How to Overcome Challenges for Team Members Working Remotely in a Different Time Zone

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The challenge of coordinating across time zones, once a barrier to productivity, is now an opportunity to leverage the benefits of a globally distributed team—all while working remotely in a different time zone.

This shift not only offers the potential for a 24-hour workday but also grants access to a diverse pool of global talent, allowing for continuous work cycles without the need for overtime or late shifts.

Plus, with over 12% of full-time employees working remotely, it only makes sense to broaden the search for team members abroad, but also be aware of the challenges in time zone differences.

“Taking on the challenges of working from different time zones not only broadens the horizon for business operations but also fosters a culture of flexibility, resilience, and continuous productivity,” said Ruffy Galang, CEO and Co-Founder Remote Employee.

In this blog, we’ll cover some of the most common challenges of working in different time zones, how to address these issues, and make recommendations for tools to manage communication.

Challenges of Working in Different Time Zones

Working remotely across different time zones presents unique challenges that can impact team dynamics and productivity.

One of the topmost issues? Significant hurdles in communication. Distributed teams often find it more effortful to communicate, with delays in responses waiting for colleagues in other time zones to come online for calls or meetings. This can slow down decision-making processes and project momentum.

You may also find it a challenge to handle the complexity associated with managing global teams. When taking this on, you must navigate time zone differences, diverse work styles, and cultural norms.

Remote workers may also struggle with motivation and feeling connected to their team. The physical distance and differing time zones can exacerbate feelings of isolation compared to those working in a traditional office environment. Plus, opportunities for spontaneous interactions and team bonding are scarce.

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How to Address Remote Work Time Zone Differences

To effectively navigate the challenges posed by remote work in different time zones, here are some approaches you can take.

Leverage technology for better collaboration.

Embrace digital tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Drive for efficient team collaboration. These platforms facilitate document sharing, project management, and instant messaging.

For scheduling meetings across time zones, tools like Calendly can help you automate the process. Additionally, video conferencing tools like Zoom are fantastic for building rapport and fostering a sense of team unity.

Define clear expectations and boundaries.

Transparency regarding work hours, availability, and expectations is imperative—especially in remote settings. It’s essential to establish clear guidelines on goals, roles, responsibilities, and deadlines. This clarity helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that team members are aligned with the project’s objectives and timelines.

Prioritize asynchronous communication.

Considering time differences, it’s vital to plan communications thoughtfully. Asynchronous communication should be the standard. This allows team members to contribute according to their schedules without the need for immediate responses.

This way, you make continuous progress on projects without the pressure of synchronizing schedules for real-time interactions. Examples of tools teams can use for efficient and effective asynchronous communication include:

  • JIRA
  • Slack
  • Google Drive
  • Loom

Respect everyone’s time zone and work hours.

Encourage team members to share their preferred working hours and respect their work-life boundaries. With this approach, teams can foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Sharing this information with the entire team is also a matter when it comes to  planning meetings and deadlines more effectively.

Incorporate synchronous communication when necessary.

While asynchronous communication is preferred, allocating about 25% of interactions for real-time communication is just as important.

Tools like video chats, Slack, and regular weekly check-ins can strengthen team dynamics, promote immediate feedback, and address urgent issues. These moments of connection are invaluable for maintaining personal connections and ensuring everyone feels part of the team.

Global Time Zone Overlaps

This table illustrates when typical working hours (assumed to be between 9:00 and 17:00 local time for simplicity) overlap. The table uses “X” to mark periods within these hours.

City 00:00 03:00 06:00 09:00 12:00 15:00 18:00 21:00
San Francisco X X X X
New York X X X X
London X X X X X
Berlin X X X X X
Dubai X X X X X
Mumbai X X X X X
Singapore X X X X X
Tokyo X X X X X

Tools We Recommend to Manage Remote Work Time Zone Differences

Other than building collaborative, outside-the-box communication processes into your workflow, there are also a number of tools to help with managing working in different time zones.

Meeting Scheduling Tools

These tools are designed to simplify the process of finding suitable meeting times for participants across various time zones.

  • Doodle offers automatic time zone consideration for meeting scheduling, with a premium tier for professional use. Ideal for coordinating times for small to medium-sized groups.
  • ScheduleOnce focuses on scheduling meetings with customers in mind, considering their time zones to enhance the meeting experience. It includes features like white-glove treatment for scheduling and the option to disable time zone detection for local meetings.
  • Meeting Planner Time Zone App (iOS) uses color coding to indicate the availability of team members across time zones, making it easier to schedule meetings with global teams.

Time Zone Management and Adjustment Tools

These tools and features help users manage and adjust their schedules in accordance with different global time zones.

  • Google Calendar Time Zone allows you to set primary and additional time zones, displaying times for two different zones simultaneously. This is particularly useful for collaboration across time zones.
  • Chrome Extension: Change Timezone (Time Shift) is a set of extensions for Chrome that enable users to adjust time zone settings for privacy, account for daylight savings, and optionally disable adjustments in regions without daylight savings.
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Author Bio: Ruffy Galang

CEO and Co-Founder, Remote Employee

Ruffy Galang is a dynamic and forward-thinking leader in the remote work industry, currently serving as the CEO and Co-Founder of Remote Employee. With his leadership beginning in May 2022, Galang has been instrumental in steering the company towards innovative solutions for remote work challenges. His expertise in business development and management, honed over several years, has been pivotal in Remote Employee's growth and success.

In addition to his role at Remote Employee, Ruffy is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at CORE Solutions since June 2018.

Before founding Remote Employee, Galang had an impressive career at Cloudstaff, where he demonstrated his prowess in business development. He climbed the ranks from Account Manager to Vice President of Business Development, a position he held from January 2020 to October 2021.

With a Master's degree in Business Administration and Management and a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Angeles University Foundation, Galang’s solid educational grounding has provided him with a deep understanding of both the technical and managerial aspects of running a successful business in today's digital world.

Ruffy's unique perspective on business is also shaped by his diverse cultural background. Having grown up in the United States until graduating high school, he then moved to the Philippines to pursue his college education. This bicultural experience has equipped him with an in-depth understanding of both Western and Philippine cultures, enabling him to effectively assist clients in creating successful offshore teams that are culturally attuned and efficient.