Is your team distributed into the different time zones? Are you struggling to overlap with all of them and stretching your day to reach out to people? What is your Time Zone Survival Plan?
Hey Crizpers, how many of you work remotely? Have you ever been in a situation when you need to reach out to people that are living in a different day time? From my personal experience distributed team could become a real nightmare. And this may be a challenge not only for a PM but for other team mates too. The more hours your difference is, the more complex your collaboration becomes. How to deal with this and still live a normal life?
Source of Trouble
Now a days when people are getting a possibility to work remotely, many of us found a chance to get rid of the binding with the work location and to move to a different place to live. Or to travel frequently to whatever place without an interruption in your business life. Isn’t it amazing? When I was a child, I had a travel plan where I am moving from country to country, visiting awesome places and remarkable sights, and moving to the place that I like the best.
Later on when I grow up and have realized that the time has come, I found out that it is quite challenging. Traveling takes a lot of time and money, where to earn them during the journeys? Luckily, I found myself in the project management field and fell in love with this profession. Besides, a digital industry opens a wide range of opportunities for the remote work. I have jumped in to try it out and I am still in it for several years already.
However, this approach has its constraint. For the longer list of them you can check this article (Remote vs On-site). In the current topic I would like to concentrate on the time zones challenge and on tip how to overcome this obstacle.
Time Zones Clash
Do you remember geography? A time zone – is a region of the globe that observes a uniform standard time that may vary from region to region. I am sure you know that obviously the further a person is located from you, the more difference in time you have with him or her. This time difference may vary up to 24 hours and even up to 26 hours in certain locations.
But 24 hours difference is not that dramatic. This simply means you and your colleague will have different dates but similar hours. The most inconvenient would be with the time zones difference that is around 12 hours or so. Just imagine, you need to have a call with a person at 11AM his or her time, and this is 11PM your local time, or even worse if the person is only available in the afternoon. How to survive in such a schedule?
That is good if calls at the late or early hours is just an occasional event. This might be difficult but realistic to be done once or maybe twice a month. But what if your time zone is different from all the colleagues for a significant number of hours in general and you need to overlap with them daily?
First and the most important advice would be to look at such things realistically and to make a decision wisely while accepting a job offer. Be honest with you and acknowledge that in almost all cases you will be the one who has to adjust your daily schedule to meet the business hours of the colleagues from the head office.
Next, in the very beginning discuss how many hours you will have to overlap with other colleagues. This may also vary from case to case, could depend on the position and on the company itself.
As in general my blog is about project management, the head office in not the only location you will need to sync with regularly. Find out where other colleagues are located as you will need to build a schedule to meet with all your teams too. Might be challenging if someone is even further from the head office in time zones than you are. I had cases when my time difference with the head office was 6 to 7 hours behind to me, while part of my team was located 5 to 6 hours ahead of me, so that the overall time step was about 11 hour.
Once we have the time zones and locations information on hand, we can work on mapping a program of how to cooperate with all the bodies around. Here a precise scheduling and time management come in.
Essential and very important, although all of us are called to be flexible and flexibility is one of the key skills here in the project management world, we need to remember one thing. We are working to live, not living to work. Therefore, review your personal life time-table and allocate the most critical items that you cannot skip for good and bookmark them in your schedule. Also, find out which of them are mobile so that you would be able to manipulate or shift them later on demand.
Now check the general meetings schedule if present and put it down in your table to book the slots accordingly. At this point you have blocked your personal hours and the company or department meeting. Time to move on further.
Group your peers in project teams and define the best time when you could sync all together with the team and when would it be better and more efficient to follow up with them individually.
Program as much important meetings and syncs upfront as possible. This will help to minimize unexpected calls and chats and to keep your day in a rigid order. If there are no collaborative space for scheduling, share your personal time-table with the colleagues. If someone will need to sync with you it would be easier for them to find a slot convenient for both of you.
One of the ground principles that I have learned through the years of the virtual work, is to realistically perceive your personal capabilities. It might be a prose, but still. Stay down-to-earth and try to clearly define what would be feasible for you as for a human.
I have seen great professionals how were trying to meet all the requests they are getting. They were so responsive, flexible and accountable that their business day stretched out to over 20 hours. Human is not programmed to sleep 3-4 hours a day and this is a negative experience from both physiological and psychological points of view. I have bumped into that wall myself. The outcome is common for everybody, people are getting burned out. The summary from the above is to be able to say ‘No’ when it is necessary to do so.
Of course, there is always a possibility of an urgent situation. However, according to my experience, many of such situations could be postponed to the time when you will be more efficient than at 1AM in the morning.
Next, but not the least tip is to keep yourself organized and to follow the schedule accurately, constantly and cohesively. There is a certain portion of probability that your day will differ a lot from other. Perhaps you will have to wake up early for the first morning call, then to make a break for a couple of hours and to proceed later when other colleagues are awake. Besides, the working hours may vary for day to day. But still, try to keep your business hours within a reasonable number.
Adhere your time-table at the best of your capabilities. That will help you to have time for your personal life and to balance your work hours effectively. Additionally, this will be useful for your colleagues as they will get a possibility of the productive and successful collaboration with you.
Do you work with people in different time zones? What hints do you use to overcome this obstacle? Tell me your experience in comments.