying yes to everything you say.  

Being assertive. Westerners have enough confidence in their skills to assert their position in the company. You are confident to say no or to disagree with others’ opinions. It might take some time for your Filipino remote contractors to do the same, so you will have to provide the support that they need to boost their confidence.  

Family first. Filipinos value their family more than themselves. They have a tendency to drop work to be with family during emergency, so try to be understanding and let them know that you are there for them. 

Focus on individualism. Just like other Western cultures, Australians value personal development. The importance of family within the context of the Philippine culture may be difficult for you to relate to. However, know that one way to get your remote contractors to trust you is to let them know that you care about their families as well.


Language Barrier

The Philippines is one of the largest English-speaking nations in the world. More than 14 million Filipinos speak English with at least some degree of fluency.
However, being fluent in English does not guarantee complete understanding. There are certain elements of the English language that may still get in the way of getting your message across:

  • Foreign accents. Even if your Filipino remote contractors are confident in their English skills, they may not be familiar with your accent. In this case, try to speak at a slow to moderate pace until they get used to your accent.
  • Idiomatic expressions and slang. Language is cultural. Never assume that your Filipino remote contractors understand everything that you say. A word or expression may mean something totally different to them. Minimize your use of Australian idioms, expressions, and slang if you can help it and try to align their understanding of certain concepts with yours.
  • Business jargon. Dropping business terms and jargon unique to your business may catch your Filipino remote contractors off guard. As much as possible, try to familiarize your new remote contractors to these terms before using them in conversations.


Technology Mishaps

Misunderstandings are inevitable. It can still happen despite using chat, emails, or video calls. Fluctuating and slow internet connections and malfunctioning equipment may cause your remote contractors to miss or mishear important information and instructions. 

In such cases, what you can do is to confirm understanding by asking your remote contractors some questions about what you said. You can also watch out for warning signs that your remote contractors did not understand what you said, which include silence, not asking questions, and agreeing to just about everything that you say, among others. Questions that are completely off topic can also be a sign of miscomprehension, so try to pay attention to what your remote contractors are saying. 


Final Thoughts

Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding your remote contractors. Taking the time to learn more about your remote contractors as an individual and their way of life in the Philippines can help you identify and make the necessary communication adjustments and strengthen your remote working relationship with them.

Considering the challenges that come with remote communication can improve the way you connect with your remote contractors. It also helps you figure out the best strategy to optimise your workflow, making your remote working relationship more productive and efficient.