For Developers

The Pros and Cons of Working Across Time Zones

With the remote first work culture spreading across the globe, many companies have employees scattered all over the world. This is a big advantage for companies that provide global products as they have 24-hour support readily available for their consumers. Although having a global team can boost productivity in a company, there are quite a few challenges especially when it comes to management as everyone works across different time zones.

Below we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of working across time zones and possible ways a company can mitigate the limitations that come with this kind of organizational structure.

Pros of working across time zones

  1. Hire the best talent Having a remote first work culture means you have access to a wider pool of talent and skillsets. This means that the company is in a better position to acquire a diverse workforce that is tailor-made for the organization and also has employees with vast experience.

  2. Company diversity Having a team that works across time zones can be advantageous especially when it comes to providing good customer service. Clients can receive immediate feedback without any language barriers or cultural differences. Since everyone has diverse work experience, the company has the ability to build world class products that can boost productivity and financial metrics according to the research done by Mckinsey.

  3. High productivity Studies have shown that companies that have shifted to remote work culture have increased productivity. Adopting asynchronous communication enables each individual to stay well informed about the projects they are working on and changes that need to be made when building products.

Having teams across time zones is the greatest investment any company could venture into. Different perspectives and broad ideas can move the company's vision forward and scale up the business by a considerable margin. Although this may sound like a bed of roses, it actually isn’t. There are certain disadvantages or challenges that come with having a team across time zones.

Challenges of working remotely across time zones

  1. Communication challenges To make a remote team function, there is a need for a clear communication strategy to be established. This can be a very challenging task especially when everyone is scattered around the world, speaking different languages and cultural differences. Enforcing and executing assigned tasks where there isn’t proper effective communication can be a daunting experience. In such situations, time and resources which could have been allocated somewhere else are usually wasted on trying to get the job done.

  2. Difficulty in scheduling meetings Finding the right time to schedule meetings is the most common challenging part when having a team working in different time zones. It is a rather difficult task to find the right time to set up a meeting where the entire team can attend. To make this work, a lot of compromises and sacrifices have to be made by each team member in order to scale up the company.

  3. Slow collaborations across teams Collaborating in a remote team spanning across different time zones can be a huge challenge. Most teams experience delays in communication hindering the progress or deployment of a product.

  4. Isolation Working remotely can make one feel isolated from others. There's a lack of social and human interaction during working hours which can be needed for anyone to boost their productive working mood as no man is an island.

There are ways to combat the difficulties of working across time zones that can be adopted as part of constructing a good working culture as a developer.

How to tackle the challenges of working across time zones

Flexibility

Flexibility simply equates to adaptation. In order for the company to be effective and at the same time productive, adaptation will be the key to unlocking that potential. The question will be how then do we ensure that the work environment is flexible enough for all team members across all time zones? The company has to integrate a working system that is very clear to enable team members to understand what is required from them when it comes to collaborations, meet-ups, or any cross functional brainstorming sessions. It is therefore a good practice for a company to inform their employees prior to hiring that they will be required to work overlapping hours to ensure the company runs smoothly. It also prepares the team mentally and helps them to divide, manage their workload effectively knowing time overlap is a requirement to keep the company moving forward.

Effective communication

The dissemination of information comes in several forms and a good communication format can make a tremendous difference in an organization, especially working with teams across different time zones. Making use of communication platforms like Slack and Discord can be an effective way to always keep the team in the loop. Constant communication on future events, reminders to join certain meetings can be done on these platforms.

Team members working in different time zones are also able to communicate with each other, getting to know each other’s times and their productive hours as well. Overall such information has to be as clear as it can be and if there is a language barrier, grouping team members according to their languages can be a good tactical move. This can only work if the company has the vision to expand to those regions.

Every meeting held has to be recorded for future referencing and for other team members who were not able to attend to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It is therefore important to note that communication is the backbone of every organization, even more important to companies that have employees that work across time zones. It saves time, money, and resources are allocated effectively and put into efficient use.

Work/Life balance

With the ever-increasing demand for a workforce that can work across time zones, a lot of pressure has also emanated from the failure to maintain a work-life balance. This is because the majority of the time, there isn’t any separation of the two. Some employees have to work during midnight hours in order to accommodate others and hence one’s sleeping pattern changes and if not managed, demotivation, brain drain can arise. Companies must therefore ensure that their policy implemented promotes work-life balance. Policies like an unlimited amount of time off with the condition that you do not lag behind and underperform can also be one of the examples of a good work-life balance. Some companies have introduced a 4 days a week policy in their effort to take off the pressure that comes from working across time zones as compensation. This in many cases has improved productivity in more companies that have employees that work in different time zones.

Collaboration Tools

Now that remote work is becoming popular, there are tools that are readily available to help teams that are working across time zones to scale up in their work like :

  • Google Calendar This great tool can be very handy when it comes to time management and accurately synchronizing the correct time zones for meetings.

  • Asana/Trello When teams are looking to collaborate, Trello and Asana are great project management tools. They help teams working across time zones collaborate effectively, providing easy tracking for projects.

  • Zoom/Google Meet Holding meetings for teams working across time zones is very important as everyone needs to stay informed with the company's updates and product progress. Using Zoom or google meet makes life easy by bringing everyone from different time zones together.

  • Calendly Scheduling meetings for teams across different time zones has been made easy by this great tool. It easily integrates with emails when booking calls.

Conclusion

Different time zone implies different cultures, diverse skill sets, and more importantly a wide generation of fresh new perspectives from across the globe. If the companies that ventured into this kind of setup are able to embrace it and use it to their advantage, growth is, therefore, a possibility. However, there is a need for a clear-cut balance between the challenges and the advantages that come with having employees that work across different time zones. Taking into account that whatever concerns the employees, can ultimately affect the company as a whole, therefore the needs of the workforce are to be taken into consideration when deciding on any strategic or tactical move that will advance the company’s vision forward.

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