strategy Time management

Working in multiple time zones

Recently, the subject of teams working across time zones has come up in three separate conversations, so it makes for an excellent topic to write about.

Here are a few guidelines I’ve seen applied successfully that will help work across time zones a bit easier on your team.

Default to public conversations in chat

Doing so allows the people to chime in, even when they are not the intended recipient. 

It also makes it easy to get caught up on what happened while you were out, including essential decisions or ongoing conversations.

By the way, on the subject of ongoing conversations, be explicit about leaving a buffer time for other time zones to participate in the discussion rather than closing the thread 🧵 as soon as you get consensus among the people in your time zone.

Question the need to have a meeting

Meetings are an essential aspect of our work, but questioning if you should meet becomes crucial with multiple time zones.

Here are some ways to move a meeting asynchronous

  • Status meetings turn into status updates to a dedicated chat or page.
  • Decision-making meetings turn into collaborative documents following RACI/DACI format.
  • Problem-solving meetings turn into collaborative documents following a problem-solving framework such as ADR (architecture design review)
  • Information sharing meetings can become a pre-recorded video shared repeatedly to the team or organization, with a dedicated communication space for discussion. 
  • Brainstorming sessions become a multi-step asynchronous process to generate ideas first, set success criteria second, and filter ideas through the last success criteria.

Record meetings

At some point, a meeting is inevitable. We thrive in social environments and engaging with each other; meetings are as close as we get to that experience while working remotely.

But working in different time zones makes it difficult to get everyone to participate.

To be inclusive of others and disseminate information accordingly, record the meeting and share the recording with those not in attendance.

Extra points if the meeting recording is shared in your public chat messages for even more exposure to the information 

Take notes during meetings

While recording a meeting is great, the content is usually not searchable.

This is where taking notes becomes more critical.

Doing so allows for the information to be searchable, easy to share and provides consumption options for those that prefer reading over audiovisuals.

Be inclusive of time zones

To include people working in different time zones than your own, try to find a time between the participants.

When finding an overlap isn’t possible, consider having the same meeting in multiple time zones.

Empower and trust

A big complaint of new organizations distributing work across many time zones is the wait times needed for decisions and discussions to move forward.

I already spoke about some asynchronous ways to get to a consensus and make decisions, but the easiest way to unstuck someone is to make sure they are empowered and trusted to make decisions.

To do so, we will need laid out processes and an evident sense of direction. 

When people know the goal, they can figure out their way within the existing constraints.

Time zone icons created by Freepik – Flaticon