How Can A Manager Work With Multiple Time Zones?

Managers have to find ways to get their team to work together
Managers have to find ways to get their team to work together Image Credit: Sarah Dillon

The world in which we work has become more complicated. Our team, which once upon a time was located in a single office has now spread out. Many of our team members may now be working from home and as the company has become bigger, some team members may actually be located in different countries. What all of this means for a manager is that you may now be responsible for a team that spans multiple time zones. When everyone is not working in the same time zone, coordinating a team can become a difficult thing to do. How should managers deal with this situation?

The Challenge Of Multiple Time Zones

I think that we all know that a healthy workflow is an essential element of success for every professional team. However, problems can begin to arise when a manager has to orchestrate a consistent flow within a virtual environment. The shift to a remote-heavy work model has put a great deal of novel kinds of pressure on teams as they strive to stay on the same page. Flexible schedules and different time zones can make it even more difficult to be on the clock at the same time — let alone for teams to collaborate together. What managers need are suggestions for simple yet effective ways to overcome those growing pains and to reconcile a team’s workflow.

Managers Should Create Crystal Clear Agendas

Managers need to view meeting agendas not as a perfunctory step of a professional gathering. Instead, we should view them as being an art form that, when done well, can revolutionize the productivity of a meeting. Realize that agendas provide purpose, set expectations, empower individuals, and enhance focus. When a manager creates a good meeting agenda it should include the topics being addressed as well as action items, talking points, and other activities. All of these should be outlined, with each task assigned and meeting objectives unequivocally stated. Remember that the meeting organizer owns the agenda, but it’s absolutely critical that you provide the agenda to the entire team before the meeting. When you do this you ensure that, whenever your team is assembled for a few moments, everyone comes prepared and informed.

Learn To Embrace Asynchronous Meetings

When we think of a meeting, it can evoke images of well-dressed employees gathered around conference tables in the same space. I’ve got some news for you: it’s time to throw that idea away. Instead, what you need to do is to try using an asynchronous meeting approach. An asynchronous meeting is a kind of meeting where communication doesn’t happen in real-time and also doesn’t require an immediate response. If you send out a pre-recorded video of the meeting, it allows meetings to take place without the need to align schedules. An asynchronous meeting can be as simple as an email exchange between two or more people or communication via some other messaging application that doesn’t require real-time attendance. However, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean that you let the conversation run wild. To hold a real asynchronous meeting, you are going to need a sense of structure. Managers must select a limited number of participants and create an agenda with a clear purpose. As the meeting starts to “take place,” they must also set clear deadlines, invoke responses, and generally oversee the progress of the event.

If Possible, You Should Set Up A Centralized, Cloud-Based Workflow

Let’s face it, there are a lot of things about meetings that we all believe are a waste of time. It can be easy to attack the inefficiencies of our meetings, especially when they are presented in an online format. However, the truth is, meetings do offer your team a sense of structure and forward momentum for a team. One of the best ways to maintain this kind of progress with a multi-time zone workforce is by setting up a single centralized, cloud-based workflow space for your team’s activities. Don’t think of this as just referencing a cloud data storage solution like Google Drive or DropBox. Instead, it can require a full-blown workflow application. Using a good workflow app doesn’t just offer universal access to critical team information. It can also help shepherd your team through its individual activities. This can include things such as setting deadlines and assigning responsibilities. It also has the ability to provide a central, organized space where your team can upload shared documentation from various third-party applications.

What All Of This Means For You

As managers, we need to realize that the remote work world has a plethora of benefits for both us and our teams. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it has thrown a big monkey wrench into the workflow factor for a lot of managers and their teams. The good news is that there are now alternatives that can make the issue go away. If you’re willing to embrace important things like asynchronous meetings, clear agendas, and workflow apps, you may be able to eliminate the bulk of the need for regular meetings. Your team will not shed an ounce of productivity in the process.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When dealing with teams in different time zones, do you think that you should insist on “core hours” for your team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager, part of our job is to set deadlines for the people who work for us. Work needs to be accomplished and we know when it needs to be done. In order to communicate this to the rest of our team, we establish deadlines that tell everyone when the work that has been assigned to them must be completed. However, how people treat deadlines can differ from person to person. Additionally, managers need to realize that women and men may treat deadlines differently.