In this day and age, online work is a norm. Remote work is gaining popularity especially recently.
It has been present in the programming industry for a long time since outsourcing is a common practice there. Many firms make use of globally spreading offshoring, which is the employment of workers from far away countries. It is a great option, but you have to account for the fact that during collaboration with other countries, Australia for example, you have to consider the difference in time zones.
Even with well-organized work, it can pose a serious challenge. How to work in different time zones effectively and without problems? Is it achievable?
Challenges of work in different time zones
Working in different time zones is without a doubt a big challenge for both sides. For example, a Polish firm outsourcing a firm in the USA. The difference in time between both countries is 6 hours. When firm on one side is starting work, the other is close to finishing.
It is always going to be more difficult for one of the sides, it will require more sacrifices when it comes to the time intended for communication between firms. Very often, answers, that we would like to get as fast as possible, will be received after a long time. Sometimes it is difficult to get quick technical support or to contact the firm immediately. It’s worth noting that cultural differences may influence for example different holiday dates and days free from work.
It can seem like a small thing, but it is important to remember it when deciding to offshore.
Is this kind of work possible?
Of course, working in different time zones is possible! What’s more, with good organization of work, making decisions beforehand about rules of communication and full consequences of actions, work can run quickly and effectively. Here we will present guidelines worth considering when working in different time zones:
- Make a plan of work for a whole team
Most important is to have the whole team well informed about the fact of working with someone in a different time zone. Usually, not a whole software house is involved but a delegated team. It is important to decide any plans, days, and working hours. These are the basics for starting work with a foreign client.
- Have a constant overlook into the work done in other time zones
It may seem that everything is under control and we remember the other firm is working with an x difference in time, but with an overload of orders, tasks, emails, and meetings you can easily get lost in work or forget something. While counting what time is in New York even the greatest mind can make a mistake due to an overload of things on his head.
It is worth making it easier for yourself and saves time from calculating and checking time zones. For example, there is a lot of useful applications thanks to which, we can quickly check, what time at any given moment is in any place on earth. All you have to do is download a mobile application, check, and we already know that at this moment it is not worth mailing an important message to the Project Manager, since he is just finishing his day at work and will respond only tomorrow morning.
Examples of applications for time zones:
- Every Time Zone
- World Time Buddy
- World Clock Widget
- Terra Time World Clock
There is a multitude of applications. Simply, search for “World’s time” in your shop’s search bar, and you will get a lot of options. Certainly, anyone can find something that will be perfect for them to use.
Learn the terminology of time zones.
In different time zones, hours are marked in different ways. Learn these abbreviations- UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) and GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) as well as AM and PM to avoid any misunderstandings during setting the dates of meetings or phone calls. Poland operates In Central European Time (CET, UTC+1:00), which applies from the last Sunday in October till the last Sunday in March.
The rest of the year operates in Central European Summer Time (CEST, UTC+2). Sporadically it won’t be us, but the firm we work with that will have trouble with understanding different time zones. It is worth explaining to them when starting cooperation, additionally, while setting up a meeting online it is good to say what hour the meeting will be at our and their country.
For example, you can write in a header of a mail: “Let’s talk at 4 pm GMT - that’s 8 am PDT” or “Let’s talk at 3 PM your time”. The more precise we will be the less a mistake is possible.
- Plan everything!
Plan everything with details and always be two steps ahead with every stage of work. A manager from a different country should have access to your plan of work so that he can be calm and know that when he is not controlling his team, because it is the middle of the night, his team knows what to do and what tasks are they doing at the given moment.
All tasks should be well planned and accessible for both teams, the one present locally and the other abroad. Few tools for planning tasks can be useful, here are examples:
- Google Calendars
- Microsoft To Do
- Make work timeframes less strict
Many firms, often including those from the IT industry, resign from strict timeframes of work.
They become more flexible so that they can match the individual needs of their employees. People are different, some are more productive early in the morning from 6 am. Others may need three strong cups of coffee and start working on projects from 11 am.
It may seem that it would cause unnecessary chaos, which is untrue. Productivity in a firm rises, as workers can use the most productive for them, time off work. Especially among programmers, there is a habit of working late evenings or even at night.
More elastic timeframes of starting and finishing work are huge facilitation for people working in different time zones. It creates the possibility of working at the same time as a firm located, for example in Australia, and that would allow quick contact with their team. Everyone should create a work schedule in a way that can be most comfortable for them.
- Be prepared for sacrifices.
In the case of working with a client from a different time zone, it is worth being prepared for compromises. Unfortunately, not always it is possible to create a schedule that will be convenient for everyone. A downside may be that sometimes meetings will be held late in the evening or very early in the morning, outside of our normal work time.
Sometimes it may happen that the Director of a firm will only have time for us at 10 am and it will be necessary for us to adjust.
- Follow these three steps to success.
To cope with work in different time zones, one should remember these three important aspects:
- Flexibility- you should be prepared for flexible work timeframes and sometimes work out of them. From time to time there will be no other option but to phone call a client at 2 am or 3 am. Often we have to be vigilant and prepared that in case of sudden problems, someone will try contacting us at a time we do not expect. In spite of that, it is worth making time of work flexible for cooperation to go smoothly without complications and misunderstandings.
- Communication inside a team- communication is one of the soft skills, which in our case is a most useful one. Every member of a team should get acquainted with the project and have it thoroughly discussed so that too many questions could be omitted and the process gets sped up. Thanks to that software developer can work during his work hours, knowing what tasks he has to do, meanwhile, the manager can sleep soundly knowing that the rest of the team knows what to do.
- Good planning- employee, who knows that he has a list of tasks prepared, after launching a computer can immediately start working. At the same time, people at the managing team have insight into all tasks, those that are currently worked on by the team, those that are finished as well as if everything goes smoothly.