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The spirit of Globalisation infused with the spirit of remote work has led to the development of a remote workspace where office boundaries are non-existent while your colleagues and teams span all around the globe.
Welcome to the world of remote work where time is a subjective entity and your clock possesses not just two hands but a range of hands; each ticking in a different time zone. The recent decade has witnessed unparalleled digital connectivity where a start-up based in Mumbai is filled with employees residing in New York, Lisbon or Sydney. This concept sounds fascinating due to its dynamic approach paired with a flexible work environment, but it has its own set of challenges.
Navigating a remote workforce is like mastering a symphony where every musician comes with their unique skill; however, the symphony has to incorporate everyone while promising equal representation to everyone thus ensuring the overall symphony stays fabulous. This blog is an attempt to help you master this intricate play of optimising time zones across globally based remote workforces.
Understanding Time Zones and their influence across Global Workforces
Time ie. A universal constant binds remote teams expanding beyond geographical boundaries. The rotation of Earth around the Sun results in the division of the globe into twenty-four segments. Each segment possesses a typical median which results in the formation of time zones. These zones dictate the pattern of day and night within their specific meridian.
Due to remote teams operating from specific time zones the need for efficient synchronisation arises. While a team operating in California packs for the day as the sun rests in the Pacific time zone another team operating in Britain is fuelled up for a mentally gruelling day at work. Further another team holed up in Sydney is contemplating calling it a day as the sun starts showing signs of dipping around the Southern Cross.
This sounds like a relay match; Doesn't it?
However, the only fact that's different is that remote teams play an endless relay wherein the baton of efficient productivity is passed around endlessly on a global racetrack.
The key to efficient management lies in taking into account the diversity of your team and harnessing it as a strength rather than letting it disrupt your team effort. Official meetings and communication channels must be channelled in a specific manner which allows every team member to efficiently communicate with their counterparts across the globe.
Now that we are acquainted with the challenge let's discuss the strategies which we can use to navigate through globally remote workforces.
A remote workforce is separated by oceans and continents but effective communication is the bridge that serves as the linkup which possesses the strength to transcend geographical boundaries. A transparent approach towards communication allows multiple stakeholders to voice their opinions and expectations. This allows everyone to be acquainted with each other's challenges and forms an approach where solutions are built keeping the challenges in context.
The first step in moving towards a transparent environment lies in acknowledgement of the fact that your colleagues reside in diverse time zones. Acceptance of this allows everyone to be sensitive to the fact that the team consists of people with diverse backgrounds and cultures. Once the team is acquainted with the basic schedule of their colleagues a shared understanding is cultivated which takes into account every individual's schedule and their specific constraints. Further team leaders must ascertain certain basic information such as:
- Working hours of each individual
- Availability status of an individual throughout the day
- The most compatible mode of communication
Keeping into account the basic information dynamic schedules should be worked out wherein core operational hours during which each team member will be available is clearly defined. Moving forward the team manager should chalk out the expectations from the team as follows:
- Articulating a consensus around anticipated response times for any official communication such as email, project updates etc.
- Defining clear guidelines around the timeframe when team members are expected to be accessible concerning the project.
- Clarifying the fact that urgent matters might result in interruption of an individual's time.
The final step needed for creating an environment of transparent communication lies in creating a culture where any individual employee can stand up and voice their concerns around time zones sans any reservations.
Leveraging Time Zone overlap
Time Zone overlap is the phenomenon wherein the entire team spread across the world shares a common segment of the workday. This overlap can be considered as a golden hour wherein the rays of collaboration shine brightly ensuring an environment of maximum productivity.
It's like a meeting wherein a colleague in New York is gearing up for the workday while ideating on a new concept with a team member in London who's about to wrap up the day post the meeting. All along another team member from Spain is wired in who has just finished lunch and is preparing for the second half of their workday.
