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How to Work Across Time Zones as a Remote Team: Best Practices

When you work with a team working across different time zones, there is a possibility that you may face some issues. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working across different time zones. Without holding real-time meetings, you may send fast messages, explain new methods, and clarify complex topics with your team. Everyone can look through these at their leisure, take notes, and return to your instructions or ask questions afterward.

Time zones can really keep us apart and it can keep us from connecting with each other as much as we need to or want to. So every once in a while, whenever possible, get the team together face-to-face and rebuild that human connection that we can easily lose when we go remote. Now if you want to make yourself aware, of one of the tips that I recommend for doing that is visualize time zones. And there is a great app that one of the buffer developers developed called

Learn your coworkers’ schedules.

When you have a successful game plan, you’re regularly able to video chat with colleagues, hear their thoughts, and gain insight into what the workplace is like on the other side of the world. These benefits allow your team to work better together and can lead your international teammates to feel more included in your team’s day-to-day work. That’s why the last important strategy that works for us as a remote team is to get together in person often. At Buffer, we meet somewhere in the world once a year for a weeklong company retreat. We’ll work together throughout the week and enjoy some bonding time with fun group activities, too.

If you search for the current time in most major cities around the world, you’ll get the answer right at the top of your results. More recently, Google added a time calculator to search so you can look up what time it will be in a certain place. Here are some popular ways to use Slack with app automation tool Zapier to automatically share activity in your channels so everyone knows what’s going on. “They worked the night shift while my team in Redmond worked days,” Berkun says. “If I planned well, we’d find magic in going to bed frustrated by a missing puzzle piece, and waking to find it in our inbox. It was like having a friend in the future.” However, we can’t deny the fact that it also comes with its own set of challenges too.

Con: It takes more effort to stay in sync

One of the first and easiest things you can do to make asynchronous communication smooth is to set your working hours, and to make those hours easily discoverable to your teammates. Some apps like Google Calendars even serve a warning if you inadvertently try to book something outside of working hours. Communication in particular is hard when one team is arriving at the office just as another is leaving, or when one teammate is sleeping peacefully just as another is hitting their midday stride. But there are ways to tackle differences between time zones that preserve collaboration and keep communication effective. Slack, for instance, lists each team member’s time zone, how many hours that is from your local time, and that person’s current local time whenever you click their name. That’s an easy way to double-check before expecting an immediate reply.

  • For an even simpler way to see what time it is around the world, check out Every Time Zone.
  • As the above example from Help Scout’s design team demonstrates, working across time zones doesn’t mean you have to work 100% asynchronously.
  • Even though I double-check and I’m constantly aware of it and I’m supposedly a pro, even I get time zones wrong every once in a while.
  • Working across time zones is like having a morning person and a night owl together on a long road trip.

“If you’re working two timezones that don’t overlap much, why not split your shift into two instead of doing the same number of hours consecutively?” asks Kelly. The client’s asks were sometimes hard to communicate abroad not only because of a language barrier, but because of a cultural one. Sometimes design terminology to describe our process differed between our own studio locations, making it hard to communicate ideas precisely. Before COVID, members would fly over to the location considered home base. We formed project teams flexibly across locations, and the flexibility afforded us designers the opportunity to get immersed in projects and get to know the culture of the other locations.

Be clear about timelines & deadlines

But the biggest benefit might be how much it cuts off onboarding new employees who can simply read the archives and get up to speed on key decisions, culture, and work styles. Fewer interruptions leads to more deep work, which can dramatically increase productivity. Deep work, a term coined by Cal Newport, is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. This distraction-free concentration pushes your cognitive abilities to their limit and creates new value, improves skills, and is hard to replicate in our world of instant satisfaction. Tell us the skills you need and we’ll find the best developer for you in days, not weeks.

working across time zones

Even though I double-check and I’m constantly aware of it and I’m supposedly a pro, even I get time zones wrong every once in a while. That’s a very simple time zone check that you can do with yourself in just one other time. The next one is, and that is for scheduling meetings with people in different time zones. Research shows that organizations spend around 15% of their time on meetings. We can only imagine what these numbers mean for distributed teams that need to put extra effort into planning a perfect schedule that won’t disturb the regular work and sleep schedules of the people involved.

Your availability can be emailed to meeting attendees once you’ve made your preferences. By clicking on a time, they can reserve it, and Calendar will add it to your calendar and email the meeting attendees. Real-time information and context shouldn’t be limited to one-off videos and screen captures.

working across time zones

This keeps us from asking a teammate to dive into a brand-new project if they’re just about to jump off for their evening, for example. Google Calendar settings will also ask if you want to “Ask to update my primary time zone to current location,” and you can choose to check this box, or not. One of my favorite stories about time zones comes from a flight I booked in 2012.

If you work in different time zones, we suggest choosing a program that already comes with time zone converters, instant messaging technology, and appointment scheduling. Use project management software programs as a central location for team-wide projects wherein users can assign, tick off, cancel, and approve tasks at their own pace. Here, remote workers can complete tasks without communicating away from the platform. To ensure that everyone follows the same schedule, your team should use time zone converters.

How to Work Across Time Zones as a Remote Team: Best Practices

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