he amazing benefits of remote and globally distributed teams are the reason they are gaining traction. Virtual teams allow employers to hire diverse talent from across the globe, without boundaries. Remote work has been proven to boost employee productivity, reduce costs and lower attrition rate.
However, despite its benefits, managing a virtual team across time zones can be tricky. Virtual teams, if not managed strategically, can feel disconnected and isolated. Being a part of a silent team that does not communicate over chat, emails, video-conferences or other tools, can dampen the ability to collaborate and work together. And with a remote team that works across multiple time zones, the challenge multiplies many folds.
Successfully resolve time zone challenges as a distributed virtual team with these tips and best practices and keep your team collaborating productively.
1. Invest time in establishing a communication strategy
Communication is the underlying pillar for the success of global teams. Ensuring free communication between team members fosters a collaborative culture where employees feel engaged and motivated. It is always a good idea to draft a clear communication strategy that removes ambiguity about the communication process, tools and guidelines.
Here a few points that you can keep in mind to build an effective communication strategy:
- Limit the number of meetings: Meetings are a great way to interact and work together. Sure. But we know how much work gets done during meetings. So before you schedule another virtual meeting, rethink if the meeting is essential or urgent. Be mindful of the other employees’ time zone, work hours and work engagements before you go ahead with sending the meeting invite.
- Make teams autonomous: As a manager, strive to make your team members less dependent on each other. Too much interdependency and need for coordination can lead to productivity loss and eventually missed deadlines. Provide clear, well-drafted and detailed communication on job requirements so that the team members can execute the task autonomously.
- Embrace asynchronous communication: In a globally distributed workspace, everyone works at a different time. So not all communication will happen in real-time as everyone is not available all the time. And if at all communication does happen in real-time, it will not be inclusive and will make some team members feel left out.
To meet this challenge, default to asynchronous communication. Send a chat message, mail, or a document to interact. An added advantage of asynchronous communication is that everyone thinks before speaking and thus avoids conflicts.
- Reasonable deadlines: If you are sending out a scheduled message to the team, allow others a day or two to respond. Always clearly mention what you are expecting and the date by which you are expecting a reply.
- Understand and respect cultural differences: Culture plays a huge role in employees’ behaviour and process. To be respectful of each other’s culture and for unhindered communication, everyone on the team needs to understand the differences. Weekend work, time to start the day, break hours and language can be different in different regions. So watch out for these to keep the collaboration and productivity going!
(Read: Virtual meetings guide for managers)
- Coordinate calendar:To solve the time zone puzzle, you need to choose a crossover time to schedule meetings. Keep in mind the convenience of other members’ and schedule it during their regular work hours, even if it means that you need to adjust your work hours a little. These little considerations go a long way in creating a well-knit team.
2. Create “virtual coffee breaks” for your team
Chance meetings in the hallway, coffee breaks and watercooler moments are some of the perks of working in an in-person office. They break the monotony, increase team bonding and improve productivity.
The good news is that you can organise such moments for your virtual team by structuring time for such breaks, creating similar interest clubs and organising regular “happy hours”. Getting everyone together once a week can be an excellent way to touch-base and catch up on a personal level.
“Provide clear, well-drafted communication on job requirements so that the team member can execute the task autonomously.”
3. Leverage the right tech and process
At the heart of a successful virtual team is superior technology which includes project management tools, collaboration tools, video conferencing tools and more. Find the best fit for your team and create a process to collaborate effectively.
For instance, for video conferencing and virtual event tools like Airmeet can help humanise the interaction with ease and quality.
4. Foster the culture of collaboration and team-building
Trust, shared vision, team-spirit and engagement are the essential ingredients for effective collaboration and conflict-free teamwork. To establish this culture, the first thing that you need to do is align the remote workers with a bigger business goal and shared team goal. It will help them see the bigger picture and also help determine progress tracking.
Plan regular meetups to keep the team engaged, cohesive and reduce the risk of burnout. Celebrate achievements and special occasions together. Schedule monthly meetings that are casual to develop a deeper understanding among team members.
To be able to achieve the goals and benefits of a global team that works virtually, you need to devise a strategy and implement it efficiently. Continually strive to keep the communication channels open, build cohesiveness and respect each other’s time. These are the three critical components to managing a remote, diverse team successfully.