“My lunch is their dinner.” “My work hours are their leisure time.” Those of us who work closely with team members in other time zones need to be conscious of where our colleagues are in order to collaborate with them effectively.
Although it may seem like a complex and daunting task, managing teams across time zones does not have to be difficult. Over the past few years, virtual teams have become more popular because they allow for specialization, diversity and increased productivity. Working across time zones requires adaptability, strong organization skills and respect in order to be successful. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite tips to assist your inter-continental work day.
1. Be aware of cultural differences
Communication styles vary by country. Some cultures avoid direct eye-contact during a conversation, while others insist on formal language. When you start a virtual team across borders, educate each team member about cultural differences regarding communication. A clear understanding of cultural norms will prevent misinterpretation and conflict in the future.
2. Know your holidays
You don’t want to send a project to Delhi when the offices are closed for Diwali. Google Calendar allows you to add country-specific calendars for holidays, in addition to personal and work schedules. Consider subscribing to foreign calendars. These give you a clear long-term picture of your distant team members’ work schedules. Make a list of the countries you work with, and note all the holidays when your team members will not be available.
3. Set correspondence days
For example, envision working with a team in India. The first step is to identify a particular day of the week that would work best for the point-person of this team to communicate with you in order to set expectations and keep the team on task. This will provide both your team and the Indian team ample amount of time to work on project details to be discussed during this weekly correspondence meeting.
4. Lengthen the planning period
Account for delays so you aren’t surprised by them. Adding in this extra margin enables your team to have adequate time to fix a problem caused by communication or shipping delays. If there are no kinks in the process, you will complete a project early. There’s nothing wrong with being the early bird!
5. Share the challenges
Conference calls cannot always be scheduled during convenient hours. It is important to share the disadvantages. If your co-worker or team worked beyond the traditional work day in their country last time, rotate this responsibility for the next conference call. Respect and concern for another person’s sacrifice fosters a healthy and productive work environment.
When working domestically, small mistakes make you look bad in front of your team – but when working internationally, these same mistakes may result into a two-day delay. Team members must possess a sense of adaptability, strong organizational skills and respect for each other’s space and time. 9-to-5 is no longer the norm. Even small businesses utilize partners and suppliers across the pond. In order to make your business successful, make a conscious attempt to treat your international partners well. Communication and planning are vital for productivity.