When you started your business, you never imagined you’d have to manage employees, consultants or suppliers across multiple time zones. But now you’re working with a team that includes collaborating with others in New York, Los Angeles, Des Moines, Tokyo and New Delhi, and you’re not sure how to keep up with the juggling necessary to manage all those different time zones. First advice: Don’t worry. Take a deep breath and realize thousands of businesses do this on a daily basis— it’s not as impossible as you think. In fact, there are a few steps you can take to make the process easier not only on you, but for the entire team.
Be precise about time
(Standard Time Zones of the World via Wikimedia Commons)
When you’re working with a global team, always be specific about times. 1PM should be restated as “1PM CST” if that’s the time you mean. Better yet, use “Universal Time,” the modern version of what many people still refer to as Greenwich Mean Time.
Establish fair, consistent times and rotate them
This is a big one. When planning video or phone conferences with your remote team, you should take three things into consideration:
- That you offer them consistent times (daily, weekly, biweekly, etc.)
- That you make the time fair for all those involved. 9AM EST on Monday might be great for you, but it might be 6AM PT on Monday for someone else.
- Rotate meeting times. This means that some weeks it favors you; some weeks it favors the people/person in another location; and some weeks it favors the people/person in yet another location, etc.
Use project management software for ‘asynchronous’ communication
One of the easiest ways to keep your multi-time-zone project running smoothly is with software that allows you to collaborate in ways other than “real time,” or what engineers and others call, “asynchronous.” At SmallBusiness.com, we’re fans of the project software platform BaseCamp as it allows us to organize our stories, publishing schedules, photos and ideas all in one place—no matter where our contributors are working from.
Video chat for more than just meetings
One of the more difficult things about managing a team across multiple time zones is maintaining morale. It’s easy to keep up-to-date on someone’s personal life when they’re working two cubicles over from you every day. But when they’re spread out with thousands of miles between them, you miss a lot. Thus, it’s a good idea to have—as Google has called it—virtual “hangouts” with your team members, as well as meetings. This keeps everyone feeling involved in each other’s lives, and not just someone you email when you need something from them. Which brings us to our last bit of advice:
Bring everyone together
If at all possible, bring your team together at regular intervals. This could coincide with training, industry events or the launch of major projects. Make such trips a chance for people to learn more about different cultures and professional approaches. And make sure to have some fun.