Managing a team—any team—is no small task. Throw in exceptional circumstances, and it gets even harder. Consider, for example, having to manage a team across multiple time zones. How do you make sure the team is still productive? How do you respond to communication challenges? What special processes (if any) do you need to keep everything running smoothly?
Every team’s way of working is going to be different, based on the size of the team and the locations of its members. But there are some best practices to follow when managing a team across multiple time zones.
Set clear expectations.
From the beginning, anyone working in a different time zone from your home office should know what is expected of them. Is there a weekly meeting they must attend? Are there certain hours they need to be available? What tasks should they do during your overlapping working hours, and which ones could be completed at other times? What tools do they need to become comfortable with? Setting these clear expectations up front can make a big difference when it comes to getting a team to work together across multiple time zones.
Set realistic expectations.
Clarity is important when communicating expectations to your team, but it’s also important to be fair when setting those expectations. For example, if your team works from all around the globe, it’s not exactly fair to ask the same person to be at a weekly meeting that occurs at 3am their time. Set realistic and healthy boundaries (e.g. “No one should work between their local hours of 9pm-6am”) and adjust as necessary. Let your team help determine what works for them.
Find the right tools.
In a technologically-advanced world, there are plenty of tools that make long-distance communication possible. Whether you prefer phone conferences, video chats, or a constantly open online chat thread, there’s a tool out there that should meet your entire team’s needs. Do some digging to find the right tools for you, and don’t be afraid to change things up if your needs change or if something better comes along.
Stick to a regular schedule.
As much as possible, try to follow the same schedule from week to week. This will help your team get in a rhythm and keep the flow of communication constant. Regular meetings help teams stay on the same page and give everyone a chance to regroup. If you absolutely cannot find a time that works for everyone, rotate the meeting time from week to week, or encourage separate departments to meet weekly and have less frequent company-wide meetings.
Give everyone the chance to speak.
If you’ve ever been the one to call in to a meeting, you know that it can sometimes be difficult to make your voice heard. When holding conference calls or video chats, make sure to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the conversation.
Travel when necessary.
Sometimes, it’s simply necessary for your team to meet face-to-face—even if only to build a sense of camaraderie. Make room in your budget to fly team members in when necessary, and if possible, arrange for your entire team to get together yearly.
Stay unified in purpose.
When you’re spread out across various locations, it’s more important than ever to be unified in purpose and mission. Your team needs to be on the same page about what they’re trying to accomplish and how each team member can contribute. With a remote team, be sure to over-communicate your company’s values so you’re all working together on the same goals while being consistent to the company culture.
Related: 5 Staffing Resolutions for 2020
Managing a team across multiple time zones is no easy task, but it’s not an impossible one. Use the tools at your disposal, along with these helpful tips, to help your company thrive, no matter where your team members are located.
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