4 lessons learned for remote working success across time zones

After being away from my family for several years due to the pandemic and closed borders, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work remotely from Australia for three months.

Although it was an opportunity to experience something important to me personally, it turned out to be great for me professionally too.

So, what was the biggest challenge?

Communication can be the biggest headache when you work across different time zones. What if you need information from an individual who won’t be online for several hours? This is why mastering asynchronous communication is crucial for collaboration and productivity in remote teams.

If you’re considering moving overseas or have an upcoming trip that will mean working in a different zone, here are four tips you might find helpful:

1. Ensure there is some time overlap

Rather than requiring the entire team to be online for the same eight hours every day, meet somewhere in the middle. The rest of the day, you can work during whichever hours make the most sense or are the most convenient for you. But always ensure there is some time overlap in working hours with your colleagues. This will allow you to collaborate and discuss anything that needs to be addressed. If you only have a few work hours’ overlap, make sure you’re prepared for any meetings and are ready to address everything you need within that short time frame. Of course, a good to-do list is crucial to remember and tick off tasks that need to be actioned.

2. Be mindful of what time it is for others

It can feel quite strange doing video calls at dusk when you can see daylight in your colleagues’ background. When scheduling meetings or reaching out to your co-workers, always consider their respective time zones. Online tools can help with this, such as the World Clock Meeting Planner, which suggests times for scheduling meetings with people around the world.

3. Use the time zones to your advantage

If you aren’t working completely asynchronously, then use those other hours to work on things you can do individually without the feedback and input of your colleagues. Use the time difference to your advantage. If you have a few extra hours before your colleagues are online – finish tasks ready for their feedback when they log in.

4. Overcommunicate

When working across different time zones, it’s essential to be more communicative about required tasks and actions. When making a request or setting a deadline, consider your colleague’s time zone and make sure what you’re asking for is reasonable. It may be morning for you, and something by the end of the day seems acceptable, but you might be pinging your colleague right before they sign off.

Working with a team across multiple time zones poses unique challenges to some of our more traditional ways of working. When done right, it opens up a whole new world of talent and allows people to live in the places where they do their best work. Hopefully, by applying some of the above lessons, your team will be able to work effectively and collaboratively – no matter where they are.