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How to Work Across Time Zones as a Remote Team: Best Practices

Here’s how to manage remote developers across different time zones

Conducting meetings for a group of 10 or more busy individuals may be difficult; doing so for a globally scattered team in multiple time zones can be plain terrifying. It does not, however, have to be. Working across time zones is a difficulty that isn't going away anytime soon, but you're not alone.

As more businesses go remote, a new wave of businesses is focusing on honing the art of working as a globally distributed workforce. It makes perfect sense. If you're already working remotely, why not tap into the vast global talent pool to locate the top candidates? Some people's answer is that they don't know how to work across many time zones in spite of having a time zone manager.

Despite the apparent hurdles, such as the issue of organizing meetings across time zones with substantial time zone differences, the advantages exceed the constraints – at least from a corporate standpoint. Let's take a deeper look at what it means to operate across time zones and how you may develop better methods to meet the needs of a globally scattered workforce.

What Sorts of Teams are Most Likely to Collaborate Across Time Zones?

Cloud computing enabled various businesses to embrace some type of remote work paradigm. Naturally, corporations leaped at the chance to choose from a worldwide pool of talent, which is essentially the driving cause behind the establishment of teams that span many time zones. Nonetheless, although it may be relatively easy for a software business to adapt its processes to function across time zones, this strategy is just not sustainable for other sectors and teams. Let's take a closer look at the sorts of teams that are leading the way in cross-time zone collaboration with proper time zone management.

  • IT: It's truly a no-brainer, especially given that information technology is what made remote working feasible in the first place. Long before the pandemic shut down the globe, IT corporations pioneered remote labor. Initially, the remote workforce appeared to be the ideal method for businesses to save expenses until they discovered other benefits such as global talent and diversity-led innovation.

  • Marketing: Teams engaging in social media marketing, in particular, are prone to operating across time zones. Again, because it's an industry that services worldwide markets, it's a totally normal practice to be visible on different social media platforms to varying hours of the day or night, depending on the target audience's time zone.

  • Sales: Concurrently, sales companies that rely heavily on social media for lead generation are more likely to hire foreign teams who work across time zones.

  • Customer Service: For the sheer simplicity of addressing varied consumer demographics across time zones, virtual tech support teams frequently employ worldwide workers.

How can Teams Manage Working Across Time Zones Most Effectively?

So, what distinguishes global teams that thrive from those that fail? How can one ensure that they enjoy all of the benefits while avoiding the inconveniences of working across time zones? Let us investigate. We'll go through the seven tried and tested methods that geographically scattered teams may take to improve formal and informal communication, trust, and cooperation across all teams.

  • Make excellent communication a priority When attempting to develop functioning global teams, firms must first prioritize communication. Teams operating across several time zones cannot comprehend the message through synchronized conversation, facial expressions, or nonverbal indicators. As previously said, this can lead to misconceptions, which can substantially disrupt operational operations and cause unnecessary delays.

Companies who need time zone management must reconsider traditional communication channels, such as email, and embrace more flexible solutions and approaches to create more space for productive conversation. Asynchronous communication has been established as the ideal technique for enterprises that operate across time zones. The asynchronous technique, in addition to removing the time limitation of the previous synchronous approach, ideally assures communication records stay available.

Distributed teams must prioritize efficient, textual communication to successfully use fundamental concepts of asynchronous communication. When working on a report, for example, internationally dispersed peers may not always be able to ping a co-worker and acquire the needed information straight once. This is why it is critical to maintain thorough written records of all procedures and initiatives. Always check each document, guidance, or message for clarity. Also, verify that everyone engaged has the necessary administrative access to avoid late-night calls, hold-ups, and rescheduling.

Organizations may benefit from team chat applications and collaboration technologies that provide quick file sharing, limitless chat history, seamless search, and file browsers to promote simplified communication across internationally scattered teams. The pin function is another vital feature of such team chat applications since it helps keep critical papers top of mind and quickly accessible.

  • Support asynchronous collaborations

To maximize their procedures and general culture, internationally distributed teams typically choose asynchronous collaboration as their preferred approach. This is not unexpected considering that the adaptability of asynchronous collaboration is the appropriate solution to the issues of time zone management. Geographically scattered teams could also consider going the additional mile and implementing a full-fledged asynchronous collaboration strategy, which includes a comprehensive set of structures and processes required for maximum operational efficiency in time zone management. However, this might be a new challenge.

  • Implement a mindful approach when booking meetings across time zones.

Working out the technicalities of creating the ideal meeting schedule that coincides with your team's work hours is sometimes impossible. Sure, there are lots of tools that may assist you to gain a clear understanding of international time variations between your team's locations. Still, there is often a lack of a fair overlap to organize your meetings around.

When we consider the general meeting overload phenomena that today's workplace culture is facing, we may begin to reconsider the entire idea, particularly the unique aspects of time zone management. Corporations spend around one-fifth of their time in meetings and we can only imagine what it signifies for scattered teams that must put in extra effort to arrange a flawless timetable that does not disrupt the people involved in their usual work and sleep routines.

Although there is no single ideal solution that will solve the problem for every firm, the mindful approach may give the best idea for the bulk of organizations who are looking at alternative ways to handle the scheduling of meetings across time zones. For example, businesses should consider establishing and adhering to time zone management for their teams. Teams, for example, can build shared calendars that reflect their availability throughout the day to ensure no time zone borders are crossed.

Furthermore, businesses should reconsider the overall efficacy of each meeting. It's a good idea to limit meetings to exchanging information that can't be transmitted using a team chat app, a paper, an email, or a note. While a video conference is ideal for team brainstorming sessions, a basic weekly report does not necessitate a 5 a.m. all-hands call.

