Thanks to today’s technology, the world has gotten smaller—much smaller. It isn’t unusual for colleagues and clients to conduct business from different parts of the globe. Here are 10 essential tips for collaborating across time zones.
- Consider asynchronous communication.
Most people use synchronous communication, which is when everyone has to be online at the same time. However, if time zones are vastly different for some clients or colleagues, you may consider asynchronous communication. With asynchronous communication, things are done independently at different times. A person in Tokyo can upload data to a file sharing website (such as Google Docs), then someone in the United States can view the data when it’s convenient.
- Use a time zone clock.
While using a clock may seem obvious, sometimes people forget about time zones. It can be difficult to remember the time zones for each team member if the group is scattered around the world. With a time zone clock, you don’t have to remember. There are apps you can download, special watches with multiple faces you can buy, and websites such as timeanddate.com that help you keep track of time all over the world.
- Create a consistent schedule.
Have everyone on the team set up a regular schedule. While it may be impossible to have everyone online at the same time, it will be much easier to predict when a person will be online if his or her schedule is consistent. For example, if you’re in New York at 8 a.m., and you need to chat with a colleague in Paris, you know by checking the schedule that he or she is online because it’s 2 p.m. Paris time.
- Keep updated on new tools.
Collaboration tools constantly change. Websites appear and disappear at an alarming rate. Even if you are comfortable with the tools you use, such as your email service or live chatting service, you should still regularly look into what new technology is coming out.
- Set up an effective communication strategy.
Email has long been the tool of choice for many businesses, but as companies advance, their communication techniques should do the same. After all, many companies don’t use fax machines anymore, do they? Chat services have been designed to help companies communicate very quickly. Services such as Slack and HipChat dedicate themselves to helping people stay in touch.
- Avoid a 24/7 schedule.
It may be difficult to let go, but no one can maintain a 24/7 work schedule. It is utterly impossible. Managing a team across several time zones will require good employees you can trust. Share responsibilities across the board, and everyone will work more efficiently.
- Try getting together.
While it may be difficult to arrange, teams that get together regularly have a much higher productivity rate. It also creates a sense of togetherness that allows the group to bond. Attempt to occasionally schedule conferences or meetings in easy-to-reach areas.
- Track productivity.
When you have a team that works remotely, you need to be able to track your productivity effectively. Track work output throughout the team to be sure every member is doing his or her part. There are several programs that will help you track productivity, such as SpectorSoft or NetVizor.
- Trust each other.
You can install employee tracking programs, but you should also have a certain level of trust with your team members. Never assume people aren’t doing their jobs unless you have a good reason. Team members who feel distrusted and underappreciated will not be happy and may also feel disposable.
- Be respectful of time zones.
Above all, do not expect someone to be awake at unnatural times. If it is 2 p.m. where you live, the other side of the world may not be active. Don’t be the person who calls team members at 1 a.m. to talk about work.