What working remotely in 2020 has taught us about working across time zones
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Posted by: Lucid Content Team
Many organizations struggle to collaborate with a distributed workforce, especially when offices and employees are located across time zones. And it makes sense. When you have an office in LA and another in Amsterdam, for instance, it can be hard to get people on the same page when one office is awake and the other is sleeping!
With companies across the world being forced to go remote this year, people have had to adapt quickly and creatively to the new normal.
And while a global pandemic is not the answer anyone was looking for, we wanted to reflect on one silver lining through all the chaos—what we’ve learned from working remotely and how we can apply those lessons to working across time zones.
7 lessons from working remotely that you can apply to global teams
Turns out that teams can learn a lot from remote work best practices. See how these common lessons learned while working from home apply to global teams spread across multiple time zones.
1. Clarify roles and responsibilities
Working remotely means you don’t have the luxury of calling a quick team standup meeting or walking over to your co-worker’s desk to ask a quick question. Instead, communication must be a little more deliberate. However, when done right, remote work can actually enhance your team’s collaboration and the overall level of communication.
One crucial step is clarifying each team member’s roles and responsibilities.
Understanding what your job entails and what’s expected of you is important no matter where you’re working from. But when your team is distributed, you need to be crystal clear on each person’s job so you can effectively collaborate and meet performance goals on schedule.
Team leaders should establish clear processes and spell out each person’s roles and responsibilities so everyone is on the same page and no task is unaccounted for. As part of this process, your company might want to put together an org chart that shows both employees’ roles and locations.
2. Keep thorough documentation
An effective remote or dispersed team relies on clear documentation to keep everyone on the same page and ensure no work falls through the cracks. Maintain records of schedules, work plans, and work completed, along with notes, data, and other documentation for your teams to refer to.
This documentation is especially important for teams that must collaborate closely, such as sales, IT, or customer service. For instance, if a sales rep closes a sale and hands off the client to customer service, the customer service rep needs to know the details of the sale and the previous communication the client has had.
These touchpoints should all be documented and recorded in a single source of truth for the customer service team to reference. This documentation improves the customer experience by ensuring a seamless handoff and increases trust and collaboration among your remote workers.
When processes, work, and project info is documented in one easy-to-find source, the work can move along more efficiently and productively.
3. Take advantage of cloud-based tools
In the world of remote work, technology is your friend. Take advantage of cloud-based solutions that empower teams to collaborate, communicate, and track work effectively, no matter where they are.
Email communication is always important, but it’s not always personal or the best way to connect with your teams. Cloud solutions like video conferencing software, Slack channels, and project management platforms can take your team communication to the next level.
For example, Lucidchart helps teams visualize their data and map their processes in one shareable space. Easily customize templates, import data, and collaborate with team members in real time.
The cloud makes it easy for teams to work together, document processes and work info, and stay on track, no matter the time zone or office location.
4. Be flexible
Flexibility has always been a hallmark of successful remote teams. This has been especially true in 2020 as offices adapt to ever-changing work conditions and expectations.
When teams are dispersed across locations, everyone has to adjust to a more flexible workflow. Remember: Not everyone will be working the same schedules and communication will not always be instantaneous. You can’t walk across the room to get an update from your co-worker on your latest project.
Instead, you may have to wait for them to answer an email, respond to a Slack message, or plan ahead and schedule a time to connect via video chat. Although communication may not always be instant, it can be effective and efficient if you are willing to be flexible.
5. Be considerate
Whether there’s a global crisis or not, remote workforces are not always operating on the same schedules or environments. If you are planning a team meeting, be considerate of your co-workers’ time and unique situations. For instance, parents working from home may not be readily available after school hours. Team members across the country might be sitting down to dinner when you are wrapping up an afternoon project before 5.
Pay attention to the needs and preferences of your team members wherever they’re working from. Be considerate and respectful of their time when making decisions about schedules, meetings, deadlines, and the frequency and channels of communication.
Teams that are considerate and deliberate in their processes and interactions will run more smoothly.
6. Collaborate to troubleshoot and maintain operations at all hours
Global IT teams and customer service teams must be highly responsive to customer needs and issues. If a system goes down or a bug interrupts workflows, productivity and operations across the organization can be disrupted until it’s fixed. This can affect not only employee workflows but customer experience and satisfaction—and ultimately, your bottom line.
To ensure smooth sailing for everyone, IT and customer service teams must be able to collaborate seamlessly across shifts and time zones. One way to do this is to employ the follow the sun model. Teams distributed across the globe are scheduled so that there is always someone on the clock to provide support.
Teams who use the follow the sun model troubleshoot issues faster, speed up time to market, and collaborate effectively by establishing clean handoffs between employees.
Clarifying roles, keeping detailed documentation, and using cloud-based technology can help teams provide round-the-clock support wherever they are in the world.
7. Continue team selling
Team selling is all about collaboration, which means remote team selling—especially across time zones—can be challenging. However, as we’ve learned, there are numerous strategies and tools to improve remote collaboration.
Communication tools like Slack, project management platforms like Asana or collaboration solutions like Lucidchart help teams work together no matter where they are. Keep track of client details, handoffs, team workflows, project timelines, and employee schedules with cloud-based technology so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Remote team selling requires careful coordination and clear communication. By applying these lessons from remote work, global teams can collaborate across time zones with confidence.
2020 has been a year of surprises and important lessons.
When you’re working with a distributed global team, communication, coordination, and collaboration are crucial to successful operations. Whether you plan to make remote work a permanent part of your organization’s workflow or not, take these lessons to heart to improve your global operations and company performance in every time zone.
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