  • Consider establishing a Single Official Time Zone.

With all of the applications and tools available, time zone differences may cause a lot of confusion among individuals who operate across time zones. When each management schedules meetings and project deadlines based on their own time zone, there will undoubtedly be inconsistencies as employees working in other time zones attempt to adapt this to their own time zone.

To avoid the frequent issue of working across time zones, businesses might establish an official time zone for all team members to use when scheduling meetings or establishing deadlines. Teams can prevent misunderstanding, misalignment, and delays this way. Employees can quickly find out the time zone difference for their location and prepare appropriately if a standard time zone is in place.

  • Keep Cultural Standards in Mind.

Teams with a globally scattered workforce must pay extra attention to understanding and optimizing for cultural differences. Cultural, religious, and ethnic origins significantly influence your employees' communication patterns, cooperation techniques, and work schedules. Consider keeping a list of all cultural holidays to ensure that no meetings or group work sessions are scheduled around those periods. Organizations should demonstrate awareness and allow room for varied cultural representations to thrive while driving innovation ahead to provide an inclusive and productive work environment for all members of their remote workforce.

  • Promote virtual watercooler conversations.

Teams that operate remotely and across time zones miss out on the spontaneous conversations that co-workers in the office are accustomed to. The social separation can result in various productivity and personal challenges that can wreak havoc on your business over time. To create better connections within your team, be intentional about bridging time zones, cultural divides, and generational gaps, and generating additional opportunities for engagement among your remote team members.

Of course, for companies that work across time zones, this sort of endeavor would include devising clever ways to get everyone on board and participate in the dialogue. To start a casual discussion, you must first get to know your team members and tap into their common interests.

Encourage employees to create their own shared experiences in workplace team chat applications, according to certain best practice examples. The most popular corporate channels in team chat applications are generally public, #random, or some more particular channels that attract individuals who have similar hobbies (e.g., #books, #games, #memes). These virtual places would encourage teams to contribute to the casual conversation thread in an ideal world regardless of when they signed in.

  • Make plans for occasional get-togethers.

Even as the world moves toward a remote work paradigm, in-person team meetings still have a lot of value. After all, there are only so many things that can be communicated online. While the digital workplace may fully complement all work activities, firms advocating a remote-first work culture suffer the most from a lack of social interaction. Consider hosting live meetups whenever feasible to help your scattered staff connect. These activities, therefore, can put a burden on the firm's financial resources, yet, an occasional company team-building event can yield important returns in terms of overall productivity, trust, and team spirit inside your scattered organization.

Of course, if you can't afford to fly your complete staff to a destination regularly, virtual team-building activities can help you maintain team spirit in the meantime. In the team chat app you use, you may ask your team members to join a private group or a public channel — for example, #group-activities, #team fun times, or simply #team-building. You may suggest engaging team activities and play entertaining team-building games intended for virtual teams there. Just make sure that the time of these events works for everyone’s schedules.

The Benefits of Working Across Time Zones

Although managing a geographically scattered workforce might be difficult at times, the method has several advantages. This is why we're witnessing a constant growth in the number of organizations hiring abroad. To better grasp the trend, let's break down all of the advantages of working across time zones.

  • Gaining access to a global talent pool: One of the primary things that influenced the entire movement in the first place was the ability to choose the greatest talent regardless of location. Organizations realized the enormous potential in the capacity to transcend the constraints of the traditional, in-office, or remote-friendly work paradigm that involves at least some onsite labor, and jumped at the chance to enter a global employment market.

  • Enhanced profitability and innovation: Diversity and inclusion encourage creativity and positively influence overall company goals in distant enterprises that span multiple time zones. Because they are exposed to many ideas and viewpoints, organizations that employ culturally diverse people, particularly in upper management positions, tend to avoid the echo-chamber effect and uniformity. Understandably, this method encourages innovation and leads to more profits in the long run.

  • Boost in productivity: Over the last year, an enormous amount of study has been performed to examine the impacts of pandemic-mandated distant labor. And the great majority of the research came to the same conclusion: the approach's flexibility and freedom have a significant influence on productivity in the virtual workplace. The large productivity improvement has been made possible by a general absence of interruptions, and a shorter commuting time and the overall comfort of the home or other selected work setting. And, as the epidemic fades and firms issue return-to-work notes, it's back to business as usual for teams operating across time zones.

  • Reduced distraction for individuals: As crucial as maintaining a strong relationship between distant employees through constant contact and real-time cooperation, there is also a compelling justification for asynchronous, no-distraction work. This is especially true for creative activity that necessitates intense concentration. We've all heard that it takes around 25 minutes to resume your process flow following an interruption. Multiply this by the number of pings an ordinary employee receives on a regular workday, and it's clear that working alone, or in a smaller team, for several hours without overlap with the entire business has a lot of advantages. As a result, any degree of time zone difference may be leveraged to the advantage of distributed teams, as it allows employees to work uninterrupted.

  • The remote company's workflow is unaffected: Working across time zones is also advantageous to businesses on a wider, operational level. Working in remote teams across time zones means an around-the-clock process. Companies with diversified staff spread across several time zones benefit from comprehensive time zone coverage. Having all shifts and time zones covered is especially useful for support and customer service since it eliminates the need for personnel to work over the traditional work hours in their nations in the event of an emergency. Other departments and sectors, though, can also profit from the strategy. Have you heard the big news? There is a crew on standby to provide prompt coverage.

Wrapping Up Working across time zones presents distinct issues not seen in more standard work structures. Because the benefits exceed the negatives, it's worth investigating the best team practices outlined above to make working across time zones successful. They will assist you in developing the ideal combination of flexibility, asynchronous work, and an inclusive mentality to propel your remote team to continuous success.

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