The differeNt time zone team member

Have you ever worked in a team where your colleagues where based all around the world? Or have you ever managed a team nationally across Australia? Employees are answering yes to these questions has been on the rise for the last 20 years. Expansion of services, labour hire costs and markets for large corporates has grown across the world, companies have consolidated business process in shared service centres, corporates are using local expertise to break into new markets and overall growth is seeing a need for new offices and teams in new countries with growth markets. So how do we make it work?

There are three important things to remember when working with team members in different time zones:

  1. You are not the centre of the universe
  2. Your manager is not the centre of the universe
  3. You need to invest in team collaboration to create a functioning team

1. You are not the centre of the universe. Although technically in your universe you are, when it comes to working with people around the globe, it is important to remember their needs, respect their time and be open to compromise and creativity in working together. For example holding a Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne-based team meeting at 9am every week when you have a national team is completely unreasonable for your colleagues in Perth. Not only is the time difficult, as people are doing their morning things (children, exercise, sleep etc), it makes the person feel their time is not important and less included in the team. Similarly holding a 3pm afternoon meeting out of the UK means someone on the east coast of Australia needs to be awake and functioning well at 12am.

Being mindful of where you are, where they are and how you might make it work for everyone is key to great multi time zone team collaboration. It is a big challenge but with all the technology options of webinars, instant messenger and of course email, communication can still be effective. Being respectful of when and how you will communicate is key to working together.

2. Your manager is not the centre of the universe. As much as individuals need to be aware of our team interactions or stakeholder interactions with people around the world, so do our managers. Working for a US-based or European-based company where global strategic meetings or all-in company announcements take place at 3am or 4am in the morning for Australians is ok once in a while but not sustainable. To think through a fair solution, it could be worth discussing with global parties how we could eliminate the early mornings or late nights. Can an ‘all-in’ or large strategic meeting be recorded and played back within the secure network? Can there be a transcript of the meeting posted on the intranet? Can the local executive representatives for the company take turns in the late night calls and then redistribute the message in a more appropriate time? It is not always feasible to create alternative solutions but if we as managers and employees remember that we are not always the centre of the universe, then maybe there is an opportunity for respectful inclusion of our different time zone team members.

3. Finally, it is imperative to invest in team building and collaboration with teams based in different time zones. This does not always mean flying people around the world to sit down for a strategic meeting and team dinner; although that can be very effective. It can also mean having the team collaborate on a meaningful project together via phone, teleconference or webinar. It can mean occasionally having a team bonding activity and some fun over teleconference, so people get to know one another and it can mean opening up an instant messaging group so people connect and get to know each other outside the work construct.

Importantly, it also means having effective collaboration tools to supporting the forming and development of a team. Teamwork is about people effectively providing a contribution to a team and its destination. Without knowing each other’s strengths, approach and agenda, it is difficult for a team to be really effective. There are a huge number of technology solutions available to support ‘the team’. Work-base activity trackers, CRM’s, webinar tools, development trackers, shared schedulers and the list goes on. There is very little excuse with all these platforms to not collaborate and include team members around the world, in an effective and fun way.

When we are respectful of all team members and their relative time zones, we create the opportunity for people to feel included and possibly not so resentful of their level of commitment to the team and the organisation. By offering both compromise and activities or projects to bring people together we can find really effective ways to manage teams in multi time zones. Clear and open communication, with some virtual fun can help teams immensely and inexpensively, to be effective. 

Return to the Teamwork Series

For a further conversation about coaching, please contact me: louise.bodlander@llbc.com.au or my contact page. 

April 2018