Time Zone Trouble: How to Manage Teams Effectively Across the Globe

The main difficulty with international business is time difference. There're ways to work around such time gaps when working in different time zones.


Marketing Manager with Attract Group

Different Time Zones? Easy! Secrets of Successful Teamwork

The business world is now global.

Thanks to a wide variety of new teamworking applications, as well as old standbys such as email, instant messaging, and video conferencing, people around the world can connect and communicate with each other in real time.

Because of the globalization of the workforce, other communication barriers are breaking down. Most international companies will have people who speak English on staff to help communicate with North American clients. To a lesser extent, North Americans can reciprocate. But there are always translators available for hire when need be.

The main difficulty with international business communication is simply the time difference.

Taking a look at the example below, you can see that the overlap of working hours between countries in Europe is usually not a concern, but when it comes to the working hours between Europe and North or South America, then there are vast time differences, such as seven hours between certain cities in the United States and in Ukraine, and even more of a time difference when dealing with cities in China.

But there are always effective ways to work around such massive time differences so that they should not be a deterrent when considering working with people in those countries.

Tips for Business Communication Around the World

Here are some tips for people who opt for outsourcing their work or just have to cooperate with other employees around the globe how to manage the work properly.

  • Coordinated Meeting Times

While time differences can be daunting, there’s always some time – early morning for one group and late afternoon for another group – that still consists of work hours for both groups.

For example, let’s focus on the United States and Ukraine.

In the United States, the workforce typically works at least from 7 am to 5 pm. The workforce in Ukraine, depending on the business sector, works the same basic hours.

So, if a company in the United States commissions a software design firm in Ukraine to create a website, when ideally could customer and provider have a real-time conversation?

For the sake of argument, let’s say the company in the United States is in Boston. Boston is seven hours behind Kiev. So, when it’s 4:09 pm in Boston, it’s 11:09 pm in Kiev.

Typically, meetings aren’t going to happen between the two at that hour!

But, when it’s 7 am in Boston, it’s 1 pm in Kiev. So really, a client and a provider can speak in real time for at least 4 hours, between the windows of 7 am and 11 am in Boston when it’s 1 pm to 5 pm in Kiev.

It is, therefore, a simple matter to arrange to have meetings anytime during this four-hour window when it is necessary to speak to each other in real time.

There is plenty of software to facilitate face-to-face meetings, such as Skype, Zoom, Viber, GoogleHangouts or Portal, as well as video conferencing such as webmeeting.com, gotometting.com, and FreeConferenceCall.com

  • Effective Emails

At all other times of the day, communicating via email and even instant messaging is always possible.

Effective emailing between people requires the same skills, no matter whether the emails are going between staff in different facilities in the same city, or between a client and a provider in different countries.

Clear, precise communication is key to ensure that a project moves forward on schedule and on or under budget.

For this reason, it’s important that the client and vendor/provider are always on the same page.

As a matter of fact, it’s usually best to carry on correspondence via email rather than via speech, because with email everything is written down and it is easy to go back and check facts, figures and dates, which is not necessarily the case when people are talking on the phone and taking notes.

After all, what happens after the end of a telephone conversation? Someone writes up their notes and sends it to the other party via email to ensure that everything that was said in the meeting was understood and that milestones noted down were correct!

  • Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging is more efficient than email when it comes to client/provider communication, and better than phone calls because, again, everything is written down. There’s no need to transcribe phone calls, the transcription is taking place as you type.

The benefit of Instant Messaging is that it can take place on any device, so as long as people are on a wireless or hard-wired network, they have access to their IMs. Free IM providers include Skype and LinkedIn or even Facebook.

  • Milestone Communication

When teams or groups of teams from different countries are working together, it’s important that a timeline to finish a project be established and that there be communication for every milestone.

Take for example a company in the US that hires a company in Ukraine to create a website for them.

A website is one of a business’ most essential tools – not only in representing themselves to their target market but also to sell their products and/or services.

They are losing – or at least not earning – money for every day that the website is not completed.

That is not to say that a website must be rushed through – it’s important to have a site completed correctly the first time or it will cost yet more money and downtime to fix it.

But the client is understandably anxious to know the progress of the site on a regular basis, and it’s the responsibility of the website developer to keep in constant touch and report to the client when milestones have been met, or if they’re going to be delayed, and why.

  • Acknowledge Points of Contact

Typically, when the people working together are client/vendor (as opposed to members of teams collaborating on their own project), there will be one point of contact for the provider, and one for the vendor, and it is these two individuals who will do most, if not all, of the communication between each other.

Rest assured that ranged behind or alongside each of these spokespersons are the people doing the actual work. No complex website is created by just one person on the vendor’s end, and on the client’s end, there is always discussion to ensure that the site will work for all departments that need to use it.

Summary

Thanks to the power of the Internet, there is no longer any real ‘time’ or ‘space’ constraints between people no matter where they are in the world. By using the best technology, and effective communication, clients, and vendors throughout the world can do great things just as easily as if they were working together in the same city.

If you have been thinking of finding a technological partner abroad, Attract Group has a remarkable experience in managing such a type of cooperation and will ensure smooth web and mobile development even being miles and hours away. You can check our profile at Upwork here to see some of the projects we have accomplished.

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