By Maria Thimothy, sr. consultant at OneIMS who helps businesses grow by creating & capturing demand & managing & nurturing relationships.
Remote working has been a big change for many companies as they learn to adapt to this new model. While in some industries the shift has been met with resistance, others have embraced the opportunities that come with being able to employ the best talent from around the globe. Of course, for those of us who are used to brick-and-mortar office spaces where most colleagues are present and readily available to communicate with at a moment’s notice, working across time zones can prove challenging.
With individuals’ working hours varying across time zones, the overlap for collaborative working time is reduced significantly. However, this does not mean that collaboration is impossible or that remote working is doomed to fail. Instead, by making a few simple adjustments to the way we work, we can get the most from our teams and also minimize stress.
Know where you stand.
When you have a team spread across the world, it is important to establish what time zones they are in as well as their preferred working hours, so that you can get a better idea of their availability. This information should be reflected in your shared calendars as well as your collaboration tools, meeting apps and project management apps. This way, teams can have an at-a-glance overview of where their colleagues are and determine the best times to schedule calls and meetings. Establishing how many overlapping work hours people share will inform the way they collaborate–either synchronously or asynchronously.
Synchronous work refers to the style of communication most of us are already using in the workplace where we are expected to be immediately responsive to colleagues’ messages, emails and meetings throughout the day. However, this setup is generally ineffective for a team across widely varying time zones.
Instead, you want to utilize asynchronous communication, which asks employees to work independently and only respond to messages and emails promptly when they can do so. This requires that companies keep up-to-date project workflow documentation and make tasks and productivity tools easily and centrally accessible to all employees so that they can work seamlessly across time zones without needing to wait for responses from others before proceeding with their work.
When you have a team in multiple time zones, it is important to ensure that your communication is detailed and to the point. As you may need to wait an entire working day to get a response from someone, or if they are relying on your message to allow them to continue with a project, you want to ensure that you cover as much as you can in your messages. This may mean that you add additional attachments and links or outline milestones for deliverables in your email.
The best question to ask yourself before you press send is, “Have I included enough relevant information for this person to start working independently once they have read my message?” If you are unsure, add more detail. Being thorough and clear in your communication can reduce the amount of back and forth needed to get people up to speed and also help the workflow continue seamlessly across time zones.
Be flexible and available.
Even with the best practices in place for remote workers across different time zones, it is inevitable that from time to time there will be a need for meetings that may require some to wake up early or stay late. This is why it is important to be flexible and vary meeting times so that the same people are not always expected to work outside of normal hours.
It is also important to have protocols in place for ad hoc communication that naturally occurs around business critical deadlines. Managing a global team can be challenging but the key is to know where your team is, find overlapping times to collaborate and communicate effectively and in detail. These best practices combined with flexibility to account for the inevitable crunch times you will experience can help set you up for success in the long term.