Work cultures around the world

24th February 2020

The world economy is more global than ever, supply chains and resources are more and more interconnected as time goes on. Even though people are more connected in modern times, there are strong differences that still remain in the cultures of the home and the workplace. Business etiquette and business culture can vary vastly from country to country. The differences can be as simple as an earlier lunch hour, or something more complex as the style of language in use. With the rise of remote workers, freelancing, telecommuting, and contract work, it is becoming more common to see people of all nations working together. Learning to communicate with co-workers from diverse parts of the world is a critical skill for the modern-day work force.

One key method to discovering the culture of a business is to examine the structure of the company. This in a sense is the cultural skeleton. From the 1960s to the year 2020 changes in organizational structure have focused on becoming leaner and supporting innovation. The lean enterprise model was introduced to the world by Toyota in the 1970s. This model made its way around the world and was adopted in different ways. Some countries maintain a more traditional way of operating. For example, in Japan, China and Hong Kong, seals or stamps have historically been used by government officials instead of a signature. In Japan seals are still in use for conducting business and banking, a Jitsuin is an officially registered seal.

When examining the organizational structure of businesses around the world the key differences can be pared down to individualism and collectivism. In short East and West, the Eastern world encompasses the nations of Asia and the Middle East. The West is comprised of Europe, North and South America, New Zealand and Australia. In a study conducted by the OECD found some interesting statistics in the area of corporate governance. In many Asian countries’ ownership is very concentrated to an individual or small number of shareholders. The ownership structure of listed companies in Bangladesh is highly concentrated, with only a few companies that have dispersed ownership structures. The majority of securities in Bangladesh are owned by individual shareholders and controlling families.

This is very reflective of the structure of the companies in Asia. While many western companies will have a flat hierarchy, many companies in countries like China will have a more formal top down approach. Collectivism is characterized by emphasis on cohesiveness among individuals and prioritizing of the group over the self. A great example of this is collective fitness. From school to the workplace group exercise regimens are commonly used in Japan and China. It is not uncommon to see coworkers performing simple exercise routines as a unit at various times of the day.

Daily routines are another aspect of the vastly different workplace cultures from around the world. In Sweden it is believed that taking breaks is good for productivity. Their coffee break (fika) give the Swedish works a chance to relax and enjoy a coffee with coworkers. Some Swedish companies have a formal fika where they schedule the breaks at 9 and 3, this is believed to build good relationships and boost productivity.

Supporting diverse routines is a goal that 1Time Tracking can help to achieve. Each employee records their time and schedule, the email reminders make sure that the documentation of the times is not forgotten.  No matter where in the world your employee is based, if they are a contract worker or just in a different time zone, our team view and project task solutions offer full visibility of the time being used. 1Time Tracking is available to download as a free trial, you can see for yourself how well it can fit into the culture of your company.

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