The world of work has drastically changed over the past two years, with the majority of organisations adopting remote working models and expanding their teams across time zones. Technology has afforded us many luxuries when it comes to remote working, from the latest tools to stay connected through to being able to live abroad or outside of the city for a better work-life balance. But, working across multiple time zones can be challenging, especially if you’re a global team!
Here are some tactics to make collaborating across time zones a lot smoother:
Use a centralised communication platform
First thing’s first, invest in some good technology to make collaboration easier. Although emailing can be a great tool for some projects, the majority of the time things can get lost in varying threads, and can be difficult to keep up with due to the lack of functionality and customisation most email providers have.
A platform like Slack (or its equivalent) enables better communication across teams, allows you to personalise channels and also has integrations with many other platforms for a seamless experience. If Slack isn’t something you wish you use, Teams, Meet or an equivalent can be just as effective.
Working across time zones requires for everybody in the team (or organisation) to have the right boundaries in place when communicating and also surrounding expectations and deadlines. Even with a three or four-hour time difference, there will be times when you’ll have to compromise and do team calls or chats either earlier in your morning, or later in your evening.
It’s part and parcel of working across time zones, and can work well if you have the right boundaries in place. For example, if one month you are doing calls very early in the morning, see if the rest of the team can be flexible the following month. Take it in turns so no one is compromising on a consistent basis, instead the “burden” that can come with working earlier or later is shared.
Especially with deadlines, understand that with big time differences (exceeding three hours) things will take longer. Be mindful that “fast turnarounds” may not exist in some instances, and setting this type of expectation takes away the benefits that come with remote working and collaborating with an international team. Additionally, it will reduce the quality of your work.
Asynchronous working is a great model to embrace (whereby you don’t have set hours or needing to synchronise your diaries) to help individuals have a mindset of mindfulness towards each other. Naturally, there will be time-sensitive projects, but the vast majority can be managed asynchronously.
Technology and communication aside, working across time zones effectively is all about being organised. Not only will this make your team more productive - as you spend less time procrastinating or chatting, and more time doing, but it will actually make working a lot easier.
It goes without saying that organisation will reduce the overall stress levels of a team, but it’s something that many companies and teams struggled with during the pandemic due to never needing to work in this way before. Organisation will buy you more time, enable you to do more, and ultimately have a happier team and culture.
Don’t alter your body clock, under any circumstances
We’ve spoken about sleep and stress management many times before, but when collaborating across time zones it’s imperative that you don’t push yourself mentally and physically to the point of burnout. Particularly as a leader, it can be difficult to maintain an “always on” mindset if you’ve got 50% of your team in one location and the remaining 50% in another. And, the reality is that being “on” all the time will just affect other areas of your work and personal life.
In summary… it works as well as you want it to!
Although there are challenges that naturally come with working across time zones and collaborating effectively, if there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s largely built on trust, organisation, and communication - and if you can nail all three, then you’ll have a well-oiled international machine (no matter what time of day it is!)
Remember to join the conversation down in the comments!
Tell us your experience of tackling the time zone challenge, and share your own tips.