Team managers should focus on leveraging such periods wherein overlapping time zones allow maximum team members to be available for the meeting. Understanding the vital benefits of shared time zones such as real-time collaboration, spontaneous feedback sessions along dynamic brainstorming is necessary to leverage overlapping time zones.
While overlapping time zones sounds like a dynamic concept, the managers should be sensitive towards the fact that a definitive consensus is defined around which tasks are supposed to be addressed during the timeframe of overlapping time zones. Since this is a crucial time for the team, small-scale decisions which can be worked with the help of asynchronous communication should be ignored and mission-critical decisions should be given complete priority.
Although overlapping time zones involve all team members during a specific period it doesn't ensure that every member is convenient with the timings. While team members starting their day would be energised for the meeting, the set of team members who might be calling it a day post the meeting might feel burdened with handling extremely critical tasks at the end of the day which might result in them working overtime. Therefore extreme care should be taken that any specific team shouldn't be at the receiving end of this policy.
Utilising Asynchronous collaboration
Asynchronous collaboration is the fuel which runs remote teams across diverse time zones. Such collaborations are developed with the help of a robust digital ecosystem consisting of cloud-based documentation systems, project management applications and communication systems which allow team members to submit their contributions to the project at their specific convenience.
Asynchronous collaboration is supplemented with the help of communication. While direct communication is absent it's replaced with a robust system supported by email chains, comments within documents, document trails detailing edits by past team members, and messages within communication systems.
Inclusivity is the core philosophy allowing the functioning of asynchronous collaboration. It allows team members to work out their collaborations while respecting the working hours and personal circumstances of each team member. While it liberates an individual team member from the shackles of constant communication it grants them the freedom to contribute optimum output.
However, the fluidity of asynchronous collaboration shouldn't allow exploitation instead it should be incorporated with a rigorous disciplinary approach. The Team managers should develop guidelines emphasising the need for regular updates and adherence to project deadlines.
The incorporation of localised leadership within the remote teams serves as a dual link-up between the team and the management. An organisation consists of a centralised leadership responsible for providing the grand vision for the organisation and underlining the objectives and the overall course for the company.
Within this centralised structure, the management should focus on the incorporation of a decentralised structure consisting of entirely local leadership teams. These localised leadership teams tone down the grand plan proposed by the centralised leadership along the lines of the local teams while taking into context the cultural, social and regional sensitivities of the specific region.
In layman's terms, the localised leadership is the interpreter tasked with articulating the grand vision taking into account the regional specificity. Further, the localised leadership acts as the voice for the local teams responsible for providing inputs and voicing opinions to the centralised leadership.
Effective integration of this strategy is possible only when localised leadership is granted complete empowerment. Clear communication channels between central leadership form the basis of fostering empowerment. Continuous interaction along with an open dialogue is necessary for creating a conducive environment. Local leaders should also be allowed autonomy within their domain.
Apart from the strategies given above remote teams can incorporate certain advanced strategies which allow optimal time zone management.
The incorporation of tools providing shared calendars helps navigation through differing time zones which fosters a spirit of collaboration.
Flexible work hours
Teams should function with a flexible approach towards work hours wherein autonomous participation is encouraged along with work-life balance.
The incorporation of recording tools in the workflow allows the recording of meetings necessary for keeping absent team members in the loop. These recordings can be stored in information repositories wherein each member is granted access.
Note-taking software should be incorporated within the workflow and specific guidelines should be chalked out ensuring every important update and meeting note reaches concerned team members.
Modern workspaces which utilise technology for bridging borders while ensuring overall collaboration need to optimise time zones because it acts as the defining principle of the success of the remote team. Time zone optimization stretches not only around overlapping time zones; instead, it focuses on creating a conducive work environment wherein maximum productivity is guaranteed.
The article above details strategies which will help you transform your remote team into a conducive high-performance team wherein boundaries of time zones are completely blurred allowing efficient collaboration. Perfect optimization lies in developing a team spirit which takes into account the fact that the world never stops therefore work can never cease.