Remote work, home office, and flexible shifts don’t make it to the news anymore. They already became a widespread feature of our work-life due to the significant transformation that occurred in our lives last year.
That said, the rising tendency of remote work brings another one with it. That is the case of remote teams divided across different time zones. In other words, the case of single teams made by people from different cities, or even different countries.
This arrangement brings specific challenges and opportunities, both to team members and team managers. Matters like communication, engagement, and teamwork between colleagues need to be addressed differently.
This post will cover the most common issues for remote work teams divided across two or more time zones. We will share our insights and tips to make the best out of it!
Then, we will tell you how to adapt quickly and efficiently, and how to find and enjoy this model's advantages!
Scroll down and read it all!
Today, it is relatively simple for a company to spread its activities to more distant cities. Sometimes, these cities are even abroad. Whether it is opening a new office in a coworking space, or only hiring home office workers in a new location, the logistics of that becomes less and less complicated. Also, the cost becomes more and more affordable.
The coronavirus pandemic also did its part to accelerate many of modern times' transformations. Because of it, the great majority of companies and teams were taken by surprise in 2020. They had to adapt quickly, without proper planning to transition to the remote work model.
Gladly, the modern world is not short on great digital solutions to help in those dark times. Video conferences and productivity apps boomed in 2020 as an essential part of any remote team management toolkit.
However, technology was not the only field that saw innovations. At the same time, whole companies and their employees’ mindset changed to adapt to the new reality. People realized that more flexibility with time and space meant survival in business.
Hence, the future/present of work is being shaped by the progress of information technologies, the economic crisis, and social isolation. Obviously, remote work was the most natural and convenient solution.
We know very well that remote work came to stay. It is cheaper, more convenient for both companies and workers, and, if practiced right, it can increase productivity.
Today, it is not uncommon for a single remote team to be distributed in several locations. This is common in continent-sized countries, like the United States or Canada. But it is also common for deeply integrated regions, like Europe.
Below, we will address the specific case of teams in different time zones.
So, if you found yourself collaborating with people hundreds of miles away and need to adapt, do not skip it!
We will start by addressing the challenges in managing people in different time zones. Then, we will disclose our golden tips to adapt as quickly as possible!
Your company probably implemented remote work without any type of transition. If you did so during the pandemic, the remote work model came more like a rule than an option. Turning this abrupt shift in productivity gains required a tremendous organizational spirit.
Hopefully, the year 2021 will be completely different from 2020. Since then, we grew strong from the inconveniences brought by last year, and we could transform them into advantages for us.
So, to work with teams scattered across different time zones, pay attention to the following best practices of remote team management:
To start defining the logistics, assess how much information will be exchanged between the time zones daily. That means asking yourself how much communication is needed between your team members.
This may be simple to assess when you have a remote team in the same time zone. When your team is scattered, it can not be the same, because not everyone will be available at the same time.
If a team member depends on another one who lives in a distant city, she can easily find herself with tied hands. The other member will not necessarily be available when she needs. This is the kind of thing you want to avoid.
Then, relevant information must be at the fingertips of each employee. This will increase their productivity as it will reduce the time used to search for it.
Finally, it is ideal that your team members have more autonomy. This way, you can avoid people lacking support from others (or even from you) and delaying work.
Different places, cities, and especially countries have different holidays. Some countries even have different working days arrangements in the week.
For instance, your company may intend to hire an Israel-based professional. If so, mind that, in Israel, Sundays are working days, and Shabat starts on Friday at dusk.
Then, your team agenda must be organized in such a way that those differences will not compromise deliverance, and will not take anyone in other time zones by surprise.
Think of a multicultural team. In that case, make sure everyone knows about each cultural detail that can impact the professional’s availability. This way, you can align expectations and will also be inspiring mutual respect.
Depending on how far apart your team members are, it is impractical for everybody to start and finish work together. Since not everybody will be present at the same time, the “online” status may eventually become vain.
Instead, it is delivery that will help to assess whether your team is going in the right direction or not. Then, start measuring your remote team’s productivity in how many goals you achieved in each period of time.
Set goals for each individual and for the whole team. Then, make people accountable for them. This is the best alternative to remote teams, because it uses the flexibility of this work model as an advantage.
As said above, the optimal arrangement in remote teams in different time zones avoids people depending too much on one another to fulfill their tasks. That said, no one is an island. People need to collaborate.
Optimizing task distribution must take into account both factors. Do not let people rely too much on each other, but it is essential to encourage collaboration.
