Navigating Remote Work Across Time Zones: Best Practices & Essential Tools Remote Work Guides, Tips, and More

By: Tim Mcintosh

When you are looking for employees or business partners, it can be tough to find the right person in an industry where ‘who you know’ is just as important as what you know. By hiring remote workers, you’ll never have to worry about geographical limitations again. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you organize your team and schedule your projects around the time zones of everyone on it. Managing different time zones, language barriers, and cultural differences can be frustrating. One of our challenges as a team is to strike the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication.

best practices for working across time zones

It’s never been easier to work with team members regardless of their physical location, so global teams are gaining in popularity. Nobody said that working in different time zones is effortless, painless, and does not need sacrifices. That could be fostered through social meetings thanks to video chat and conference calls. Consider milestones successfully met, celebrations of team birthdays, and weekly virtual water-cooler conversations. Using this type of tool makes handling projects in various time zones simpler because each team member has access to the system from anywhere around the globe.

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Remember that to make this way of working successful, you will need a healthy mix of flexibility, understanding, and an agile approach. To learn more about tools and software that can help global and remote teams, check out this helpful list. When your global teammates feel like working remotely in a different time zone their schedule is respected, they might feel happier at their job, less stressed, or have an easier time tuning out of work communication outside of their main work hours. Ultimately, these things will help boost job retention, productivity, and your team’s overall performance.

When working on a report, for example, globally distributed teammates won’t necessarily have the opportunity to ping a coworker and get the missing info right away. This is why it’s paramount to keep detailed written records of all the processes and projects. Also, ensure every person involved has the right admin access to avoid late-night calls, hold-ups, and rescheduling. Teams employing a globally distributed workforce should pay special attention to learning and optimizing for different cultural specifics.

Learn How To Work Effectively Across Time Zones

The best way to work remotely is by trying to replicate most of the things you’d do in an office job. For example, you should always reserve a place separate from your bedroom, try to maintain a routine, take breaks, etc. “If you’re in the general population, or even an elite athlete, and you plan to compete, you should try to have a race-day-specific training,” says Zierath. “Time your training bouts so that they are consistent with the time that you’re going to have to be performing or competing at your peak.”

  • Fortunately, understanding the unique dynamics of remote work across time zones can combat all these obstacles of a diversified hybrid workplace.
  • Teams working remotely and across time zones lack the spontaneous chats in-office coworkers are accustomed to.
  • Finally, you’ll want to adopt the habit of scheduling team meetings at optimal times for everyone.
  • Synchronous communication (“sync”) is when discussions are conducted in real-time, allowing for immediate responses and feedback between colleagues.
  • By organizing ahead of time, you’ll be able to maximize the time of all of the attendees no matter where they are located and it will help keep the engagement levels up during the meeting.
  • I know personally, I sometimes like to get stuck in at various points in my day for focused work without too many distractions.
  • Another key feature of such team chat apps is the pin option as it helps keep the important documents top of mind and easily accessible.

It’s nearly hard to arrange everyone to meet at the same time without inconveniencing someone if you don’t have team members working in overlapping time zones. During onboarding, make sure your communication policies and collaboration tools are properly defined and communicated. These rules can be reviewed and referred to by employees, so they know what to do and what is expected of them. Elon Musk said that entrepreneurs spend too much time in meetings and too little time on making their service or product exponentially better. The Southeast Asian time zone is perfect for getting in that quiet, creative time in the morning.

Balancing RTO Policies with Employee Preferences & Productivity

Let’s get a more detailed look at what types of teams are leading the way in working across time zones. One of the first and easiest things you can do to make asynchronous communication smooth is to set your working hours, and to make those hours easily discoverable to your teammates. Some apps like Google Calendars even serve a warning if you inadvertently try to book something outside of working hours. The best way to be mindful of different time zones is to disregard time entirely and rely on asynchronous communication. By setting a clear expectation that communication won’t happen in real-time, you can take the pressure of people in different time zones to be “on-call”.

best practices for working across time zones

Unless there’s an urgent situation, employees should avoid contacting colleagues when they’re outside of their working hours. While it may be the middle of the day for one worker, it may be midnight for another, and frequently sending work messages at an inconvenient hour can result in burnout and stress. Likewise, employees should inform their manager and teammates about the best way to reach them outside of working hours if an emergency arises. Managing teams across multiple time zones seems to be one of the most common frustrations for many of the remote and hybrid employees that I’ve worked with.


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