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5 Tips for Collaborating Across Time Zones

Who doesn’t love getting up at 5 am to have a business meeting? Or going to bed at 3 am because the IT outsourcing company you hired works across the globe?

Well, if you are not one of the rare ones who love this, collaborating across time zones can be a real problem. You have to make sure to schedule daily meetings to follow the progress of the project; it always seems to you that you are not synchronized with your remote team and on top of all that — the speed of work is not great.

This is why some clients from the US are choosing to work with South American teams rather than the European ones to stay in the similar time zone. Instead of missing out on great remote teams in Europe, take a look at our tips for collaborating across time zones effectively.

Overlapping working hours

When both the client and the remote team work simultaneously for at least 2 or 3 hours per day, this is more than enough to synchronize. For example, if the client works in San Francisco and the remote team works in Eastern Europe, the client can start working around 8 am and the remote team can start working around 10 or 11 am. This way, both teams will have just enough time to discuss the progress of the project or some problems that appeared.

Organize meetings during overlapping working hours

Daily meetings are extremely important, no matter where the client or the remote team are located. The client and the remote team meet as to bring everyone up to date what is completed and if there are any issues that stand in their way. These meetings are short and more effective than long sit-down ones, and they should be held during the overlapping working hours. In the Scrum framework, these kind of meetings are called Daily Scrum meetings.

All other important meetings should be organized during these hours as well. Whether these are the weekly meetings or the ones that are used to discuss bigger issues with the project — regular meetings are important. Besides the fact that they help keep everyone updated on work matters, they also strengthen a good working relationship.

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Use team collaboration tools

If you have to go through hundreds of emails every day and if it is increasingly hard to brief your team on progress and goals, you should start using a team collaboration software. Nowadays, there are hundreds of them that can help you with team management and collaboration. If you want to improve communication, think about using Skype, Slack or GoToMeeting. And if you need a project management tool to track the progress of the project, check out applications like VivifyScrumTrello or Asana.

These project management tools can also be used for communication, but it is usually less effective compared to voice or chat communication. However, there are situations when this kind of communication can be effective enough. For example, if one team member needs clarification about a task that he is going to work on in the following days, he can go through tasks in advance and ask for clarification using comments. Then the team member that starts working later can respond in his time zone.

But in case that team members need to exchange several messages to get to the point and to clarify the task, a better option is to have a meeting or to chat during overlapping hours. This way, all misunderstandings can be avoided and communication itself will be more effective.

For urgent tasks, use the phone

Occasionally, something unexpected happens when the remote team had already completed their work for the day. When these situations arise, the quickest solution is to use the phone.

These conversations should be brief and to the point, and obviously, not too frequent.

Team building

In case you found an awesome remote team, which you enjoy working with — then you should definitely invest in making sure that you visit them as frequently as possible (and the other way around). Not only will it be an excellent team-building opportunity, but a fantastic cultural exchange as well. The in-house and the remote team can get to know each other, build trust and have a bit of fun. The more they know each other, the better their collaboration will be, and your company will start thriving.

Conclusion

Remember when we mentioned those people who have to get up at 5 am or go to bed at 3 am? You don’t have to be one of them! Just use our tips for collaborating across time zones and reap the benefits of using a remote team.