5 ways to manage a remote team across different time zones

With the growth in popularity of working remotely, people are starting to realise the benefits to team productivity from employees being able to work in a comfortable, interruption-free environment.

However, there are some challenges to remote working that will always exist. One of these is working across multiple time zones. We live in exciting times where borders and time zones are no longer restrictions to hiring. The whole world is now open for you to hire the best person for the job. However, if not managed correctly, time zone differences can cause a disconnect between team members.

So what should you do if you are dealing with this situation?

We’ll look at some of the major problems, and provide 5 solutions on how to overcome them.

Team communication

At the top of the list is the effect time zones can have on your team’s communication. Communication is one of the most important things to get right in any company and this is especially true for a remote team.

The better your team is at communicating, the faster problems are recognised, solved and you can move on to the next challenge.

But when time zones split people apart, communication can slow down and become fractured, video calls become less frequent and projects stall.

So, how do you overcome these barriers to communication and collaboration within your team and keep things moving?

1. Asychronous communication

In traditional co-located working environments, communication is often synchronous e.g. I ask something, you respond almost immediately.

In remote environments, especially where team members are located in multiple time zones, asynchronous communication becomes more appropriate. Discussion on a topic is picked up and responded to when the respondent begins working.

This is nothing new. We have been doing this for a decade or two with emails. However, newer apps like Slack and Discord are making this type of communication much more effective with features like smart search capabilities and file sharing so you never have to hunt through 2 months of embedded email replies to find that one attachment ever again.

Leaders in remote working like Buffer are taking this one step further with tools like Threads to provide a more curated environment for asychronous communication and decision-making.

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2. Project management systems

Having a centralised place where all tasks are stored allows team members in different time zones to see who is working on what, making it easier for multiple people to collaborate on the same piece of work.

Trello is a great app with a low barrier for entry to start tracking project work like this. If you are looking for more powerful solutions, Asana and Monday are worth looking at.

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3. Get everyone together once a week

Try and find a time in the week to get everyone together so that they can share what they have been working on, what their plans are for the upcoming week and if they have anything blocking them from progressing.

A way to standardise this is to agree that for one day a week all team members will overlap with each other for a 2 or 3 hour period so everyone can attend the meeting and talk with anyone they would normally struggle to catch the rest of the week.

4. Know who is working, and when

With everyone working different hours and also maybe not the standard 9-5 in their time zone, it can become difficult to know when you can catch people to talk.

Having a way to see what time zone everyone in the team is on can help with the mental math. You can use a simple app like Clocker to keep track of each time zone your team operate in.

Harder to build company culture

The effect of time zones also affects team members getting to know each other to form personal and professional bonds.

In turn, this can cause problems with making team members feel, well, part of a team.

5. Have a digital water cooler

it is important to recreate environments that allow team members to talk about things not related to work.

Chat apps like Slack allow you to create Channels for different topics. These could be used for marketing or engineering but could just as easily be used talk about sports, your latest Netflix obsession or to brag about all the travels you are doing while working remotely.

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Build a team that "gets" remote work

All of these things help with communication, collaboration and culture-building across time zones. However, if you don't build the right team, you will always struggle.

Building a team of self-motivated individuals that understand what it takes to work in a remote environment will give you the strong foundation to put these tools and processes into practice with.

What are your tips for dealing with multiple time zones? Let us know in the comments.

Founder and CEO

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