UK’s Multicultural Workplaces: Common challenges and how to address them

Julia Esguerra

11 October 2018    |   

If you think you’ve noticed a rise in migration in the UK over the past year, you are not wrong. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was a 13% increase in net migration from 2016 to 2017, with them mostly coming from non-EU countries. Migrants most commonly move for employment reasons, followed by formal study. Because of this, it’s no surprise that work environments in the country are becoming increasingly multicultural. With the benefits of new ideas and management techniques that international workers bring, also comes the introduction of different approaches in the workplace. We all know that misunderstandings stemming from differences in culture is nothing new, especially in the workplace. Here are some common cultural differences that carry over in the workplace: 1. Punctuality, time, and attendance Different cultures value time differently. This has become one of the biggest issues in multicultural offices. The British, Germans, and the Swiss are known to see time as linear. They value punctuality very highly and don’t approve of meetings that end later than they’re scheduled to. For them, being on time is a sign of respect. Spaniards, Italians, and Arabs, on the other hand, believe that establishing personal relationships is more important than being on time. When not managed correctly, this can cause tension among managers and employees. Read More: Only a Matter of Time: Punctuality and attendance in multicultural workplaces 2. Working outside of office hours Since 2017, France has been implementing a law called the “Right to Disconnect”, which basically gives employees the legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours. This protects them not just from not receiving fair pay for their overtime work but also from risks of stress, burnout, and relationship difficulties. This is very different from British workers who, as reported early this year, worked an average of over 7 hours a week without pay in 2017. Although this is most probably frowned upon there, too, there is a culture of working long hours that is simply accepted. 3. Casual vs. formal work interactions Although a more casual environment is becoming common, in many countries it is still the norm to be very formal, especially between employees and their managers – one of the most popular is Japan, where calling one’s manager by their first name is considered rude. This is very different from the culture in North America, where some of the biggest corporations such as Google and Facebook are adopting a casual environment and laid-back corporate culture. For the UK, it’s a little bit of both casual and formal. Brits still feel the need to acknowledge the distance and the roles between people and are very mindful of seniority when it comes to making decisions. However, daily interactions between managers and their subordinates are usually casual and informal. New employees from other cultural backgrounds may take a while to get used to this. How do misunderstandings affect productivity? Misunderstandings among colleagues may cause additional stress to employees. This is different from the kind of stress brought about by fatigue and exhaustion from their actual work. Employees who suffer from high-stress levels are more likely to have lower engagement, higher absenteeism levels, and less productivity. Beyond this, poor communication results in inefficient processes that not only waste time and resources but affect customer satisfaction as well. Overall, low morale in the workplace usually results in lower productivity for the business. It is of utmost importance for business owners to make sure morale inside the workplace is high because when employees are satisfied with their work, it usually carries over their performance as well. Affecting your employees in a positive way, whether it’s inside or outside the workplace, is something every business owner should strive for. Read more: Happiness and Healthcare: Why UK’s healthcare workers need a morale boost How should managers handle multiculturalism? Eliminating miscommunication with employees from different cultural backgrounds can be quite the challenge, even for seasoned managers. Management is one of the biggest factors that may make or break a multicultural environment. It is essential that those in the higher-ups adjust their leadership and management style based on the needs of the multicultural team, as these are very different from a traditional team’s. In line with this, leaders must also make sure that lines of communication are open for employees to exchange ideas with other employees and to give feedback to their managers. This way, diversity is maximised and used to the company’s advantage. Using software solutions can also help manage multicultural workplaces, like Time & Attendance software Tanda. Because the software automates and standardizes key administrative processes such as scheduling rotas and updating employees, there is no risk for things getting lost in translation or misinterpretation. Read more: William Gooderson’s 8 Characteristics of Good Managers Using technology to manage multicultural environments So how does Tanda do it? It sets the expectations for punctuality regardless of cultural background. Each week’s schedule is visible on the employee’s app, making it easy to establish exactly when they need to come in. Managers have a quick way of communicating updates and changes via SMS, email, or in-app notifications. Further, since leaves and unavailability can also be filed through Tanda, human error and ambiguity are removed from the process, making it easier for employees in a multicultural workplace to adapt. Miscommunication presents a barrier to efficient operations in multicultural work environments. Thankfully, there are accessible solutions that many businesses in the UK can avail of. In fact, over 100 businesses have teamed up with Tanda to ensure their employees can work well together, wherever they’re from. Tanda handles onboarding as well as day-to-day rota scheduling and leave management. Start your free trial today to find out more about what time and attendance software can do for your business! Ready to find out what Tanda can do for your business? Book a demo today.

