Best Practices For Working Across Time Zones
Navigating different time zones is an inescapable reality for the workforce right now. Whether you have a fully remote team or a hybrid team working in different locations and across different time zones.
If your sales team is in San Francisco, the dev team is in Prague. HQ is in Singapore, and you’re working with contractors around the globe -- then you not only have some of the best global talent, but you also have to manage work across multiple time zones.
The most challenging aspect of a distributed team is communication -- especially when one team is arriving and leaving at different times to the rest of the team. But there are ways to tackle differences between time zones that preserve collaboration and keep communication effective.
Pros of working across time zones
You can hire the best, most diverse talent from across the globe
Having the flexibility of time and place can boost effectiveness at work
There's always someone online
Much fewer distractions (with constant pings on Slack, for example)
Cons of working across time zones
It’s harder to find ways to constantly collaborate -- you have to patiently wait for task to be completed
Meetings might be late, or early -- depending on where you are located
Socializing doesn’t come naturally, as it’s easier to work in an isolated manner
Less visibility, especially if you’re the only one in the team in a different time zone.
Tips for working with teams in different time zones
Set time zone boundaries, and communicate them clearly If you’re clear about why you can’t work every hour of the day across all timezones, your teammates will understand that. Just make sure you propose alternatives when you decline a meeting that’s at 3am your time. Whether you're working in a global office outside of your main headquarters, in a hybrid team or completely remotely, make sure you are open to discussing your own work hours and boundaries with your dispersed team. Also, make sure your work calendar is available to the rest of the team for full transparency for better coordination.
Respect other employees’ work hours If, as a manager, you have established time zone boundaries and preferred work hours with your employees, the next task is to respect them! If you need something from someone sitting 6 time zones away, you need to determine how urgent the task is before sending it via instant messaging. When your global teammates feel like their schedule is respected, they might feel happier at their job, less stressed, or have an easier time tuning out of work communication outside of their main work hours.
Schedule emails to avoid your team working outside of their work hours When you work in different timezones, it’s important to be aware of when you’re sending a message or email. If you have to send a message before or after your own work hours, some communication platforms, like Gmail, will allow you to schedule emails in advance. This can be helpful if you're working late and don't want to bother your team with a message. It can also be helpful when you want to send a non-urgent message to global teammates.
Most effective support tools for a distributed team
Calendly: If you’re booking calls with customers or contractors who aren’t on the team, use something like Calendly that helps prevent people from booking research sessions with you at 2:00 a.m, your local time. Calendly automatically shows available meeting times in the local time zone you’re in, so there’s no chance for any confusion.
World Clock Meeting Planner: TimeandDate.com's World Clock Meeting Planner makes time shift scheduling very straightforward. You pick the cities where everyone lives, and the date for your meeting, and it'll show in green, yellow, and red the times that are best, not too bad, and terrible for everyone.
Every Time Zone: For an even simpler way to see what time it is around the world, check out Every Time Zone. It shows the current time in your own city, along with others in popular time zones around the world. Drag the second indicator to the time you want to have a meeting, and you'll see what time that'll be in cities around the globe. It's not a perfect way to schedule, but is a good way to get a feel for international time differences.
Google Calendar: Quite basic but it's packed with features that make it great for distributed teams. You can set your own time zone, and save the time zones you work with most to have an easy way to switch between them. It's a simple, text-based world clock that provides an at-a-glance update.