Dealing with different time zones in remote technology teams

Distance can make things harder, but there’s always a way to make it easier.

You finally assembled a perfect team. By combining talents from all across the globe, your squad is up for any challenges they may encounter and you’re confident in each of your members’ individual capabilities. But still, there’s one major problem: Most of their time zones are very different, which results in problems with communication, especially when dealing with urgent tasks.

While this would surely be an expected issue, it could cause some inconvenient situations nonetheless. Overlap hours may be scarce, if they even exist at all, and not planning ahead for using them to the fullest could leave your team hanging on some much needed guidance on how to proceed.

Fortunately, these conditions are very common nowadays, and so are the solutions we may use to make this occasional situation way better. Here, you’ll find some of those solutions for dealing with different time zones when working with remote technology teams.

1 – Clear communication

Everyone has to be aware of the different time zones your squad has, and strict, direct communication will be necessary here.  By informing every team member of the different schedules each one of them will probably face, in particular to those who will be working closer than others, you can already prepare them for the next measures.

When scheduling a meeting, for example, you must take each of the zones in consideration before setting the perfect hour for it. Put yourself in the developer’s place for a second, and reflect on the chance of having a work meeting during dinner. Or even if you’re ok with having meetings around 3 AM every week.

While this wouldn’t be the case for every team, similar cases may occur, so the best way to avoid it is to plan ahead of everything, and make sure everyone is free to speak up when anything comes up. Life is unpredictable, but by talking about it, working around this unpredictableness is easier.

 

2 – Respect your teammates time zones and schedules

As a follow up from the previous item, knowing how to respect the differences is essential for a healthy workplace. The team will surely feel more motivated if their needs are fulfilled and  their needs are not ignored. Delays will also surely happen, as software development is a complicated process which takes some trial and error.

Finding the overlapping hours and making good use of them will be the most important part of it, as it will make meetings less of a problem for everyone, even if they may be over 5 hours apart from each other. Flexibility is also appreciated, if it doesn’t really affect the developer in a negative way.

3 – Use online tools

If you’re dealing with a tech team, why not use tech tools? Everyone’s well versed on the subject, otherwise they wouldn’t even be in the IT area. Utilizing scheduling tools such as Trello, Google Calendar or Notion is a great way to quickly inform everyone of their updated tasks and future responsibilities.

Instant communication tools such as Slack, Discord and even Whatsapp are not out of the question either, as they are great options to update everyone of emergencies or to clear any doubts about the project.

 

4 – Setting a main time zone

You should set a main time zone for your team work around, such as EST or PST. Usually, the best choice is the one with the most people living in it. For those outside of it, the conversion to their own time zone will always be required, but it shouldn’t be a burden, as it will be almost automatic as time passes.

With this, people will always know when they need to have their tasks done if its deadline is set for 8 PM EST, for example. If anyone still gets confused with the time conversion, be open to talk with them to help them schedule their own tasks until they’re more comfortable with doing it by themselves. Daylight saving is also a thing, so take it into account when choosing the best time zone.

5 – Make custom schedules for your team

Another useful strategy is to create specific schedules for each of your members based on their own time zones. While this will doubtless give some extra workload during the scheduling, it could help each member of your remote tech team to use their different time zones to their advantage, as they’ll work during their best hours.

This will require a certain level of trust on the members, as their deadlines might differ greatly, and one might require another’s function to be complete before they can actually continue on their task, so while this could be a great benefit for your team, it should also be made only with the absolute certain that it would work.

When the time zones are not so far away from each other, such as a 3 hour difference, it should be easier to set up each of the required tasks and roles. But by no means, a professional shouldn’t be hired simply because they are living in a distant place. 

The distance can surely be a hassle, but for competent professionals and squads, it won’t be as bad. And those are the professionals you should be aiming at.

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