As an entrepreneur or business owner, it’s helpful to know to facilitate working across time zones. Even if you don’t actually have an international team, you still likely have to service clients, suppliers, or contractors internationally.
Whether you’re ready for it or not, remote work is here to stay and is transforming global business in some amazing ways. That’s why working across time zones matters. Even if you aren’t doing it yet, chances are that you soon will.
But why are businesses embracing remote work so readily?
Geoarbitrage, and Why it Matters
As a business owner, you’ll know that there are two driving forces in every industry. First, the need to optimize profits, and second, the need to minimize costs. Get those two fundamentals right, and growth becomes a lot easier.
Geoarbitrage is the practice of using differences in currency and cost of resources to increase the profitability and efficiency of your business operations. The simplest example of this would be a US-based company using an offshore call center because it’s cheaper to run and eliminates HR headaches.
There are 3 prominent advantages to working across time zones:
Leveraging Your Expenses
Why hire an expensive onsite PA when you could easily engage virtual personal assistant services at a much lower cost? Your virtual assistant may not even be US-based but is every bit as skilled as a local hire. (In many cases, even more so.)
The same applies to almost any team member. Also, you can take advantage of a strong dollar to pay less for products sourced from offshore suppliers. Imagine instantly saving 50% or more just by making use of skills and resources across different regions.
Optimizing Productive Time
When you have all your team members under one roof, they’re productive for 8-10 hours. Then, nothing happens until the next morning. But what if you had team members who worked even while you were asleep? That project completion deadline suddenly becomes a lot more attractive. Having team members working across time zones means that you literally reduce downtime for your business processes.
Having onsite employees comes with its own challenges and obligations. Think about office space, equipment, HR costs, taxes, labor legislation requirements, and more. By embracing remote work, you instantly eliminate most of the common overheads that chew up operating capital.
Best Practices for Working Across Time Zones
When you make the decision to build remote teams and facilitate working across time zones, there are some solid guidelines. By applying these to your remote teams, you can create seamless processes that keep you informed and in control.
Here are 10 best practices to consider when working across time zones:
1 . Settle on Blended Working Hours
You could opt for full asynchronous work, where there’s almost zero time overlap between team members. This isn’t always helpful, though. It’s better to arrive at an intelligent compromise, where at least some members overlap times. This enables them to communicate in real time and reduce delays in query or response.
2 . Establish Time Zone Etiquette
Make sure each team member is fully aware of the time parameters of their colleagues. Ensure that they provide realistic lead times for requests or assignments, too. What if a member in the US needs something done urgently at midday? They need to be mindful that a British or South African team member is seven or eight hours ahead. That requires consideration for the local times and working hours of others.
3 . Guard Your Own Accessibility
As the point person, you might need to field queries or communications from team members working across time zones. That doesn’t mean you should be available 24/7, though. Make sure everyone knows when you’re off the clock, so they don’t expect instant access all the time.
4 . Create a Communication Playbook
Working across time zones requires adapting to different styles of communication. It also means embracing nuances of meaning or expectation. For example, “I’ll do it just now’ can mean ‘immediately’ or ‘sometime soon’ depending on the person’s frame of reference. The best way to prevent misunderstandings is to establish a common ‘language’ – literally, a playbook of commonly understood terms.
5 . Regularly Check In and Facilitate Interaction
When working across time zones, it’s important to regularly check in on team members. Geographical separation can feel like isolation – but maintaining team motivation and energy flow can be surprisingly easy. There are also some great ways to foster remote team wellness that range from basic equipment provision to mental health.
6 . Embrace Asynchronous Work
Asynchronous (or ‘non-synchronized’ work) can seem daunting at first. But it’s actually a very smart workaround that offers you continuous productivity. Think of working across time zones as being like a relay race. One team member goes off shift, passes the baton to the next team member – and the race goes on. Lags in communication can easily be handled via video or a shared communication platform. You could even hire a cost-effective virtual assistant to collate and update information between team members.
7 . Use Smart Time Zone Tools
Obviously, having the right tools makes working across time zones a lot easier. So:
- You could use Slack for cross-team communication and reporting.
- Figure It Out is a great app for keeping track of time zones in real time.
8 . Be Mindful of Work-Life Boundaries
It’s common for remote teams to suffer from creeping work intrusion into their home lives. Encourage team members to tell you if they feel this happening so you can address it. An open and honest feedback system builds trust and loyalty, too.
9 . Record Meetings and Key Information
Naturally, it won’t always be possible for team members to be in on meetings or discussions in real time. Record these and make them available so others can contribute or comment after the fact.
10 . Be Sensitive to Cultural Norms
Encourage team members to also interact informally as far as it’s appropriate to do so. By learning about differences in culture, communication becomes easier and more sincere. Your team also develops a greater sense of camaraderie and mutual support.
Ready to Work Across Time Zones?
Remote teamwork is easier and more effective than you might think. The benefits are measurable, and you gain access to a vast pool of global talent.
Using a virtual assistant to coordinate team communication and reporting is a natural extension of remote team thinking, too. Hiring a professional virtual assistant also frees up a lot of your personal time and mental bandwidth.
Book a discovery call today, claim your free trial, and discover how a virtual assistant can benefit your business.