Office Tips

How to Work as a Team in Different Time Zones

The work-from-home life is spreading, which means that people don’t need to be within driving distance of their workplace anymore. However, being able just a click away from a Zoom meeting with your team has its own challenges, especially when team members are calling in from different time zones. Whether you’re an hour away or twelve hours apart, here are some tips to help you work as a team no matter what time it is. 

Use Time Zone Tags

There is no room for ambiguity when sharing schedules across time zones. If you say “I’ll be in a meeting from 12:00-1:00,” you have to make sure everyone knows what time zone you’re referring to. While it may be tempting say “my time” or “your time,” that can become confusing when new team members join from even more time zones, or if team members don’t remember what time zone you’re in. The most efficient and succinct way to keep everyone on the same page is to say “12:00-1:00pm MST” or “12:00-1:00pm EST,” etc. This way, team members will be able to quickly and easily figure out when you are and are not available. 

Learn to Work Separately

It’s easy to take for granted that your team members are available during your work hours when you’re all in the office together. However, you can’t expect someone to be available during your nine to five when, for them, that would mean starting at four in the morning. One of the challenges of working in different time zones is that your entire day is out of sync with others on your team. To overcome this, schedule your meetings for when there are reasonable overlaps of your working hours, and don’t expect your emails to be answered outside of their working hours. The same goes for team chats. Even if the time difference is only an hour, you need to be considerate of your team members’ time and work-life balance. 

Schedule Through the Cloud

Any time you are scheduling meetings in different time zones, sharing a deadline, posting office hours, or anything that affects your entire team, the best thing to do is schedule it on a shared cloud-based calendar. These calendars will show events within the time zone of whoever is viewing it, which means nobody has to wonder if their 12:00pm meeting is actually a 9:00am meeting. The best part? You don’t need expensive software to make this happen. There are lots of free online calendar tools and apps, including Google calendars, that can help you to better work as a team.  

Record and Share

Sometimes you simply can’t get a meeting scheduled without someone having to wake up in the early hours of the morning or stay up late into the night. While there are a few times when this is unavoidable, you can often spare your team members unnecessary inconvenience by recording meetings they aren’t able to attend. Video calls, phone calls, and brainstorm chat sessions can all be recorded and sent for your team members to review later on. This should absolutely be done for any meeting or event where your team members aren’t making essential decisions as a group. 

Build a Sense of Unity Through Uniformity

When working remotely in a different time zones keeps you from regularly seeing one another face to face, even through video calls, it’s important to find other ways to stay connected as a team. One way is to send team swag packages that have products bearing the company logo. Popular giveaways such as comfortable outerwearbranded mousepadspromotional mugslogo pens, and more are a great way to show appreciation for your team while also creating that sense of unity as a company. Don’t just give them to new hires, though. Get creative and find new and fun-filled giveaways to help your team feel supported all year long! 

Flexibility Is Key

Sometimes, you’re the one that’s going to have to be flexible. When everyone needs to meet face to face and someone has to be inconvenienced, make sure that you take your turn in coming online late at night. When the same person or people are being made to go out of their way to accommodate someone else’s schedule every single time, this can breed resentment and bitterness. However, when everyone is taking their turn to go the extra mile for the team, everyone will feel much more comfortable when it’s their turn to make sacrifices. 

Get Creative with Online Coordination

Cloud-based calendars aren’t your only resource for staying on the same page. You can find all sorts of free applications online that make coordinating much easier, even when you can’t all be online at the same times. Online planners, time zone converters, presentation makers, task managers, and more can help you work as a team at different times and places almost as easily as if you were crowding in the same cubicle. 

Forget the Nine to Five

While it’s ideal to have everyone working during the same hours as much as possible, if you have team members working in time zones that are several hours apart, then there’s no real reason to insist on the nine to five schedule. If your team members want to shift their hours earlier in the morning or later in the evening, or even split the shift up to fit around a college schedule, then let them. Work hours should be based on what works best for the team, not just based on what everyone has done in the past. 

While the workplace is changing drastically, the need for teamwork hasn’t changed. Do what works best for your business and your team, and find ways to make things better as you go. Thanks to modern technology, you can work as a team even if you are working on opposite sides of the globe. With a few changes and a lot of give and take, this shift to virtual workplaces can make your team more efficient and open up an even greater spectrum of talent for your business. 

Katie Yelisetti

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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