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Working Remotely in Different Time Zones: Best Tools and Practices

Working Remotely in Different Time Zones: Best Tools and Practices

As remote work becomes a staple in the global workforce, managers are learning that globally distributed teams can benefit a company's capacity to tap into the worldwide talent pool. But working remotely in different time zones comes with its own set of challenges.

A globally distributed team means employees can have freedom and autonomy over their schedules. For employers, the benefits of remote work span from reduced overhead costs, being recession-proof all the way to reaching diversity goals.

According to McKinsey, companies with a diverse workforce are 35% more likely to outperform competitors. While diverse management teams lead to 19% higher revenue, as reported by BCG.

Despite the benefits, collaboration can get complicated when dealing with different time zones. A simple task like scheduling a meeting suddenly becomes a game of Tetris when trying to find a time that suits everyone. 

That's why corporations constantly look for ways to work successfully across different time zones.

The good news is that working in a globally distributed team can be very rewarding. With the right tools and processes, you can make the most of your different time zones and create an effective high-performance team.

Make things easier on yourself and your team by implementing the following tips and tools.

Benefits of working remotely across different time zones

Operating with a team that is spread across the world requires effort and intentionality, but the benefits are more significant than the challenges. Let's examine how companies can benefit from a globally distributed workforce.

1. Increased productivity

Remote workers can work when they feel most productive. If you work across time zones, this can result in having more people working throughout the day on different tasks. Projects get constant updates and thus result in more productive teams.

1. More flexibility

Remote employees have ownership over their schedules. When there are team members from around the world, there doesn't have to be a strict 9 to 5 schedule. For workers this looks like having time to take care of loved ones or taking time for personal errands.

1. Access to a broader talent pool

With the ability to hire remote workers from all over the world, companies can access a much broader range of talent than they would be able to if they were limited to local candidates.

4. Improved communication and collaboration

Having to work in different time zones requires communication to be extra precise. This helps improve collaboration since everyone has to be on the same page.  

Challenges of working in different time zones

Managers must align operations and reduce disruptions when working with globally distributed teams. The greatest challenge of remote work comes down to efficiently coordinating and managing a company's inner workings. It's crucial to tackle these issues to have a solid company culture where all employees feel acknowledged. Here are some of the most common problems that arise in this situation.

1. Language and culture barriers.

Working with people from different cultures requires managers to be very clear in their communications. This can be more challenging when you need to work in different time zones since there is a greater chance of misinterpretation. It's also essential for managers to learn about the culture where their remote team members are located and how this might impact how they work together.

2. Scheduling meeting times

Working with people in different time zones is not as simple as scheduling meetings at 9 am and 3 pm on both sides of the globe. Meeting times need to be adjusted for when people will be awake and available.

3. Isolation

An international team is more likely to experience feelings of isolation and being left out of the company culture and general social interactions. This can make it more challenging to create a strong sense of togetherness.

4. Work can go unrecognized

When teams are spread across time zones, sharing insights about work progress can take time and effort. This can make it more difficult for teams to feel like their work is recognized and valued.  

How to overcome time zone differences when working remotely

If you're managing a globally distributed team, you know very well the struggles of traversing different time zones and cultural barriers. When things get hectic, remember to follow these best practices to make things easier for yourself.

1. Be flexible

Working remotely means setting your own hours and working from home or another location. This may mean that your employees need to work during the hours when it's most convenient for them. That could mean starting work early in the morning or late at night so that their day aligns with their local time zone. It's also helpful to let your team members know your work hours and when you are available for check-ins and brief chats.

2. Don't expect instant response times

You should give your employees time to respond when you reach out via email or chat. They may not be able to reply immediately because of time zone differences. Be mindful of these differences when contacting employees, and try to schedule emails or messages at a convenient time for the other party.

3. Keep communication clear and consistent

If you're working with people who are located across multiple time zones, it's important to keep communication clear and consistent so that everyone can take ownership of their tasks and workflows.

In this scenario, companies must adopt flexible communication methods instead of traditional channels. Asynchronous communication can be an efficient approach to operating in different time zones. This method ensures that all workflows and processes are recorded and visible to those who need them.

4. Make time for social interaction

When working with geographically dispersed people, it's essential to be intentional about team building. You can keep team morale high by promoting social interactions and setting aside specific times for employees to get to know each other. If the time zones are too far apart, you can have async communication channels dedicated exclusively to holding water cooler chats and discussing other non-work-related topics.

Essential tools for owning time zone differences

To help your team stay on the same page and ensure everyone's sharing information at the right time, here are the tools you need to ensure everyone is in sync.

Calendar

Apps like Google Calendar can do the heavy lifting since they show you meeting times in your local time zones. When scheduling a meeting with a team member on the other side of the world, it's easier if you don't have to do complex calculations to figure out a time that works for both parties. Having a shared calendar also helps keep track of local holidays observed in each country.

Messaging apps

Specify which communication channel will be used across the company and ensure communication guidelines are in place. Clarify if people need to be available at certain hours or communication will be completely asynchronous. Messaging apps like Slack can be effective for teams that need to stay updated synchronously, but email might be better for teams using an async method.

Project management tools

Tools like Monday, ClickUp, Asana, or Trello can help you keep track of tasks and deadlines. With these tools, team members know exactly what they're responsible for, can start tasks immediately, and leave comments or updates for their coworkers to address during their shifts.

Playbooks and handbooks

Managing employees across the world requires clear communication and workflows. Companies must make sure to have detailed playbooks or culture handbooks that employees can look up at all times. This way, the company can ensure that all employees follow the same processes and workflows. The handbooks should contain information about company culture and policies and relevant records from each department.

Frequently asked questions about working remotely in different time zones

How to manage remote teams in different time zones

Managing remote teams in different time zones can be challenging. The key is ensuring that your employees are aligned with your company's values and understand what's expected of them. It's essential to clearly outline processes and workflows and have proper communication channels that allow all team members to stay connected.

How to manage meetings in different time zones

Be mindful of all team members working hours and schedule meetings at a convenient time for everyone. You can send out a meeting agenda beforehand to ensure everyone comes prepared and the sessions are efficient. Be sure to evaluate if the meeting is absolutely necessary. If not, send out an email or create a document that your team members can refer to instead of attending the meeting.

What is time zone etiquette?

When working with teammates in different time zones, respecting their working hours is vital. Be mindful of the time differences and avoid scheduling meetings at odd hours. If you're in a different time zone, don't expect people to be available during your working hours. Be patient while waiting for responses, and go back to your communication guidelines for best practices.

Conclusion

If you're going to work with a team that is across multiple time zones, there are several things you can do to make everyone's schedule run as smoothly as possible.

The most important thing to remember is to be mindful of the time differences and respect each team member's working hours.

By having clear guidelines on how communication is supposed to look and how workflows are expected to run, work can be done smoothly even if employees live on opposite sides of the world.

Another important aspect of remote work is having the right tools to complete everyday tasks. Companies need to make sure their teammates have what they need to thrive. If you are looking for an easy way to set up employees worldwide, give us a shout. At GroWrk, we specialize in IT equipment management for globally distributed teams. Request a demo today to fast-track your company's growth.

Mara Quintanilla

December 7

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