Ever since Covid-19 struck our lives, people have been in two minds about working from offices. 2020 saw the start of the 'work-from-home' culture worldwide. Fast forward to this day, about 44 percent of the United States workforce are engaging in corporate activities from their homes. Our whole outlook towards a typical nine-to-five job has newer dimensions now, with organizations putting traditional recruitment procedures and similar aspects past them.
As we progress towards a hybrid work environment, the chances of finding your fellow employees halfway across the globe are more profound now than ever. Hosting virtual meetings across multiple time zones has become the new norm for many businesses.
The advantages of the new dynamic workplace are several, but it has its limitations too. Employing people from all parts of the world diversifies the talent pool. But it poses a few challenges to employees residing across different time zones. Let's discuss these challenges in detail and propose an effective strategy to place your workforce under one combined meeting construct.
Common challenges of working with teammates in different time zones
If working from home during the pandemic seemed a little challenging, imagine a similar situation but with your teammates residing in different countries.
For starters, it would be difficult to know an employee's working hours and schedule meetings across time zones. Keeping this in mind, let's shed some light on the common challenges encountered while managing a team across multiple time zones with remote work.
Narrow Meeting Windows
When working with teammates across multiple time zones, there’s a tiny window for scheduling meetings at a time that works for everyone. It’s essential to accommodate your team’s convenience as meetings might end up being ineffective or unfocused for people tuning in at different local times.
This is why many employees prefer skipping the stand-up calls to asynchronous updates and only meeting once a week to keep the meetings effective. Ask yourself whether daily meetings are necessary or how often you need to schedule one to avoid half-hearted attendance.
Lastly, different cultures have holidays that might not show up on your calendar. Be aware of your teammates’ availability on different days. You can utilize the holiday calendar on your iPhone or install the ‘World Holiday’ app to stay updated.
Insufficient social connection
A sense of disassociation is common in a substantially virtual workspace. An overall drop in productivity stems largely from hindered communication which in turn arises due to a variety of reasons like the lack of social interrelatedness among the members, feeling isolated due to lack of in-office work, etc. Lack of communication also results in other complications like less trust between team members, insufficient transparency, misalignment with the company’s long-term vision, and work-related miscommunication. Harmony and positive collaboration are the keys to a happy and motivated team.
If not addressed, this insufficient social connection might deepen the overall decline in team spirit and workplace morale.
Lack of recognition
The sense of contentment among teammates largely determines how aligned they’ll feel with the company’s vision. However, in the case of remote teams, people might not get their due share of credit because the virtual factor overshadows their on-ground accomplishments.
To quell this sense of discontent before it takes shape, make a conscious effort to recognize your colleagues’ hard work, grit, and any contributions that led to positive results.
How to schedule a meeting across multiple time zones?
Determine whether or not your colleagues' work schedules coincide.
The first step is to ask your teammates to share their availability and what times would be convenient for them. See if you can find a common weekly hour by comparing the availabilities across zones. Here are a few platforms you can rely on for scheduling meetings:
- Google Meet: Open your Gmail account and head to the ‘scheduling meeting’ section from your email. You can then select the duration of the meeting, who to invite, and share the link accordingly.
- Loopin: Loopin's easy-to-understand user interface assists you with connecting and managing meetings while considering everyone's availability. What's more? You can add important notes directly to your calendar and share these notes via Slack, Notion, or email. This feature can also come in handy when the communication needs to be asynchronous.
- Zoom: Zoom is quite popular amongst corporate organizations due to the convenience it provides in setting up a meeting. You can browse through the portal and schedule a meeting with ease.
Switch up regular meeting times.
Flexibility is the key when scheduling meetings in different time zones. This can come in especially handy in case of daylight savings. If you have teammates from tropical countries where the time is the same 365 days of the year, switching up meeting times can be a welcome move to make sure your team avoids meetings at unreasonable hours.
Take meeting notes and invite questions beforehand.
Sometimes, people cannot attend a meeting, have last-minute hick-ups, limited bandwidth, or unfavorable meeting times. Taking meeting notes should be a general rule of thumb for all meetings. Anyone who couldn't attend the meeting can go through the meeting notes to stay up-to-date. People who cannot attend the meeting should also share their questions and talking points in advance with teammates.
Building a successful social structure
The effectiveness of your workspace depends on how well each team works together. To boost this harmony, periodic social interaction sessions are an amazing way to allow more intellectual and light-hearted discussions to take place.
Fun activities for remote team meetings can help people understand each other better, identify each others’ flight and fight instincts, and enhance the feeling of empathy and good rapport among them.
The key to managing time while working across time zones
The most crucial thing while managing remote team members is ensuring everyone has a positive and productive experience. No approach is superior to another so long as everyone feels heard, seen, and valued. Here are a few important pointers to keep in mind -
Watercooler chats refer to the break that employees take to indulge in casual discussions. In a hybrid workspace, remote watercooler chats are the backbone of effective communication among team members. They bring everyone together and build up a healthy team spirit. Here’s how you can initiate remote watercooler chats -
- Team chat apps: Team chat apps allow spontaneous conversations to take place. They make for a more practical alternative to emails which are not just slow but also not very efficient in terms of having casual conversations.
- Team breaks: Break timings must always find a place in the overall schedule. These break timings relieve stress and create stronger bonds among teammates.
- Team building activities: Activities like virtual book clubs, movie nights, or virtual lunches are effective in bridging the gap between employees tuning in from different parts of the world.
Leverage project management tools
Deciding a decent time to facetime or call a friend seems like a tedious task sometimes, so following up with the same for multiple people, especially in a professional environment, is tough. A project manager takes care of this aspect. They can make use of some tools listed below to ease the process:
- Kissflow Project: Equipped with an intuitive GUI, Kissflow is a good option for project managers. It comes with wide-ranging options like Hold and Done, and you can customize fields, create subtasks, etc.
- Trello: Trello offers an inbuilt collaborative platform that boosts communication and accountability. It is highly useful for smaller teams and remote working units.
- ZOHO: ZOHO makes it possible to run reports, execute effective collaborations, and keep a track of all ongoing tasks within a team. It has the added feature of real-time chats and feedback pages.
The constant pressure to be available all the time because you're placed somewhere else in contrast to your team can lead to burnout. To stay clear of this, you can:
- Set healthy boundaries for everyone's comfort: Even when the workload increases, choose a strategy that allows everyone to take out time to rejuvenate.
- Ensure effective communication: Consider the needs and wants of your team without overstepping your own. Communicating your needs and actively listening to others creates an inclusive work environment.
Encourage Async Meetings
Async meetings refer to virtual meetings that don’t depend on real-time communication. These offer multiple benefits like a productivity boost, no stress of constant meetings, and more relaxed overall communication.
When collaborating with teammates from other parts of the globe, it is easy to inadvertently prod them or yourself to be available 24/7. The time zone of each team member will typically be shown in their profile on the project management platform. Even so, scheduling a meeting by looking through everyone's profiles can be a little cumbersome.
Make use of a time zone meeting planner rather than relying only on jumbled strings of text and emails. There are countless free and premium project management software options that may assist you and your team stay organized and coordinating communications across time zones.