Working across time zones in a distributed team can be hugely beneficial—it drastically increases your potential hiring pool, allows you to work with the best of the best on every project, and enables your team to respond to events quickly and easily.
Sometimes, however, working across continents can make it hard to “log off.” You answer one email from someone in another time zone, and then you decide to take a look at that spreadsheet really quickly, even though it’s 9pm, and then you get pulled into a meeting…next thing you know, you’re “in the office” 24 hours a day.
It’s a slippery slope, and there are a lot of downsides to feeling like you have to be on-call all the time.
So how can you avoid it?
The key to juggling multiple time zones is to make sure there’s a place in your workflow for synchronous work. That can be as simple as having a recurring stand-up meeting in a Sococo online office, making sure important conversations happen in a group chat thread, or talking face-to-face on a video call.
Donna Flynn, who describes her global team’s experience working in Sococo in Harvard Business Review, notes that it’s important to make sure you take into consideration what you’re expecting of everyone: “Despite all our ‘understanding’ of being a global team, we used to always privilege Grand Rapids [U.S. Eastern Time] in our meeting schedule and make our Asia team members stay up late.” To change this they “started a rotating meeting schedule. Every month, each team member now has one evening, one midday, and one early-morning meeting, and misses one meeting that falls in the middle of their night. No team member is expected to attend a team meeting between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.”
Tools like Timezone.io, World Time Buddy, and Every Time Zone visually display your team member’s time zones so you can easily spot the overlaps. The first two tools also include availability settings, so you can set designated working hours.
Combining scheduled meeting times with quick sync-ups in your Sococo online office allows for an extra degree of spontaneity that can be helpful for whatever situation may arise.
While juggling multiple time zones can take work, it’s worth the effort. It lets you recruit the people you want, as well as give them the kind of flexibility that encourages productivity and sets your organization apart. As long as you set up a clear and inclusive system for working side-by-side, you can reap the rewards of the remote workforce without becoming a slave to your email.