Today’s workforce includes a mix of remote, hybrid, and on-site employees. Regardless of your location, you’re likely collaborating with peers in different locations. With teams being more dispersed than ever before, time zones can present a major hurdle for workplace collaboration if not planned accordingly.
According to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work Report, 21% of respondents identified working across different time zones as their biggest struggle stemming from remote work, while 17% chose difficulties with collaboration and communication as their biggest struggle.
If your teams are scattered throughout the country, or globe, consider these 5 tips to increase collaboration across your remote team.
1. Maintain Transparency
The first step in working remotely is understanding where everyone is located. Teammates should share their current time zones and working hours, if they are comfortable doing so, with their team members within the organization. This will increase team transparency and accountability. It will also ensure that team members will know when to expect a response, depending on the time zone and working schedule of that individual. Being able to properly communicate and collaborate with your team depends on understanding when they are online and when they are offline. Some team members may live in a separate time zone but work during the 9-5 of another, and it is important to be transparent around that as well. Collaboration begins when you know the best ways to communicate to your team, and the best times.
2. Support and Respect Each Other
Once your colleagues' work hours and boundaries are established, it’s important to respect them. For example, be sure to schedule meetings within their active work hours rather than making some teammates call in early or late in the day. Of course, this can easily be mitigated through communication ahead of scheduling the meeting. It’s also important to set reasonable expectations regarding response times when scheduling meetings or sending messages. This may take some time to adjust, but ensuring that you are respectful, even with a delayed response will produce positive collaboration for the future. Be sure to factor time zones into your meetings, project deadline or urgent requests. A great way to respect and support your remote team can be to ensure meetings that may be outside of typical working hours for some employees are recorded. If they can attend, great, however, if they are unable, they can access the meeting video and will continue to feel in the loop and engaged.
3. Clear Goals and Objectives
It's important to set clear and reasonable goals and objectives, especially within larger group projects or meetings. When your remote team is clear on what the goal is, and when that goal is set to be achieved, separate time zones won't play a factor in team collaboration. It is also a great way to ensure you make the most out of the time you have set aside for the meeting. With clear goals and objectives outlined it significantly increases the pre-call review or work that is done prior to the meeting, and also ensures that the meeting time is used wisely. This tends to decrease the amount of times meetings are needed throughout a project and even can reduce the time a meeting is scheduled for.
4. Virtual Team Building Activities
Team building activities boost employee engagement and also add another layer of culture to your organization. Your team can get to know each other on a less corporate level and start to learn about shared likes in music, food, cinema, trivia, etc. Team building activities are one of the great ways to foster remote team collaboration and there are tons of options to get your teams together virtually. It could be anything from giving each a tour of the favorite room in your house, online trivia games, sharing bucket lists, online cooking classes, or building a story together. The important thing is not what do you, if that you make an effort to do it.
5. Leverage Technology
If project management tools, workflow tools, or other key platforms are available, they may be helpful in streamlining communication, collaboration, and work processes. Technology can help ensure everyone is on the same page regarding projects, timelines, goals and meetings regardless of when they are logging on and off. Some effective communication tools for meetings, calls, and overall collaboration are: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack, GoToMeeting/Webinar, Basecamp 3, Dialpad. These tools will not only help increase the way your team communicates but the built-in time zone tools will help give you a good idea of what time it is in the different areas where your teammates are while you are scheduling meetings. Painless and easy to use.
Working effectively within a remote team involves being mindful and respectful of time zones and schedules. Struggling with communication and collaboration is part of an evolving hybrid or remote workforce, but through careful planning and the above tips, you will be able to feel comfortable about the work that you are doing and the communication between teammates no matter where they are in the world.