Top 5 Practices for Working Across Different Time Zones

Chris Carnduff
June 7, 2024

Satellite offices and remote work are becoming more common because organizations have found that developing global teams can improve businesses tenfold. 

In today’s world, exceeding employee search beyond a state or country improves diversity, company culture, and the ability to hire better talent. In fact, Gartner predicted that 75% of businesses with diversified decision-makers will surpass their financial targets. 

But despite all the benefits of global employees, companies still find it challenging to manage and collaborate with peers worldwide because of the time zones. 

Without question, it’s causing havoc and distress in many companies. However, it’s easier to manage than you might think; you only need to employ the correct practices. 

To learn which ones your business needs to consider, check out the below post: 

1.   Establish everyone’s time zones and working hours 

virtual worker

Before we get into this, you must remember one important rule - It’s mandatory to be respectful, empathetic, and mindful when working with teams across different time zones. 

At any point, nobody should feel forced into a never-stop mindset. If clear work boundaries aren’t created, employees and teams can quickly burn out, leading to a whole lot of negative effects

The best way to avoid this is to create healthy work-life boundaries and rules among all team members. Of course, these boundaries must work both for the employer and remote workers. 

Remember, everybody is different. You’ll have the early birds, night owls, split shifters, and everyone else in between. Therefore, learn what the team member prefers and work from there. 

Once you understand their preferred working hours and have either agreed or slightly altered them to work for your company, stick with them. Don’t contact them during do-not-disturb hours; utilize them when they’re working. 

But it’s no good that only you know this. Make this known to everybody that the remote worker must collaborate with. Doing this will ensure that boundaries are always met. 

To help with the process, we highly recommend that you implement the following: 

  • Use auto-responders - Communication is important in a remote work environment, and auto-responders can help. Utilize them for off-hours, vacations, or even deep work sessions so other team members know when to expect a response. 
  • Have a shared calendar - These are excellent, as all team members can add and gain access to this. On a shared calendar, include national or religious holidays, vacations, meetings, etc. This way, everybody is on board with what’s happening. 
  • Be open to work-life boundary improvements - In some instances, work-life boundaries will get broken or need improving. Be open about improvements and make them feel comfortable about discussing what’s helping or ruining their productivity. 

2.   Create communication and collaboration remote work rules 

remote work rules

If an organization is following this style of working environment, communication policies and collaboration tools must get clearly outlined during the onboarding process. 

Creating these rules and a handbook for team members to refer back to will give them guidelines on what to do and what’s expected of them. 

But don’t worry. The book doesn’t need to be countless pages of mess. Instead, focus on the two primary things below: 

  • Communication channels - Will teams need to show up for meetings? If so, what platform will they use? Microsoft Teams? Get everyone using the same communication channels to keep conversations organized, centralized, and accessible. 
  • Project management tools - How will teams know what to work on? Which platform can provide this information? Find a platform that can track short and long-term pipelines to ensure optimal efficiency. 

There are many collaborative tools you can select, each having its own pros and cons. Find something that works for your organization, where people can effortlessly assign tasks, review projects, access spreadsheets, set deadlines, etc. 

This way, there isn’t any disturbance with workflow. Every time somebody clocks in, they’ll have great engagement and be ready to start the day. 

3.   Follow a meeting protocol that works 

meeting protocol

Recently, video meeting fatigue has been a real issue - So much that it’s reported that 70% of meetings are a waste of time. To avoid wasting precious productivity time, you need to follow and employ a meeting protocol that works.

Various unique methods can help with this. However, to make it simple, follow this 4-step meeting protocol process: 

  1. Does this need to happen - First, think about whether real-time collaboration is worth the time. Ask yourself, “Does this meeting require a video recording, or can it get emailed?”. Understand this before asking people to rearrange their schedules for this meeting. 
  2. Will a video recording help - If you think the discussion warrants a meeting, then question how you’ll convey this information. Will you explain in real-time, or will you showcase a video recording? 
  3. Send out a meeting agenda - Leading up to the meeting, send over a meeting agenda to all members that will be present. This will allow them to understand what’s on the itinerary and brainstorm questions before you meet. 
  4. Record or take notes in the meeting - Never leave the meeting empty-handed. Either take notes away or record the session via a screen-recording software.

