Remote work is on the rise. According to Flexjobs, there has been a 159% increase in remote work between 2005 and 2017. More and more companies allow their employees to work from home. At the same time, a growing number of businesses decide to overcome traditional geographic limitations to hire remote talents from all over the world. In itself, having access to a global talent pool is a huge advantage for organizations, but managing a globally distributed team also has its challenges.
Collaborating across different time zones is probably the one that immediately jumps to mind. But what about managing holidays for a team of remote employees? While organizing annual leave is a pretty straightforward process with employees usually having to request it in advance, the real challenge lies in handling public holidays for a global team. Having to coordinate the local holidays of several different countries can be quite tricky. And it’s not only managers who might struggle to keep things on track with employees being absent on varying days throughout the year. Other colleagues might also find it difficult if they can’t get hold of one of their remote workmates.
In this article, we will look at different ways of managing local holidays for your distributed team and give you some hands-on tips you can implement straightaway to make your life easier.
Managing remote teams: Public holidays around the world
Every country has its own unique public holidays which mark commemorative days for important historic events or special cultural or religious festivities. Sometimes, the number of bank holidays even differs from region to region (for instance in Germany or India). While remote employees in some countries enjoy up to 28 public holidays per year, others have to be content with as little as 7 days.
With between 18 and 28 festive days per year, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, Colombia and the Philippines are on top of the list. Most European countries observe between 10 and 14 public holidays. If you average the number of paid public holidays across all 195 countries in the world, you end up with 11 days.
However, the number alone isn’t enough to draw a comparison between countries. This is because public holidays don’t automatically entitle employees to a day of rest. In the Netherlands, for instance, there is no legal right to a day off on a public holiday. Same goes for the US. In other countries, employees might have a day off but it will be unpaid.
For more detailed insights into employment laws and employee benefits around the world, visit our Global Hiring Guide. A direct comparison of required paid vacation days for the most popular hiring destinations is available in our article on annual leave per country.
How many public holidays for your remote employees?
Companies who hire remote employees in different countries around the world have different options to set public holidays for their team. The first and probably most intuitive one is to grant each employee the number of public holidays which are observed in their country of residence. This is also the case if you hire a remote full-time employee with an Employer of Record (EOR) who will employ the worker on your behalf using an employment contract with a local benefit package.
A different way of managing local holidays for a distributed team is to make the public holidays which are observed in the organization’s home country a standard for every employee, regardless of their location. While this solves the trouble of having to coordinate public holiday schedules in different countries, it is not the most employee-friendly one – just imagine what it’s like having to work when everyone around you is enjoying a day off and, in return, having a day off and no one else to share it with.
And last but not least, it’s possible to define a fixed number of additional vacation days which can be used flexibly to cover public holidays in their country of residence. Although it’s a possible approach to handling local holidays for your globally distributed team, it’s not the most common one. Partly because – despite ensuring equal treatment of employees – it increases complexity for the management as it means even more planning is required.
Tips for managing local holidays for your global team
With employees being out of office at different times – i.e. not working because it’s a public holiday in their country, it’s quite easy to lose track. Luckily, there are some very simple measures remote teams can take to keep up a smooth workflow and avoid annoying situations where important requests sit unanswered. Here are some tips on how to handle public holidays when you have a remote workforce that is spread across different countries.
Create a team schedule for local holidays
There are numerous calendar and planning tools out there which allow you to create a comprehensive team schedule which visualizes the public holidays in every single hiring destination as well as the remote team members which will be enjoying days off on these particular dates. Just make sure everyone in your organization has access to the schedule and you will prevent possible problems.
Encourage proactive communication in your remote team
The problem with remote employees having different public holidays is not their absence as such but the lack of communication which often results in team members not knowing that their colleague won’t be available to answer urgent queries. This is why it’s vital for managers to encourage the members of their global team to communicate openly and proactively about their days off.
Or, from the remote employee’s perspective: If there are important meetings being scheduled, make sure to let your colleagues and superiors know that you will be on holiday on that particular day. If an important project you are working on is in its final phase, it’s crucial to communicate your absence in advance to avoid unnecessary hold-ups which affect the entire team. In large international teams spanning across many different countries, it may even be a good idea to create a work replacement schedule so everyone in the organization can see who to turn to if the colleague they initially needed advice from has a day off.
Get your remote employees to set notifications on Slack, email etc.
No matter which communication tool you use with your remote team, make sure that your employees set the right notifications when they are out of office. Getting everyone to update their Slack status to let other team members know they are not working – and add information on when they will be back to work – is one example. The same goes for email notifications which are intended for colleagues as well as for clients and other externals.
Introduce a public holiday policy for your remote team
All the tips we shared with you count for nothing if your employees aren’t aware of the expected procedures. Be clear about what the members of your global team are required to do in order to help make public holiday management simpler and more efficient. As your team grows, you should consider introducing a company policy on how to handle local holidays.
Using local holidays to raise cultural awareness
Cultural competence is one of the key competencies in globally distributed teams. But just as with any other competence, it’s not something that is simply there. Instead, cultural competence needs to be developed over time. Celebrating public holidays of different countries is a good opportunity to promote cultural awareness among the members of your remote team. Why not get your remote employees to share their local holidays and celebrations with their colleagues?
How we manage local holidays at Lano
At Lano, remote employees who are hired via our EOR partners get the public holidays of their country of residence. We have a shared team calendar in Google where everyone logs their own public holidays. For countries where we have a larger group of employees (like Germany or Ukraine), public holidays are already registered in the team calendar. In addition, we have a courtesy policy in place which asks employees to always keep their Slack status updated and have an email message set up for when they are out of office.
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