Working across time zones in a distributed team can be hugely beneficial—it drastically increases your potential hiring pool, allows you to hire the best of the best for every position, 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 contributing to a culture where no one ever gets a break.
The key to juggling multiple time zones is to make sure there’s a place for regularly scheduled synchronous work. That can be as simple as having a recurring morning stand-up meeting in an online office, making sure everyone is logged into a group chat for a quick checkup, or holding a quick video conference for more face time.
Donna Flynn, who describes her global team’s experience with Sococo and other collaborative tools 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 can help visually overlay everyone’s time zone so you can easily spot the overlaps. The first two tools also include some form of meeting planning functionality, so you can throw availability into the mix, too.
Combining scheduled meeting times with quick sync-ups in your Sococo online workplace allows for an extra degree of spontaneity that can be helpful for whatever situation may arise.
While juggling multiple time zones is a lot of work, it’s worth the effort. It lets you recruit the people you want and give them the kind of flexibility that will encourage productivity and set your organization apart. As long as you set up a clear and inclusive system for collaboration and take advantage of tools to help you, you can reap the rewards of the remote workforce without becoming a slave to your email.