If you think you’ve noticed a rise in migration in the UK over the past year, you are not wrong. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was a 13% increase in net migration from 2016 to 2017, with them mostly coming from non-EU countries. Migrants most commonly move for employment reasons, followed by formal study. Because of this, it’s no surprise that work environments in the country are becoming increasingly multicultural.

With the benefits of new ideas and management techniques that international workers bring, also comes the introduction of different approaches in the workplace. We all know that misunderstandings stemming from differences in culture is nothing new, especially in the workplace. Here are some common cultural differences that carry over in the workplace:

1. Punctuality, time, and attendance

Different cultures value time differently. This has become one of the biggest issues in multicultural offices. The British, Germans, and the Swiss are known to see time as linear. They value punctuality very highly and don’t approve of meetings that end later than they’re scheduled to. For them, being on time is a sign of respect. Spaniards, Italians, and Arabs, on the other hand, believe that establishing personal relationships is more important than being on time. When not managed correctly, this can cause tension among managers and employees.

Read More: Only a Matter of Time: Punctuality and attendance in multicultural workplaces

2. Working outside of office hours

Since 2017, France has been implementing a law called the “Right to Disconnect”, which basically gives employees the legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours. This protects them not just from not receiving fair pay for their overtime work but also from risks of stress, burnout, and relationship difficulties. This is very different from British workers who, as reported early this year, worked an average of over 7 hours a week without pay in 2017. Although this is most probably frowned upon there, too, there is a culture of working long hours that is simply accepted.

3. Casual vs. formal work interactions

Although a more casual environment is becoming common, in many countries it is still the norm to be very formal, especially between employees and their managers – one of the most popular is Japan, where calling one’s manager by their first name is considered rude. This is very different from the culture in North America, where some of the biggest corporations such as Google and Facebook are adopting a casual environment and laid-back corporate culture.

For the UK, it’s a little bit of both casual and formal. Brits still feel the need to acknowledge the distance and the roles between people and are very mindful of seniority when it comes to making decisions. However, daily interactions between managers and their subordinates are usually casual and informal. New employees from other cultural backgrounds may take a while to get used to this.

How do misunderstandings affect productivity?

Misunderstandings among colleagues may cause additional stress to employees. This is different from the kind of stress brought about by fatigue and exhaustion from their actual work. Employees who suffer from high-stress levels are more likely to have lower engagement, higher absenteeism levels, and less productivity. Beyond this, poor communication results in inefficient processes that not only waste time and resources but affect customer satisfaction as well.

Overall, low morale in the workplace usually results in lower productivity for the business. It is of utmost importance for business owners to make sure morale inside the workplace is high because when employees are satisfied with their work, it usually carries over their performance as well. Affecting your employees in a positive way, whether it’s inside or outside the workplace, is something every business owner should strive for.

Read more: Happiness and Healthcare: Why UK’s healthcare workers need a morale boost

How should managers handle multiculturalism?

Eliminating miscommunication with employees from different cultural backgrounds can be quite the challenge, even for seasoned managers. Management is one of the biggest factors that may make or break a multicultural environment. It is essential that those in the higher-ups adjust their leadership and management style based on the needs of the multicultural team, as these are very different from a traditional team’s.

In line with this, leaders must also make sure that lines of communication are open for employees to exchange ideas with other employees and to give feedback to their managers. This way, diversity is maximised and used to the company’s advantage.

Using software solutions can also help manage multicultural workplaces, like Time & Attendance software Tanda. Because the software automates and standardizes key administrative processes such as scheduling rotas and updating employees, there is no risk for things getting lost in translation or misinterpretation.

Read more: William Gooderson’s 8 Characteristics of Good Managers

Using technology to manage multicultural environments

So how does Tanda do it? It sets the expectations for punctuality regardless of cultural background. Each week’s schedule is visible on the employee’s app, making it easy to establish exactly when they need to come in. Managers have a quick way of communicating updates and changes via SMS, email, or in-app notifications. Further, since leaves and unavailability can also be filed through Tanda, human error and ambiguity are removed from the process, making it easier for employees in a multicultural workplace to adapt.

Miscommunication presents a barrier to efficient operations in multicultural work environments. Thankfully, there are accessible solutions that many businesses in the UK can avail of. In fact, over 100 businesses have teamed up with Tanda to ensure their employees can work well together, wherever they’re from. Tanda handles onboarding as well as day-to-day rota scheduling and leave management. Start your free trial today to find out more about what time and attendance software can do for your business!

Ready to find out what Tanda can do for your business? Book a demo today.

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Julia Esguerra

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