As a virtual manager, it’s possible that there are some members of your team working in different parts of the world. This makes it difficult when you want to set up meetings with the entire team, kind of like juggling a bunch of balls—one labeled China, the other India, and so on. The perfect time for you may be a horrible time for someone else. In virtual work, time is relative. To avoid having your virtual team get jumbled up in their communication, it takes an aware, compassionate manager to accommodate for these time zone differences.
If your team is dispersed far enough, time zones will make a huge difference in the logistics of work, meetings and deadlines. To work around time zones, we need a new way to think, lead and communicate across space and time.
—Claire Sookman and Amir Ahmed from Follow My Voice.
In our book, Follow My Voice, we discuss four ways to leverage time zones to ensure that you’re respecting each team member’s work location. Let’s look at those now, shall we?
The rise of virtual work has opened up some amazing opportunities for companies to delegate and hire specific talent, but team proximity is still a valuable asset. Wherever you can, lump your employees together as closely as possible (geographically speaking of course).
It’s tricky to manage a team when one person works in China (China Standard Time), and the rest in your home country. Of course, using lumps is not a set-in-stone rule—you don’t want a person’s geographical location to be a major factor when hiring—but it’s something to keep mindful of. If you can piece together a few team members in India, for example, instead of having just one Indian Standard Time worker, it makes communication a lot easier!
“Three people in GMT and three in PDT are better than six people in different time zones,” explain Sookman and Ahmed.
Empower your team.
Communicating with team members dispersed around the world can be tricky, so it’s best to limit interaction. Give your team breathing space. Assign them their work, provide them with the tools they need, and trust that they’ll get the job done. By letting your team know you trust them, they’ll feel empowered to take responsibility. Give your employees the authority to make decisions and they won’t be reporting to you every couple hours about a trivial issue.
Always on the clock.
The key is to always have someone doing the work. Have a certain team member work on a project, and when they sign off, they pass it on to someone who’s just starting their workday. This is a very efficient way to save time and energy, and to ensure that your company is always progressing forward—around the clock.
Change up meeting times.
Instead of having Skype meetings at the same time every week, say on Wednesdays at five o’clock pm, switch it up! It’s silly to force one employee to meet at irregular times simply because the rest of the team is lumped together. Let everybody know that you’re aware of the different time zones, and that you care enough to accommodate these variances (even if it’s just for one person). Your team will thank you for it!
These are only a few ways to leverage different time zones. As a virtual manager, how do you do it? Let us know in the comments below, we always love hearing from you!