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Remote Team Sanity: How To Work With A Team From Different Countries And Time Zones

Illustration of two people working in different time zones

Remote Team Sanity: How To Work With A Team From Different Countries And Time Zones

During a 2020 research, Eric Brynjolfsson estimates that the number of remote workers in the U.S. has quadrupled to nearly 50% of the nation’s workforce. Although many people had already been working remotely, the appearance of COVID-19 played a significant role in this rapid shift.

In this article, we examine the tools someone can utilize to work effectively from different time zones. Apart from technical matters, we will also analyze and solve some social issues that usually occur. By the end of this article, you will be able to start working successfully as a member of a remote development team.

How Can A Remote Development Team Work Effectively?

As remote working seems to be the future of how we work, how can we make sure we work as effectively as possible? Let’s have a look at the best techniques that will help you create a great remote environment.

Timezone Management Tools

Timezone management tools are essential techniques used by all successful remote teams across the world. The lack of time is often mistaken for disorganization. Thankfully, numerous apps and websites can help you manage the time zone difference.

If you are one of the 8 million people that use Slack daily, for example, you can consider the Slack bot called Spacetime.am. With this app, every member of your Slack team can add their location and set their working hours.

There are many other managing tools like Boomerang for Gmail that help you set an email delivery at a suitable time for each time zone and many others. For this reason, we have created a list of alternatives for you.

Best Timezone management tools:

  1. Spacetime.am — a bot that helps to keep track of the time between your and your colleague’s time zones while you’re chatting in Slack and convert the time to your time zones when you’re scheduling a meeting.
  2. Every Time Zone — is a customizable dashboard with the current time in each time zone that is important for you.
  3. Time and Date (iOS) — an app that highlights the best time for your team meetings depending on your time zones.
  4. ScheduleOnce — a meeting scheduling solution that also supports different time zone management.
  5. TimeZoneConverter — a super simple tool that helps to check the current time in two places; a good solution for those who are not convinced in usage of more sophisticated tools.
  6. 24timezones — a digital map where you can easily pick a region and find out a current time.

When you find the one that suits you best, using it will prove to be lifesaving.

Regular Meetings

Meetings are a must-do for everyone working remotely, from companies choosing to invest in offshore development teams worldwide to a beginner freelance designer.

It is important to host regular meetings to stay on top of things and maintain a work environment. While the distance is a challenge, remote meetings are crucial for getting on the same page with your colleagues.

Having a live conversation will allow you and your teammates to bond. Apart from that, meetings can result in positive and energizing outcomes, including increased innovation and better decision-making. The good news is that there’s an enormous number of apps like Slack or Zoom you can use to organize your team’s remote meetings.

Use Shared Folders And Tools To Collaborate With Remote Teams

When working from different time zones, you and your teammates need to use shared folders to store your files. Collaboration platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox allow you and your partners to have simultaneous access to photos, designs, and files. In this way, you won’t slow down each other due to possible time differences.

Several apps add more perks to file sharing. For example, with applications like Asana or Figma, you can directly collaborate in the tool ecosystem, mark what you like and where you need to make edits. With that kind of virtual workspace software, you will get the same benefits as if you were sitting in the same room.

For you to achieve that, we have created a list with the best collaboration applications:

  1. Asana — one of the leading project management tools that can help each member of the team see the progress of their colleagues.
  2. Jira — project management tool specifically designed for, and therefore loved by, developers and designers.
  3. Trello — one of the biggest benefits of this well-known project management tool is that it’s basic plan is free for teams.
  4. Toggl Plan — a project planner that keeps team members on the loop of who’s busy with what task so that everyone is involved without extra effort.
  5. ProofHub — a project planning software that supports integration with the main apps on the market.
  6. Airtable — a platform that can provide a suitable dashboard for almost any type of activity from simple team management to product development.
  7. Ryver — a team collaboration app that gives a chance to integrate all mail team collaboration tools in one app.
  8. Figma — a design tool where the team can comment and collaborate in real time, just the thing for distributed teams of developers, designers and the client.
  9. Approval Studio — a tool specifically designed to make work of designers and their clients easier by inbuilt commenting of design that helps to get to a final design approval faster.
  10. Cage — a tool that allows adding annotations to images, PDFs, videos, and other formats.

Each software has its advantages and disadvantages, but this list will help you choose the best one for your needs.

Agree On Everything Beforehand

Now that we have analyzed the best techniques for an effective remote work environment, let’s have a look at the social techniques. It is crucial, especially for those of you who are individual contractors, to set all your rules beforehand.

When you start cooperating with a client, it is important to talk about the communication channel preferred, the time when they can expect a quick response, and what time it is better not to write. Even for those working in the same company, clarifying the rules, setting the time for meetings, and creating a calendar, is helpful to understand each other’s schedules and avoid misconceptions.

Focus On The Goal, Not The Process

This is another critical priority you should keep in mind. Try to give each other room and don’t micromanage the cooperation. It is important to build a workflow in a comfortable way for both parties.

If you avoid asking many small questions in the chat, unless they are urgent for a project, it will prove to be beneficial for your collaboration with the client. You can gather all the non-urgent questions you have, and ask them at the next meeting with the client. By doing that, you will prove to the client that when you ask something between your meetings, it should be answered quickly.

Use The Time Difference as Your Advantage

With smart scheduling, working with people from different time zones is not that difficult. Planning is a key requirement that will help you use the time difference to your advantage. According to a 2019 technology research, planning should be considered as a specific strategy for remote development teams.

For example, if you know that tomorrow you will start working on a new project with a client and need a certain element, don’t wait for that time to come. Ask the element in advance, give the client some hours to send it to you, and you will have it by the time you need it.

Conclusion

Summarizing, we have analyzed the main technical and social techniques you can use to improve the work environment of a remote development team. The timezone management tools, regular meetings, and collaboration apps will provide you the tools to achieve this improvement. On the other hand, setting your rules and focusing on your goal will help you build beneficial remote cooperation with every client.

You can consider this as an ‘open’ list, as there are numerous techniques you can utilize to create an efficient remote work environment. Remote work is the future for a vast number of fields, and the technical and social techniques you can use will keep growing with it.

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About The Author
Iryna is a Marketing Specialist at YouTeam, a Y Combinator-backed marketplace for finding remote software developers from Eastern Europe and Latin America. YouTeam can source candidates for your offshore development team within 48 hours.
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