7 Tips To Manage A Team Across Time Zones

Do you have a team of employees spread across several time zones? If so, you may be acquainted with how difficult it can be to manage teams in different countries and regions of the world while attempting to maintain the benefits of a global workforce at your fingertips. However, there are a number of tried-and-true methods to anticipate roadblocks and facilitate how all members of your team can work to their highest potential.

This includes:

  • Avoid working around the clock
  • Create a consistent schedule
  • Utilize the best new tools
  • Accommodate those outside the room
  • Touch base by flying In
  • Five-minute check-ins
  • Set your expectations ASAP

Let’s take a look at each of these seven tips in detail to help manage your organization’s team(s) across time-zones.

Avoid Working Around the Clock

There is a temptation for newbies that have global teams to make their business work 24/7. After all, this may seem to open all of the benefits that the world has to offer, appealing to every market and maximizing your team’s effort, no?

However, this approach is a bit short-sighted. The problem is that your organization may not be large enough to fill an entire 24-hours’ worth of effort. Instead, smart organizations should seek to share the burden of labor among its global workforce instead of prioritizing its home base (i.e. your preferred working hours, such as a normal 9-5 in your time zone). While you may have no problem hosting a meeting at 5 PM, this timeframe is 5 AM for those workers living in Vietnam. Would you expect your best and most coherent efforts after waking up this early?

As a good rule of thumb, set hours that are permissible for your employees to be “on the job.” This could mean that no team member ever has to be available for a meeting outside of the hours of 8 PM – 8 AM.

Create a consistent schedule

As you manage your organization, it is up to you to create a consistent schedule to ensure that meetings are held consistently and to ensure that remote employees are guaranteed to be present. That’s why you should create a consistent schedule that prioritizes hours of interaction. Try to imagine a Venn diagram of your home base’s 9 – 5 combined with your remote workers 9 -5. Surely there will be some overlap and it is those hours that you should try to focus on setting up meetings and emphasizing the real-time communication.

Utilize the Best New Tools

Be on the lookout for new tools that can help your organization collaborate with workers in different time zones. This includes such software as Google Drive, Trello, Slack, Spark, Murally, Dropbox, and so forth. As startups create new apps that could be part of your business’ everyday arsenal, be on the lookout for the newest tech. Remember that these digital tools are always in a state of evolution; today’s new hot app could become antiquated when it doesn’t integrate the newest features vital to your business. While these collaborations tools are on the market and constantly in flux, not all are optimized right out of the box, so you’ll have to adjust them until they fully integrate into your business model.

Accommodating Those Outside the Room

If you have remote workers, pay extra attention to integrating them into your meetings if they’re connecting via phone or via Skype. The reason behind this is the phenomena called “presence disparity,” where those who aren’t in the room physically may feel an unequal presence or diminished authority based on how they’re interfacing with others. As an example, employees that are in the same room are more likely to talk to each other and could possibly forget about the person on video or speakerphone. Therefore, you need to ensure that those employees don’t feel left out or neglected. It is important to remember the value that those workers bring to the table. This can be as subtle as establishing eye contact with a video feed, addressing the person by phone with verbal cues, or instructing them when you’d like to hear their input to integrate them into the conversation.

Touch Base by Flying In

There’s no better substitute for maintaining a team than taking the time to meet. And for this, business flights are your best option. No tool can replace being in the same room and developing a rapport, but meeting your remote employees can be a good way to get the appropriate handshakes in and really get an in-person take of how they handle your work. This can give you the ability to dovetail a vacation or handle other concurrent business in that country or region, so this is a win-win. Best of all, it’s a tax write-off, so don’t look at it as a wasted expense.

Five-Minute Check-Ins

If you find that your teams don’t need much interaction after setting them to task, you may only need to have a minimal amount of time just to be on the same page as your remote workers. To facilitate this, ask your remote workers to provide a five-minute check-in at least once during the day (more if projects require it). After all, many projects can be delegated to those needing little oversight. Why waste their time when you can just check in on their progress. Plus, these five minutes can help you check in on their progress, ask them if they may have any questions or concerns, and give them any heads-ups about upcoming work. Best of all, this ensures that you maintain a lifeline of rapport.

Set Expectations ASAP

Remember that remote workers aren’t liable to the same standards that your employees who work in-house may be. Therefore, you need to set what kind of work expectations need to be established so that your business can run smoothly. This may include handling work hour quotas, mandatory meetings, and ensuring that your expectations are clearly understood. After all, you can waste valuable time and money by “setting and forgetting” remote workers, only to realize that they’ve been erroneously working on tasks that you didn’t assign or end up extending beyond your budget. To mitigate waste, you may want to clearly explain your projects, but also track their time via tools that take screenshots. This helps weed out unscrupulous employees that may run the clock, but it also helps you determine which remote workers excel at tasks and which ones need to be re-assigned to tasks that match their expertise.

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