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Teamwork Process Across Different Time Zones

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Communication on 7/27/20227 min read

man checking the time banner 700

Today’s global business has global geography. It often means that a company has headquarters in one place and branches in different areas of the world with a time difference of several hours. Sometimes, it means one company has business partners abroad, not just in the neighboring states but several time zones away.

The main reason behind such ‘remote’ business relations is the company structure and production process optimization. Companies are exploring the international HR market and opportunities for production localization in more beneficial conditions.

This results in a globally distributed team of employees who sleep and work at different hours, speak different languages, and have different mentalities and cultural values. This blog will help you understand how to deal with teamwork issues arising from different time zones.

Pros and Cons of Working in Multiple Time Zones

Workflow in multiple time zones can have both advantages and limitations. Let’s have a closer look at it and try to single out its strong and weak points.

Pros:

  • Reduced expenses. Hiring globally is the first benefit that is clear for any headhunter. It is more ‘cost-effective’ to hire an IT specialist in India than in the Netherlands. An engineer will cost your company less in the Czech Republic than in Germany. And it is a well-known paradox that Chinese companies prefer to hire English-language teachers anywhere except in Great Britain. This is because the global HR market offers more competitive prices and opportunities than the local or regional ones.
  • More creativity. It is not only the reduced expenses on salaries that matter. Due to differences in mentality, an international team of employees will have a different view on things, be more creative, and be an endless source of inspiration for the whole company. This ‘injection’ of new ideas can be converted into real profit.
  • Increased profits. With an international team working in multiple time zones, you can run your business non-stop. This means increased profitability, as the production process based in different time zones will go on 24/7. The number of your customers will grow, as there will always be a team of employees at their service.

Cons:

  • Asynchronous communication. With a big time difference, online communication will hardly be possible. Your emails will get delayed responses, as while it is working hours for you, your partners abroad can still be sleeping.
  • Difficulty scheduling meetings. The time difference will inevitably impact such an important aspect of collaboration as online meetings. You will either have narrow meeting windows, as in the case of Lisbon and Istanbul (2-hour difference) or have no windows at all, as in the case of Berlin and Sacramento. Sacramento, US, is 9:00 hours behind Berlin, Germany. So, if you are in Berlin and would like to contact your colleagues in Sacramento, you will have to work extra hours. You can make an arrangement only after 6:00 pm when your working day is over. This will ensure an uninterrupted workflow. Otherwise, you will have to get used to delayed responses.
  • Lack of in-person interaction is another disadvantage of remote work. Some people cannot imagine their daily routine without in-person communication. Face-to-face dialogue enhances mutual understanding and increases work efficiency. The latter often degrades due to working in different time zones.
  • No team activities. Some employees will suffer from the lack of corporate team-building activities like karaoke nights, sports games, cooking classes, etc. These events usually help to relieve stress and boost morale among workers.
  • Cultural differences. An international environment means cultural differences that are often hard to overcome. For example, people from Asia and India tend to avoid giving direct answers like ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This might become a problem for Europeans who are used to getting a definite answer.
  • Language barrier. A multilingual environment will inevitably bring about translation and interpreting issues. As a rule, one or two ‘working languages’ are used for everyday communication. The same concerns all project documentation. The contract usually requires all documents to be written in two languages, with one language having the prevailing force in court. This means a two-fold increase in the document workflow and extra expenses for translation services.

Weighing these pros and cons will help you figure out whether you can or cannot afford to work in different time zones.

Best Practices for Working With Teammates in Different Time Zones

Below are some of the best tips for working across different time zones. They will help you to streamline the workflow.

Time Zone Management Tools

You can easily find lots of online resources that will facilitate workflow management. This will cost you nothing and will yield good results.

Like many similar sites, 24timezones.com is a free world time clock with a map that will visualize the time difference between you and your partners. Besides displaying the time worldwide, it has other indispensable features like setting up online conferences in different locations and a time converter, an easy way to compare time between different time zones.

The screenshot below shows how it works. Just type the required locations (Tokyo and Lisbon, for instance) in the search tab, and here you are:

world time clock

As you can see, the program displays the time difference and gives recommendations on when to contact your partners. This is very convenient as, no matter what, people tend to make mistakes in calculating the right time for a call or a meeting.

If you scroll the page down, you will find a Tokyo time to Lisbon time converter. This is how it looks:

time converter

At the bottom of the page, you will see a form for announcing an event for an international audience.

announcing an event form

After filling in the form, press the green button, and you will get a link to the announced event. You can easily share it with your colleagues, employees, or partners.

Flexible Workhours

Another tip is to provide flexible work hours for remote employees. A bit of freedom will stimulate them and create an atmosphere of trust. It is surprising how simple things can give great results: some people will really appreciate it and become more creative in their work. And creativity means innovation and higher profits.

Clear Expectations

Make your project information transparent enough for all stakeholders to understand their issues. Of course, it does not mean everyone should have access to everything. But those authorized should have a clear vision of your project goals and perspectives. One of the ways to ensure it is to send information in advance of meetings so that all the parties can get ready and feel confident.

Asynchronous and Synchronous Communications

It would be best if you learned how to strike the right balance between asynchronous and synchronous communications for working in multiple time zones. Of course, the shift will be asynchronous as you will have to reduce the number of online meetings and calls. Still, you will have to save a bit of your private time to make calls outside your usual working hours.

Meeting Scheduling

The first piece of advice here is to limit the number of meetings. This is reasonable as most of your counterparts will have to miss them anyway.

Secondly, recording meetings for those who can’t make them is advisable. People will surely appreciate it if you send them links to the audio files as a follow-up with MoMs (minutes of meetings) and all the necessary information.

Teamwork in ClickHelp

Your employees may be residents of different cities on the world map, and still, they can efficiently work on one document or a whole package. This is co-authoring, a feature offered by ClickHelp. It is just what you need for workflow optimization.

With ClickHelp, you can assign your employees the roles of authors, reviewers, and readers. They can work whenever convenient for them and still get the right amount of information. It is a cloud resource so nothing will be lost. The document will just ‘travel’ from one assignee to the other while changing its status.

Collaboration between authors and reviewers will become more efficient as they can exchange comments right on the ClickHelp platform. This is much more convenient than discussing something by e-mail and then transferring it to the document in question. With ClickHelp, you can make comments right in the doc you are working on. Just highlight the necessary word, phrase, or passage. Then choose the Insert tab on the ribbon and click the comment icon.

ClickHelp offers a Translation Module that is essential for an international multilingual team. Your translators can work with documents in many formats supported by the most popular CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools (MemoQ, Smartcat, Trados, etc.). Get XLIFF files and easily transfer translation work from these portals to ClickHelp and make the work of your translation team totally in-house. And vice versa you can export files for translation in the CAT tool you like.

There is also Machine Translation (MT) support which can be used for simple projects or everyday correspondence, thus saving 80% of your localization effort.

Conclusion

Regardless of all the problems, the world is expanding. This means further globalization of business in general, while for your organization, it means more geographical, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Working in different time zones is the future of every dynamic company. The advice given in this blog will help you face this future.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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