The question from Paul in the USA was one of great interest to anyone who works in global teams. He asked, “Time zones are challenging for everyone’s working hours in multinational teams, particularly for US and Asia. Dividing roles more cleanly so teams can work independently reduces the need to work across time zones, but when teams have to work together what are the best practices to reduce the early mornings and the late nights?”
This is a challenging problem and has to be kept at the front of your mind when you start planning how you’re going to run meetings and work with your team. Do this correctly and you will prevent problems like the one Sarah described in my previous post.
Find out about the different time zones
One ‘Gotcha’ that frequently catches people out is other country’s public holidays. Make it your business to find out all the major holidays in the countries where your people are based. Also, don’t expect them to know when yours are either. A common example I come across is American Thanksgiving. It’s the major holiday in the USA, but in the UK few people have a clue when it is. You only make the mistake of trying to arrange a major meeting that clashes with Thanksgiving once…..
Include the team in planning
I always find the best practice with scheduling is to discuss it openly with the rest of the team. Ask them what they need, what they want, and if you can’t get everyone in their working hours, work out how you’re going to take it in turns to be the one who is inconvenienced. When you are in the middle time zone of a group, for example being in the UK with team members in the USA and India, it can be very easy to be the one that never works early morning or late nights. Make sure that you share the flexibility around. You do not need to meet at the same time each week just because your calendar arranges that for you. Build yourself a different schedule if that works for your team.
Manage your own calendar well
I always find it really useful to prioritize my own calendar to support the team. Mornings are for interacting with India, Europe is prioritised in the middle of the day, and the US during late afternoon. If someone from Europe asks me for a call at 3:00 in the afternoon then I try to move it earlier as I know I need that time to talk to other people.
As for any team, meeting success starts with clear agendas, good planning, removing blockers and making it easy to contribute. There is no simple solution when you’re working across time zones that wide. You just have to be flexible and considerate of other people. How do you get the best out of your virtual team?