With globalization and the rise in remote work and flexible schedules that we have seen since the pandemic, employers are experiencing a number of new challenges, especially when it comes to managing global teams. In fact, according to Statistica, 44% of U.S. employees are now working from home five days or more per week. As a result, businesses need to adapt to the changing requirements of the modern workforce. This includes keeping teams spanning multiple time zones connected, collaborative, and productive.
Today we will discuss some of these challenges and share tips for effectively managing global teams in different time zones.
Managing global teams
Remote work isn’t a new concept, but it has exploded in popularity over the past few years. Part of this is due to evolving technology and the rise of digitalization. However, the transition was undoubtedly accelerated by COVID-19. All of a sudden, offices around the globe had to adjust to their employees being restricted to their homes. And this meant addressing a number of key challenges, especially in terms of technology.
Despite this fact, this age of remote work has already brought a number of benefits for companies and their employees. One of the biggest benefits is that, when your employees work remotely, you’re not just restricted to recruiting talent from your local area. And this has led to a rise in global teams, many of which span multiple time zones.
The benefits don’t stop at expanded talent pools, either; global teams can also help businesses target a much larger market and run operations 24/7. Plus, by building teams consisting of a variety of nationalities and cultures, you get the added benefit of a rich and diverse workforce, providing new opportunities for creativity and innovation.
However, working with different teams across multiple time zones has its own set of challenges. You need to implement measures that facilitate effective communication and collaboration between teams that work different hours in different locations. And this means adjusting working models, reaching out to new technology, and designing strategies for managing global teams remotely.
Common challenges for managing global teams
Managing in-house teams can be challenging enough. You need to make sure teams communicate with each other, synchronize their workflows, and share the necessary resources so that the entire organization works cohesively and efficiently. However, when you include global teams in the structure of your business, these challenges can get even harder. This is especially true if your teams work in different time zones, come from different cultures, and speak different languages.
Before we discuss how to manage global teams effectively, let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges associated with managing global teams.
One of the biggest obstacles when managing global teams is ensuring that all your teams communicate clearly and regularly. This can be especially difficult if teams are located in different time zones and follow different work schedules. It can be even harder again if teams communicate in different languages.
The best way to overcome this issue is by developing reliable internal communication channels that are less dependent on real-time communication. Instant messaging can be effective if you’re in the same time zone as someone. However, emails and project management tools can often be more effective for remote teams. Remind everyone that they need to be mindful that office hours are going to differ by region, so team members won’t always get an instant response.
In terms of language, it’s a good idea to define a common language for all cross-team communications. If certain teams aren’t as proficient in your chosen common language as others, offer training so that they can improve their language skills.
Staying in sync
Synchronization is another common challenge when it comes to managing global teams in different time zones. This is particularly true if you are trying to coordinate a video conference. After all, nobody wants to work late to make an international call. How do you schedule online meetings at a time that is fair to all and doesn’t require employees to log on after work hours?
Part of this challenge comes down to finding the right time of day for global meetings. But it can be just as challenging to synchronize calendars so that the right meeting times are communicated to all employees in line with their specific time zone. The only way to ensure accuracy here is by using the right tools to synchronize the calendars of all your remote workers. We’ll share a few suggestions for this later in the post.
The third big challenge with global workforce management is that your employees are likely to come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. This means that they will have different corporate cultures, follow different norms, and communicate in different ways.
You also have to be mindful that company culture in general is much harder to cultivate when you hire remote workers who follow flexible schedules. Culture is much easier to nurture when everyone shares the same office space. This means that you have to find other ways to develop a sense of connection and belonging so that everyone feels included. Otherwise, there’s a risk that individual teams or employees will feel isolated and this will have a big impact on your level of organizational commitment and engagement.
Tips for managing global teams
With the right approach to managing global teams, organizations can nurture collaborative and cohesive teams and boost performance. The key is adjusting your internal practices and using the right technology to facilitate communication and transparent workflows.
With this in mind, let’s finish today’s post by sharing a few tips for managing global teams in different time zones so that you can build a solid and productive global workforce.
Use tools to your advantage
Make sure you use as many tools as possible to enhance collaboration.
For example, applications like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack can be great for managing global teams and maintaining open channels of communication. You can organize regular video meetings to keep everyone connected and updated. Video calls are also good for building internal connections with remote workers. After all, seeing someone’s face is going to make more of an impact than reading their emails.
There are also many tools on the market that can help you synchronize employee calendars so that it’s easier to coordinate long-distance meetings. Plus, if you use a tool like Google Calendar, meeting times are automatically updated to reflect the time zone of each participant. Slack offers a similar function for chats. Just click on a team member’s name and you can see what their local time is. That way, you can be sure that you are messaging them during their active office hours.
Another great solution that ensures you’re not messaging someone out of hours is scheduling emails and instant messages. Many communication platforms these days, including Gmail, let you schedule a time in the future for sending messages. That way, your remote employees won’t receive message notifications in the middle of the night.
Finally, you should also consider investing in shift management software to keep track of who is working and when. That way, you’ll always know who is on shift and who is currently unavailable, regardless of where they are located.
Set specific times for meetings
Following on from the point we made about coordinating online meetings, you should also include guidelines on preferred work hours in your flexible schedule and/or remote work policy. Ideally, this should align with the time zones and personal preferences of each remote team. That way, you have clear boundaries and everyone understands when they need to be available for regular team meetings.
Moreover, when you arrange a meeting with a remote team, stick to it. It might be mid-morning at your location. However, the team you have arranged to meet with might be waiting to leave the office for the day. Set specific times for meetings and be considerate of other time zones at all times.
Coordinate a structured workflow for managing global teams
Organization is crucial when you are managing global teams. Everyone needs to understand who is responsible for what, and when task deadlines are approaching. Otherwise, things can quickly get very complicated.
The best way to stay as organized as possible is by coordinating a clearly structured workflow. This workflow should include specific timelines for completing tasks with guidance in terms of objectives and expectations.
For example, you could:
- Identify specific times of the day for sending task updates
- Establish specific employees for handling urgent out-of-office queries (when absolutely necessary)
- Use platforms like Jira to manage specific tasks and projects
The more structured and organized your workflows are, the easier it will be to nurture a collaborative and productive global working environment.
Make company resources easily accessible
Managing global teams effectively also involves making sure that everyone has access to all the resources they need to complete their tasks.
Jira, which we mentioned already, can be a great way to centralize resources for specific tasks and projects. Centralizing all resources in this way can also speed up approval processes as managers can quickly review all information from a single page. Other valuable tools for this include Notion, Google Drive, and project management platforms like Asana and Trello.
However, it’s also important to have an effective document management system in place.
For example, with Factorial’s electronic document management system (EDMS), all data is readily available, securely stored, and easily accessible whenever needed. That way, you can ensure streamlined collaboration, increased compliance, and simplified document version control.
Respect local holidays and culture
Finally, make sure you respect local holidays and cultures when managing global teams. Remember that you are likely to encounter many cultural differences and varying social norms. Some cultures like Japan, for example, have a deep-rooted respect for seniority. As a result, employees might be less inclined to offer feedback or contribute ideas during team meetings.
Strive to understand everyone’s culture and observe national and religious holidays in their countries. Encourage everyone in the organization to recognize and celebrate the rich variety of cultures in your organization and be respectful during all interactions.
This is ultimately what effectively managing global teams comes down to. It’s all about developing a diverse workforce and doing everything you can to ensure that everyone feels included, respected, and that they belong.