time zone differences

Four Ways to Properly Leverage Time Zones

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?

Use lumps.
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!

By : Amir Ahmed /May 01, 2014 /Blog, Time Zones /0 Comment Read More

Four Solutions That Will Help You Overcome Your Fears of Building a Virtual Team

Globalization increases the need for companies to rely on resources and talents from different parts of the world to maintain their position in a competitive environment, like the one we live in today. Technology has advanced to the point where it can connect people from different continents. Financial issues have encouraged companies to capitalize with fewer expenses and labour costs, while providing customers with quality products and/or services.  Trying to keep up with all these new trends and demands can be quite challenging without the right work force. Often, physical boundaries can create challenges and barriers deterring your company from performing to the best of its ability. Talent should not be bounded geographically especially if it is beneficial for your company. Fortunately, conventional teams are no longer the only option we have today.

Virtual teams present you with talent and opportunities that are not offered to collocated teams. So why haven’t you built your dream virtual team yet? Here are the four most common fears most likely hindering you and solutions to help you get over them.

Problem 1: Access to technology

When building a virtual team, you need the right technology to help you access resources and connect with your virtual employees to meet objectives. Lacking the access to said technology can deter you from accomplishing tasks. Even when your whole team has access to technology, you still face the problem of teaching and training them to properly use it.

Solution: Teach and train

Teach your employees how to properly use their technology. Take the time to train them how to properly position a mic and how to talk into it. Advise them to speak slowly and to maintain proper distance to avoid mumbling or sounding muffled. Speaking clearly and enunciating can help prevent miscommunications.

Problem 2: Building Trust

When your team trusts each other, they can work cohesively and efficiently generating positive results for your company. Trust is easier to build when your employees are physically together in a room, engaging in face-to-face interaction. Working on a team where we have to guess faces and voices can be real challenging. With virtual teams, however, your employees can only build relationships through sending e-mails back and forth and hearing each other’s voices bi-weekly or monthly. And we all know when a team lacks trust; we should just expect a spiral downturn in their efficiency and productivity.

Solution: Build an online community

Have an accessible online database where your employees can display their profile including their skills, what they do in your company, their interests and hobbies. By doing this, your employees can gain a sense of who they’re interacting with. When a new team member joins, make sure you introduce them to your team allowing them to right away feel comfortable and welcomed. Engage and encourage audio conferencing and video conferencing during meetings and between employees in order to enhance your communication experience.

Problem 3: Cultural barriers

Hiring employees from various continents exposes you to different cultures. You may end up non-deliberately insulting their culture or stereotyping.

Solution: Become culturally aware

Understand that ethics and norms vary within different cultures. Know where your employees are coming from and educate yourself with their culture to avoid stereotyping or non-deliberately insulting their culture. Encourage your team members to be more culturally sensitive as well to upkeep high-morale within your team.

Problem 4: Time zone differences

Living in different time zones can pose a challenge when setting up meetings or deadlines. What might be lunch for you can be sleeping time for somebody else.

Solution: Be more considerate and understanding

Keep in mind that time zones may vary and what might be convenient for you might be inconvenient for your team members. Ensure that meetings are convenient for the majority, if not all, of your team members to have a more productive and efficient meeting. If one person cannot make it to the meeting due to time differences, show that you understand and arrange a meeting that is convenient for both of you to make sure he/she does not fall behind. As for deadlines, make sure it is within a reasonable time frame and set different deadlines as necessary for people in different time zones.

So what are you waiting for? You no longer have excuses to postpone creating your virtual team! Build your team now and explore the different opportunities that await you!

By : Amir Ahmed /April 23, 2014 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More
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