Five tips for managing distributed teams
in different time zones

Running a distributed team comes with some challenges, on top of that, if your distributed team is established in different time zones the task could even appear more daunting.

However, a well-oiled team across different time zones has many advantages that can make your global business a real success.

Remote team example image

Let us have a quick look at some of the benefits of having a remote team:

  1. Cut the costs of the company by not having to pay office rent
  2. Offer better support to your customers by being available in more time zones and by efficiently recruiting a workforce that speaks more languages
  3. Provide better life-work balance to your employees, making them happier and more productive
  4. Help protect the environment and fight climate change by saving tons of daily commute waste from your team members

So here are our five top tips to make this possible.

1. Remote first

Different teams have different location distributions. Some teams may have 50% of their members working in remote areas while the other half can work from a central office location, others can have all their team members working entirely remote.

Whatever the case, we strongly recommend structuring your team as if the whole team was remote. So there are no first-citizen employees that are the ones in a central location, and then the rest.

People working remotely

Nevertheless, when possible, the project manager and other lead roles should be onsite or in the client's office so they can communicate directly with relevant stakeholders. Also, having a central office can be an excellent place to host company meetups.

However, all the methodologies, tools and infrastructure of your team should be designed and implemented as if everyone was working in independent locations.

2. Methodology is key

Having defined processes and making sure they are implemented is key to the success of a distributed team.

You can choose any Agile based methodology like Scrum or Kanban or come up with your own.

We recommend having daily 'standups' so all members of the team can synch up with the tasks they are currently working. The standup meetings and any other routinary gatherings should always take place at the same time, so it is easier to stick to them.

abstract methodology drawing

3. Communication and Availability

Communication between teammates is always a crucial aspect of any company. However, when dealing with distributed teams, this becomes even more obvious.

Usually, remote team members stay in touch using a combination of the following methods; instant messaging, email, and voice or video conferences. We are going to have a more in-depth look at some of the best tools to do this on the next section.

A good practice to let the rest of the team know if you are available or not is to post some simple status updates on your team channel in your favorite messaging software. We suggest posting 'Good Morning' when you start working, 'Lunch', and 'Done for Today'. These status updates help the team stay connected and be explicit on availability, making it an ideal complement to the connected/away indicator that you may have in your communication tool.

Try to be clear and specific in your communications. Do not rely on assumptions; you can always ask and confirm. Let the other person know that you received his or her message, even if it does not require direct action from your side.

people comunicating

4. Tools

Slack

Slack is the most broadly used tool across distributed teams. Remote-first companies use Slack as their communication hub, a place where team members can get instant feedback and connect with their colleagues, both in groups or 1-to-1. A fresh and efficient approach to messaging and its third-party app integrations make Slack the obvious choice for the primary team collaboration tool of your company. A great example of third-party integration is Team Time Zone PRO, a nifty tool for keeping track of your team time zones.

Zoom

Zoom is probably the most reliable video conferencing software. It is consistent and can cope well with meetings with lots of participants. It offers an excellent solution for video calls and screen sharing.

Google drive

Digital file management is crucial for the smooth operation of any business. For remote-first teams, it’s often more relevant because geographically scattered employees access files during times when their colleagues are not available. Find out more here

JIRA

JIRA is an exceptional tool for teams that work using Agile methodologies. Product owners, developers, and designers can keep track of their work, prioritize tasks, communicate on specific assignments, etc. Also, JIRA is part of the Atlassian ecosystem that includes other great tools like Bitbucket or Trello.

Bitbucket

If your team produces software, you need a version control system for tracking changes in files and coordinating work on these files among multiple people. Bitbucket is the perfect fit for that. Also, it gives teams a central place to plan projects, collaborate on code, test and deploy. Moreover, it seamlessly integrates with JIRA.

5. Right people

Apart from having a team with a specific skill set to implement their designated tasks, they should have the right attitude.

Remote workers usually require a higher sense of responsibility than its traditional peers. This commitment should help them complete their tasks without direct supervision in a centrally based location.

A get-it-done and proactive attitude are qualities that certainly make any skillful individual the ideal candidate for your remote team.

people comunicating

Thanks for reading!