And remember, not everyone from each time zone needs to be present at the meeting. Instead, create a buddy system with a designated point of contact in the different time zones that updates, informs, and gives meeting notes to other team members. 

4.   Use asynchronous and synchronous communication 

synchronous communication

Additionally, it would help if you got a nice, healthy balance of asynchronous and synchronous communication. 

So, to understand both of these, here’s a quick explanation. Asynchronous communication happens on your own time and doesn’t need scheduling, like replying to an email. In contrast, synchronous communication is scheduled and requires engagement, like a virtual coffee or phone call.

Both are incredibly important, but sometimes one or the other gets neglected. Whatever you do, don’t let this happen, as each style of communication can offer excellent benefits. 

The most effective way to ensure this remains in your organization is by creating a company culture centered around communication - For instance, making it a requirement that the team must have a virtual coffee once a week.

But how do you know when or how to start using asynchronous or synchronous communication? Below we compare these so you can decipher which is more important for a particular circumstance. 

Asynchronous Vs. Synchronous 

Synchronous Communication

  • Communicated in real-time
  • Creates interruptions during a standard workday
  • Includes online chat sessions, video conferencing, or live customer support
  • The involved parties are actively waiting for a reply
  • Too much synchronous communication can lead to a burnout
  • Is required for more in-depth discussions – for instance, problems in the pipeline
  • Real-life meetings have quick responses, which can impact the quality of conversations

Asynchronous Communication

  • Communicated in the future  
  • It doesn’t create interruption during a standard workday
  • Includes emails, pre-recorded videos, blogs, or even social media posts
  • Neither the sender nor receiver is waiting for a response
  • It doesn’t cause any distractions, increasing productivity and reducing burnout
  • Is required for less immediate or in-depth queries that don’t need solving right away
  • Future replies can be thought about increasing the quality of conversations

5.   Make use of virtual coffee meetings 

virtual communication

The last and most favorable practice for working across multiple time zones is virtual coffees, which is something CoffeePals holds close to their heart. 

Virtual coffees are exactly what you think. It’s a video meeting where team members join, drink coffee, chat, and discuss their lives or work-related topics

Having these is incredibly important. We all know that remote work can get lonely. Therefore, rebuild connections, engagement, and company culture by organizing brief, 5 to 10 minutes virtual coffee meetings. 

The CoffeePals Microsoft Teams application can help get coffee chats off the ground in your organization.

Our simple-to-use application encourages virtual coffees by offering a laid-back, effortless way to digitally enjoy a beverage with team members.

By enrolling your organization in this, the company will receive abundant benefits, like: 

  • The ability to grow deeper connections with teams 
  • Improving cross-communication with different groups or time zones to increase connections 
  • Providing a platform of communication that supports management and mentorship 
  • Having a non-nerve-racking onboarding system, allowing new hires to contact you anytime, anywhere
  • Management or hierarchical decision-makers can measure the effectiveness of virtual coffees with detailed analytics

Getting started only takes a matter of minutes also, as it connects to Microsoft Teams. You could even be holding your first ever virtual coffee chat in five minutes. 

To begin using this revolutionary remote-work-focused way of communication, start by signing up for our free trial (up to 24 users). 

Collaborating across different time zones is easy… 

Working across different time zones is simple and doesn’t require headaches when following these five practices. Team members will love the implementation because it’ll allow them to focus heavily on tasks, team goals, and, most importantly, new company highs. 

To begin, start using one or all of the above and slowly begin developing an understanding of what works or doesn’t work for your business. Whatever works, continue iterating and optimizing, then see its positive effects on the company. 

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