It’s becoming increasingly common for businesses of all sizes to find themselves working across time zones, particularly with big global shifts, like Brexit, happening.
If you’re planning to open additional ventures outside of the UK as part of your post-Brexit survival strategy, you will need to be prepared for some changes to your working habits. Whether your company is headquartered in Europe, has a sister-office on the other side of the world, or simply utilises remote workers to minimise overheads, here are the golden rules of maintaining efficiency.
Know your time zones
If you’re trying to integrate teams that are located around the world, it’s absolutely essential that you know your “golden hours”, which is when all necessary employees are in their respective offices at the same time. Depending on your set up, this may be several hours a day or just one (and it might change during Daylight Savings) – using a tool like Every Time Zone can make this as easy as possible.
The point is, you should be organising international calls and virtual meetings as a priority during these times so that the separate teams can liaise, clarify any issues and then get on with their day while the other office sleeps.
Flexible working hours
If you find that you have very few “golden hours”, it might be prudent to loosen up your working days. Employees that frequently work with colleagues overseas might be more productive if they come earlier or stay later to better align their schedules. Teams that are several time zones apart may benefit from both sides adjusting by a couple of hours, if possible.
Practice good meeting etiquette
Having said that, remember to be kind to your international colleagues. Even if they offer to alter their working day so there’s more crossover, nobody wants to be in a meeting at 7:00am or 9:00pm. Before scheduling a meeting that might be inconvenient for people in other time zones, be courteous and consider whether it’s absolutely necessary.
Invest in collaboration tools
We all know that knowledge is power. This is why investing in the right project management tools, communication platforms and HR software will allow all of your teams to see the bigger picture and understand each other better. Trello is one of the better-known tools for running individual projects and Slack is one of the most-used communication platforms. However, there are a whole host of other options available, so do some research to find out which ones will work best for your business.
Make sure that you’ve got an HR system that displays an up to date calendar of annual leave, bank holidays and other international considerations.
Delegate responsibility sensibly
You might have an excellent project manager in one location, but be realistic about whether a time difference of language barrier between them and the rest of their team might prevent everyone from doing their best work. There will be some occasions where it makes much better business sense to keep certain activities to one location in order to prevent key decisions getting held up.
Help your staff be culture-conscious
It doesn’t matter if your operations are a thousand miles apart or ten thousand; there are going to be significant differences between the habits, expectations and practices in workplace cultures. To keep communication polite (and therefore effective), make sure international teams have a degree of understanding about the norms in other locations. Take a look at some of the most profound differences in Japanese business culture as an example.
This can also relate to your meeting scheduling and project planning. If you arrange a catch-up on 10/11, does that mean the October 11th or November 10th? Will the call start at 9:00am your time, or someone else’s time? When you’re discussing a budget in dollars, are they definitely US dollars, or could they be Canadian dollars, Hong Kong dollars or Australian dollars?
Accept the expense of travel
Nothing beats face-to-face communication. Occasionally sending key staff to work with their colleagues overseas for a few days may be the most efficient option to make sure a critical project is kicked-off or wrapped-up smoothly. Flights and accommodation might seem like a considerable cost, but if you weigh up the potential impact of an important piece of work being delayed, you may find it’s worth it.
Even if you don’t have the excuse of a single project to bring international teams together, see if you can find a time to meet in another capacity. Meeting each other in person is the best way to build relationships and foster a more positive, integrated working environment.