The pandemic changed the world of work to become increasingly remote. It is not even showing any sign of slowing down. Nowadays, global collaboration and embracing remote work are essential for modern businesses to grow. However, there are challenges when it comes to working with teams in varied time zones. Since working with a global team in complex ways and different formats can be intimidating, it requires experience. That is why understanding the challenges and the best practices is important to navigate the goals of the businesses.
Impact of Different Time Zones on Remote Projects
Remote working is a great setting for team members in different time zones to work together. However, it comes with its challenges, which may hinder the goals of the business.
When you manage team members across different time zones, it introduces coordination challenges. It becomes more complex to schedule meetings and find work hours that are not overlapping. These circumstances can potentially lead to delays in project progress and decision-making.
Time zone differences may result in communication delays. It can happen as updates, messages, or feedback may not be delivered or received in real-time. Because of this delay, there can be a huge adverse impact on the speed at which information is exchanged. Ultimately, it will obstruct the project’s speed and progress.
Remote teams may have problems with synchronous collaboration because of time zone variation. Utilizing collaboration tools and encouraging asynchronous communication becomes more crucial to avoid obstruction and maintain teamwork.
When you coordinate work hours for client interactions, you may face scheduling conflicts. These conflicts may also come up when scheduling team meetings. Team members might need help to align their availability. If there are challenges with schedules, it may potentially affect the client relationships and project timelines.
Flexibility and Productivity
Time zone variation can influence individual as well as team productivity. While remote work provides flexibility, it also requires a balance. Team members need to create a balance between maintaining an organized work environment and accommodating diverse time zones. It will help the team meet the project deadlines in an effective manner.
Addressing the Time Zone Challenges in Remote Work Setting
Since working in an environment with different time zones is problematic, it needs to be addressed. The team managers should understand the best practices to overcome these challenges.
Respect Work-Life Boundaries
Acknowledge each member’s needs, situations, and preferences. It is important if you want to utilize the benefits of a distributed team. Having a flexible management style will aid in maximizing employee potential.
Ask the Employees for their Preferred Work Hours
Every individual has a different time of the day that is the best time to work for them. Having people working across different time zones should be seen as an opportunity instead of a challenge. Ask your employees to share their preferred workday schedule and hours.
Avoid the Always Available Mindset
If you create a culture of continuous availability, it will lead to burnout. Having a distributed team helps in covering long hours, always appearing online. However, it may work as a whole team, but the always-available mindset should not be applied to individuals. Instead, encourage a healthy work-life balance that contributes to positive mental health. You can encourage the team members and ask them to log off at a specific time.
Establish Collaboration and Communication Guidelines
Vicky Cano, Chef & Recipe developer at mealfan, said, “Clear boundaries, as well as effective and scalable collaboration, are the foundation of the team’s operations. With these practices, businesses can achieve success in no time. Try to establish collaboration and communication guidelines with the best strategies. Set clear communication policies. It will help you to ensure effective and consistent interactions within the team. Furthermore, centralize resources and conversations. You can do so by leveraging online tools available like Notion, Miro, or Google Docs. Develop a clear knowledge-sharing procedure. It will help you to alleviate any misunderstandings and conflicts.”
Ensure Time Zone Fairness
Joe Cronin, President of International Citizens Insurance, said, “In a distributed team, some members may face challenges because of varying time zones. As a manager, make sure to take relevant steps to ensure that no one feels pressured. Moreover, you should also make sure that there are no unfair expectations because of these time differences. If there are any inconvenient meeting times, allow the team members to follow the meeting through recordings asynchronously. Do not stick with the same meeting time every day. Try to shift the timings regularly so that it is not the same team member burdening all the time. Share calendars to enhance communication and understanding among the team.”
Prioritize Overlapping Schedules and Time
The overlap hours may vary from a couple of hours to more. It depends on the location of your team members. Utilize this overlapping time for collaborative activities. Allow your team individuals to work at their own productive speed during the rest of the day. You can prioritize overlap time by increasing the hours of overlap between the teams. Plan crucial team discussions and meetings during overlap periods. Make sure the procedures leave enough time for async communication for the entire team. Set transparent expectations during the overlap time to ensure a smooth process.
Te Wu, CEO of PMO Advisory, said, “Usually, team individuals may thrive working asynchronously. However, it is essential to build a culture of participation and collaboration. Engaged employees reflect productivity with their passion and commitment. They also deliver innovation and a positive company culture. A successful distributed team means ensuring that team members are engaged with their work and one another. You can encourage participation by engaging employees beyond work-related tasks when suitable. Look for any signs of burnout and disengagement. Leverage online tools to connect with the team members and have regular check-ins.”
Visualize Time Zones
As a manager, it is beneficial to visualize the activities of your team across time zones. It helps to identify the best moments of the day for virtual meetings and collaboration. Furthermore, it also aids in clarifying overlap times. You can utilize visual tools to understand time zones and team member locations. Benefit from visual aids for coordination, planning, and structural oversight. Use shared calendars to know the availability of the team members in their time zones.
Karan Tiwari, Content Marketer at Quickizo says, “One key challenge arising from time zone differences is the limited overlap in working hours, which can hinder real-time communication and decision-making. This lack of synchronous interaction may lead to delays in obtaining feedback or resolving issues promptly, impacting the overall progress of the project. To mitigate this, project managers should encourage asynchronous communication methods such as email updates, detailed task assignments, and clear documentation to ensure that work continues seamlessly even when team members are not available simultaneously.”
Smart Hiring Strategy
Craig Cantrell, President at Amtekair, said, “When hiring employees for your remote work, it is essential to communicate the work challenges. Discuss the challenges of working in a remote setting with potential candidates. Be transparent about the overlapping time zones and mandatory syncs with the team members. Also, communicate about working independently on projects for which the members have to take individual responsibility and ownership. Make sure to evaluate the soft skills of the potential candidates to have the best resources for the project. Look for time management, collaboration and communication skills, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.“
As a remote project manager, you may face new challenges while managing distributed teams. Keep time zone differences your priority when creating systems and processes. When you prioritize time zone variations, your system will have seamless communication, collaboration and productivity. Be mindful of different schedules, use automation tools, and prioritize communication as the most important thing. It will help you to build a progress, productivity, and teamwork culture. In short, businesses must understand and address the implications of time zones for a successful remote project.