Time Zones, Making it Work!

“How do we handle time zone differences?”

Many a bleary eyed late-night or early-morning manager has sought a better way to collaborate with coworkers, customers and suppliers around the world. While tools such as TimeandDate.com can help identify overlapping times for meetings, the real question is how to share the “pain”, be most effective, and curtail the complaints when working across time zones. Here are the best ideas and “tried and true” strategies I’ve collected from clients working as remote managers, and my experience working with Charis associates who currently occupy 11 time zones.

Best Practices for Working Across Time Zones

  • Discuss the team norms for meetings (frequency, agendas, punctuality, etc.) and reach agreement for everybody. Start and end meetings on time, so everyone feels his/her time is valued.
  • Consider team members who cannot attend meetings from home (lacking phone/internet capability) and try to accommodate their attending from the office.
  • “Share the pain” by rotating every 4 to 6 weeks for regular late night or early morning meetings.
  • Limit global meetings to 1 or 2 days per week; plan for employees to come to work late in the day and stay late into the evening. All other days are normal schedule.
  • Use an electronic calendar to calculate times and create meeting invitations.
  • If full participation is not required, send one-way information to others later.
  • Have a “buddy” system to cover for someone who cannot attend
  • Do two sessions – early morning and late at night, or record them (this is the least desirable, but is an option). For all-hands communications (mostly executives) do two or three sessions to get employees at a “normal” work time.
  • Acknowledge the very early or late attendees, “Thank you, Claus, we realize it’s very early for you.”
  • Most important – really prepare for the meetings so they are valuable and enjoyable, thus motivating team members to look forward to your next meeting (and not complain about time zones!)