Working with a remote team often also means working across multiple time zones. While you are getting ready to call it a day, other members of your distributed team might just get started with their daily tasks – and even though the time difference can work in your favour sometimes, it might just as quickly become a real challenge and act as a divider within your team.
The challenges of asynchronous communication in a team
If your team is scattered across different time zones, chances are high that information will quite literally get lost in translation. Meetings are usually not recorded for team members from different time zones, and therefore, important updates are only shared with a certain group of people, potentially leading to a feeling of unfairness within your team.
Another risk when working across various time zones is singling out people by not inviting them to meetings or having less social interactions with them due to their location. This is bad for team spirit and discouraging for the respective individual.
Finally, not making the most out of the advantages of asynchronous communication can lead to a significant drop in productivity, as team members neither delegate tasks nor have valuable exchanges with their colleagues.
3 tips for collaborating across different time zones
In order to keep your team happy and productive across varying time zones, you should put a focus on communication and establish some distinct rules around the exchange of information.
1. Encourage asynchronous conversations
If you are using a chat tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams, you will probably find yourself chatting to the same team members every day – the ones that work in a similar time zone. Knowing that a colleague of yours is still asleep or has already signed off for the day often hinders people from starting conversations, as they will not get a response right away.
But just because you are unlikely to get a fast response, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out at all! Encourage your team members to have social interactions and conversations, even if they are not happening in real-time.
2. Share knowledge, always
A lot of companies have a verbal culture when it comes to sharing information. That means important updates or information are only shared in a meeting, and not written down for everyone to see who can’t be part of the get together.
Switching to a written approach not only helps you ensure that everyone has the same information across different time zones, but it also avoids people feeling left out who are on vacation or sick leave.
Therefore, nominating someone from your team to summarise the meeting in a written form can help spread information and keep a team active and engaged, instead of feeling left out and isolated.
3. Rotate your meeting times
Virtual meetings are a huge part of working in a remote team, but these meet-ups can quickly become strenuous for team members in extreme time zones. And if you are holding your check-ins at the same time every day, week, or month, chances are the people on the shorter end of the stick will get exhausted from always having to get up super early or stay in late to participate in a meeting.
Rotating your meeting times therefore is an easy way to keep everyone in your team happy and engaged, and making sure every single team member feels valued. After all, just because you can’t find a good time for everyone, doesn’t mean you should single out the same person every time to sign in before or after hours.
Maybe even make it a thing to point out the person in the meeting that made the biggest sacrifice to be there, and give them a round of applause. Acknowledging their situation can already help make 7am or 9pm look not as bad after all.