How to manage remote workers across different time zones

Business Insider US
Flexible schedules and different time zones can make it difficult for teams to collaborate effectively.
Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images
  • It can be tricky to coordinate remote workers who are spread across different time zones.
  • To avoid a loss in productivity, create clear agendas and set up a centralised workflow.
  • You can also swap traditional meetings for pre-recorded videos that don't require real-time attendance.
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A healthy workflow is an essential element of success for every professional team. However, problems begin to arise when a project manager has to orchestrate a consistent flow within a virtual environment.

The modern shift to a remote-heavy work model has put a novel kind of pressure on teams as they strive to stay on the same page. Flexible schedules and different time zones can make it difficult to be on the clock at the same time - let alone to collaborate together.

Here are a few suggestions for simple yet effective ways to overcome those growing pains and reconcile your team's workflow.

1. Create crystal clear agendas

Meeting agendas aren't a perfunctory step for a professional gathering. They're an art form that, when done well, can revolutionise the productivity of a meeting. Agendas provide purpose, set expectations, empower individuals, and enhance focus.

A good meeting agenda should include the topics being addressed as well as action items, talking points, and other activities. These should be outlined, with each task assigned and meeting objectives unequivocally stated.

The meeting organiser owns the agenda, but it's absolutely critical to provide the agenda to the entire team before the meeting. By doing this, you ensure that whenever your team is assembled for a few moments, everyone comes prepared and informed.

2. Embrace asynchronous meetings

When you think of a meeting, it evokes images of well-dressed employees gathered around conference tables in the same space. It's time to throw that idea away.

Instead, try using an asynchronous meeting approach. This is a kind of meeting where communication doesn't happen in real time and also doesn't require an immediate response. By sending out a pre-recorded video of the meeting, meetings can take place without the need to align schedules.

An asynchronous meeting can be as simple as an email exchange or communication via some other messaging application that doesn't require real-time attendance. However, that doesn't mean you let the conversation run wild.

To hold a real asynchronous meeting, you must provide a sense of structure. Meeting organisers must select a limited number of participants and create an agenda with a clear purpose. As the meeting "takes place," they must also set clear deadlines, invoke responses, and generally oversee the progress of the event.

3. Set up a centralised, cloud-based workflow

It's easy to attack the inefficiencies of meetings, especially in an online format. However, the truth is, meetings do offer a sense of structure and forward momentum for a team.

One of the best ways to maintain this progress with a multi-time zone workforce is by setting up a centralised, cloud-based workflow space for your team's activities. This isn't just referencing a cloud data storage solution like Google Drive or Dropbox. It can require a full-blown workflow application.

A good workflow app doesn't just offer universal access to critical team information. It also helps shepherd your team through its activities through things such as setting deadlines and assigning responsibilities. It also provides a central, organised space where your team can upload shared documentation from various third-party applications.

The remote work world has a plethora of benefits. But that doesn't change the fact that it has thrown a monkey wrench into the workflow of a lot of companies.

The good news is that there are alternatives that can ameliorate the issue. If you're willing to embrace things like clear agendas, asynchronous meetings, and workflow apps, you can eliminate the bulk of the need for regular meetings - and not shed an ounce of productivity in the process.

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