5 ways to nail those time zones

Don't go crazy - here are five strategies to deal with time zone differences that we've implemented to make the most of our geographically diverse team

Future of Work

Time zones threatening to drive you crazy? In a global working environment, we often need to change our schedules to have meetings with clients and colleagues in different parts of the world, not to mention throwing international travel into the mix.

Adjusting our body clocks to be on the same page as the people we’re working with both ahead and behind in time – ugh. Feeling sick at the thought of this? There are many different strategies for dealing with time zone differences. Here are five we’ve implemented as a team to make the most of our geographically diverse team:

1. Do Regular Check-Ins

It can be difficult to schedule a meeting at a time that suits everyone, but regular check-in’s on a centralised communication platform can help to keep everyone on the same page. Various collaborative platforms give you the option of assigning tasks to colleagues, so you’re always up to date with what everyone is supposed to be doing. These digital platforms also give all employees access to all shared information, so anyone can see what’s going on regardless of their time zone. With these kinds of tools available, it’s really just about making a time to connect and touch base on deliverables on a regular basis. We’ve found that weekly check-in’s work best, either on a Monday or Friday.

2. Stay Connected

With different time zones and schedules, it can be difficult to communicate important information, especially when so much information is being shared online already. To keep everyone connected, it’s important to have a forum for sharing urgent information that people can easily access on their mobile phones. In addition to digital software, a group messaging application can create a more light-hearted platform for engagement, and can give employees the option of sharing information on the go.

3. Be Aware of Different Time Zones

It can be frustrating to deal with time zone differences when you’re trying to do something urgently, but working with clients or colleagues who are behind in time can actually be an advantage when it comes to deadlines. With the pressure of delivering on time, it’s important to be very aware of the time zone you’re working with, to avoid any unnecessary late night phone calls to someone on the other side of the world. Productivity also comes into play here, as by being aware of different peak work times across the world, you can structure your day accordingly.

4. Use Work Cycles with Global Teams

We’re a relatively small team and manage to communicate well with a predominant two-hour time difference between our South African and Europe-based team. With colleagues in the United States of America though, it can be difficult to pin down a time to connect. One way to avoid confusion is by implementing work cycles, which means that one employee takes over after another once the other leaves work. While this might be more necessary in larger multinational teams, being able to have a consistent workflow is very important , and essential when sharing feedback and making sure we meet important deadlines.

5. Set Clear Expectations

Even in a small team, with access to the most sophisticated communication tools, it can sometimes be difficult to communicate exactly what needs to be done. By making sure that tasks are clear, and that they have definite deadlines assigned to them, everyone can be held accountable for what they need to do. We often find that a quick phone call can be the best way to clear up any confusion, so it’s important to complement a variety of digital tools with actually talking to someone too.

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