How to Manage Remote Teams, People, and Projects Across Time Zones
As remote and distributed teams become more and more common, managers continue to discover the benefits of being able to tap into international talent pools. However, dealing with a remote team that’s spread across multiple continents and time zones is not always easy.
It’s true that today most people have access to fast Internet connectivity and a range of productivity and communication tools that make it easy to collaborate in real-time on a project with teammates located on the other side of the world. However, it’s essential to remember that managing a remote team is not your usual 9-to-5 gig.
If you are the manager of a team that consists of people located across various time zones, you need to deal with specific challenges that aren’t typically an issue for traditional office environments.
Here are the best tips on how to manage a remote team successfully across multiple time zones.
1. Be mindful of everyone on the team
When you manage remote teams in various time zones, it’s important to understand that it’s not business as usual. One of the first things to consider is being mindful of workers located in different time zones when scheduling meetings.
In many businesses, it’s not entirely uncommon to spend your entire day in meetings. Still, if you work with a remote team in different time zones, you should start by asking yourself whether a meeting is truly necessary before scheduling it.
You should always be mindful of everyone’s time zone, so you’re not asking anyone to get up very early or stay up late for a chat that could otherwise be summed up in an email. It’s really not productive to mix up someone else’s schedule for a meeting that is not discussing pressing matters. As such, try to be aware of everyone’s work situation, physical setting, and time zone before scheduling meetings.
2. Strike a balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication
If your team is working from multiple time zones, it goes without saying that communication can’t always happen simultaneously. To make sure that everyone has enough information and the team as a whole remains productive, it’s a good idea to default to asynchronous communication if you manage remote teams.
By setting clear expectations that communication doesn’t necessarily need to happen synchronously, you can take the pressure off from workers who live in different time zones, as they will know they aren’t expected to always be “on call.”
If it’s not 100% necessary for the communication to happen synchronously, try to avoid it as much as possible. By defaulting to asynchronous communication, you will be able to make everyone take a step back before pinging their teammates and put extra thought into their emails to account for the time gap between responses.
The best remote teams are actually fully asynchronous, and one of the benefits of this approach is that it’s forcing everyone to plan ahead. Moreover, this strategy promotes documenting decisions, which is beneficial for everyone.
3. Focus on personal relationships
Many managers overlook the personal aspect of remote skills, which means that they struggle to adjust to not working in the same space as their team. Getting to know the people you work within a remote environment is arguably quite challenging. Still, you should make sure you invest in relationships by getting to know each member of your team on a personal level.
This is not only good for productivity and company culture, but also for morale. Remote employees often feel like they are not seen or listened to, so it’s essential to make sure you listen to everyone’s concerns and cater to all your team members’ unique preferences as much as possible.
4. Set clear boundaries for the entire team
Whether you are managing a small or large team, being in different time zones requires you to set clear boundaries and be proactive about a healthy work-life balance for every member of the team.
Encourage workers to switch off after work and make sure that everyone complies with this arrangement. For example, you shouldn’t email your team in the evening or on weekends, and you should encourage everyone to do the same. Even if you’re not expecting an immediate response, employees who receive emails from their manager on weekends will definitely feel some sort of pressure.
You should also establish time zone boundaries and preferred work hours for each member of the team. If you need something from one of the employees outside their working hours, try to determine how ardent the task is before contacting them about it.
Employees who feel like their schedule is respected are likely to feel less stressed, happier at their job, and they will also have an easier time tuning out of work outside their working hours.
5. Embrace project management tools and virtual processes
To help your teamwork efficiently across the globe and keep everyone on task, leverage tools such as task management software, instant messaging apps, and progress trackers. This will enable everyone to update coworkers on their progress at different times of the day and help everyone strategize.
Project management tools allow employees who work in different time zones to stay on the same page about the progress of the project and quickly see what has been completed and what they should work on next.
The most important things to keep in mind and embrace when you manage remote teams in different time zones are inclusion, empathy, and respect. The steps outlined above will help you create a schedule that works for everyone on the team and allow all your teammates to contribute their ideas and feel listened to.
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