For instance, two people may be trusted with the same project, but splitted in two tasks. This way, they will share a goal, but will not rely too much on each other.
Peer-to-peer feedback can also be a great ally. Because, at the same time people are communicating and chatting, they are improving and learning with one another.
Remote workers are more productive when they have the autonomy to take breaks. It happens because, the more a professional becomes used to the remote model, the more she understands her own productivity.
Be as flexible as this work model demands. Especially if you are holding people accountable for goals instead of worked hours, this will function very smoothly.
As team manager, you may be inclined to make more contact with people in the closest time zones. If you do not observe, you may find yourself requiring much more from those members because they are more accessible. So, caution!
We are social animals. Then, remote work can make people miss the social activities of work-life. You have to be careful with that, because it can be demotivating.
To avoid loneliness, foment communication in the team. Set weekly video conferences so people can chat. Let them make calls to one another and hear their voices. Do not let people feel like an outsider in their own team.
Finally, make sure people feel part of something while working remotely. The company’s goals must be transparent. Also, there must be a two-way communication channel between each workmate and to other departments.
It is important to educate people on how to adapt to a remote work schedule. Not everybody will transition as smoothly as others. So, be there to assist and inform about the remote challenges and impact on workers’ well-being.
Teach people how to separate their work from their personal life. If it is not done well, their routine can become chaotic, hindering productivity. Talk about the importance of being with their families in the right time, and to plug-off after work.
Those may seem simple, but are essential cares in the long-run.
As we commented above, great technological solutions are available to track productivity and to ensure communication across teams. Use that in your favor to automate everything you can.
The more automatic processes become, the more autonomy your remote coworkers can develop. This is extremely healthy in flexible models.
Those are our golden tips to profit from the remote work model, especially if people are separated in different time zones. If that is your case, we would love to hear about your ways of keeping up with the work. Feel free to share it with us!
Well, remote work is not only about productivity. It is also about new forms of teamwork, new communication challenges, and a new sense of partnership between fellow workers.
Stick a bit more to learn about how to adapt to remote work schedules!
One of the trickiest things in remote work is communication. We are used to hearing that technology is here to help and, with that, we would never really be apart. The world is always within the reach of our fingertips, right?
Well, that may be true. However, at the same time, technology magnifies our power to communicate; it also magnifies our communication issues. That means it will not fix human errors.
You may have the best remote team management software or the most efficient message delivery system in the market. Nevertheless, if you do not engage in the best practices of communication with your remote teammates, you will have flaws in communication.
Different people may be more comfortable expressing themselves in different channels. So, exhaust your alternatives. Use video, messages, e-mail, and everything in your reach to engage people to express themselves.
Straight-forward ways of communication tend to be the best to assess people’s emotions. It is much easier to communicate as a human being when there is voice involved.
However, if your team is divided across more than one country, maybe phone calls are not the best solution. It can be expensive. Fortunately, widely used communication tools such as Slack, will allow your team to make calls over the internet. Such tools are revolutionizing workplace communication; they provide an outstanding communication hub to help your distributed teams be more productive and connected.
This way, people will feel closer to each other despite the distance. The more they communicate, the better are the teamwork and the outcomes.
Let people be creative, speak their minds, suggest improvements to projects. This will make everybody understand they are not isolated from one another. Instead, they will feel a contributing part of something.
As said before, the sense of belonging is essential. Make sure people understand they all share a goal. It will make communication way easier, since every team member will feel concerned about both the thinking process and its execution.
Traditional tricks to make people engage with one another may not work in this case. The broadly used Virtual Happy Hour can only work perfectly if everybody in closer time zones.
Maybe, your team could try to hold virtual sessions rotating the “happy hours” of each time zone. The risk of setting those gatherings, however, is to exclude team members and to open a gap between people from more distant time zones.
For that reason, you and your team must be open to new ideas. Try for yourselves to figure out how to build a team spirit in your particular situation. If you are in the same country, an annual reunion may be at hand.
Each case is singular. The important thing is to find the right way to ensure everybody feels like insiders and are able to express themselves to anyone.
As a remote worker or remote team manager, isolation and loneliness are real problems. Do not lose any opportunity to be close to your teammates and to develop your relationships. You will need it for the long-run.
Schedule chats, do not miss video conferences, and do not spend a single day without speaking with your teammates. Do not be shy and show your human not-professional side when you have the chance. Do not let the distance hide your personality and those of your colleagues.
Despite being far, be close to the people in your remote team.
This is the golden rule on how to adapt to a remote work schedule, especially with teams in different time zones.