How to facilitate communication & meetings across time zones
More teams are working together across the globe, companies are building increasingly remote workforces, and recruiters can search for talent regardless of location. Employees no longer need to be in the same location to collaborate on projects. With these new changes come new challenges to face when you have a global team.
At Culture Amp, we have offices in San Francisco, New York, and London, with our headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, and remote employees worldwide. We have to deal with different time zones in a big way. On Fridays in the US, the Melbourne team is already gone for the weekend, and on Mondays in Australia, our US folks are still wrapping up their Sunday dinners. Here are a few tools we use to stay connected and some tips on what we’ve learned about operating and having meetings as a distributed organization.
Five tips for scheduling meetings and communicating in a distributed workforce
Tip 1: Be aware of time zones
The simplest thing we can do is be aware of what time it is wherever our people are. It’s important to know what times overlap so we can schedule meetings requiring people from distributed teams to attend.
Thankfully, Google Calendar makes this easy for us by allowing you to toggle on time zones for other locations. This way, we can quickly see the time in each office. When scheduling an event, you can also see what time your meeting starts in other time zones, making it less likely that you’ll send someone an invite for a 3:00 am meeting.
We also need to remember daylight savings, which starts and ends at different times of the year across our offices. This change can either shrink or grow the overlap we have between offices.
Tip 2: Use chat and email together
At one point, we had an impressive (or just over-the-top) 500+ channels in Slack. It’s safe to say we’re big fans. From private chats to team channels to food photos, cat photos, and more – we have a channel for it. Because Slack is always on and available, discussions can happen asynchronously. Fortunately, Slack also allows you to see the time zone of the person you’re messaging, which is helpful since a lot of our team travels and works in different locations.
As much as we love Slack, we haven’t abandoned email. Weekly updates from teams across the company are one way we use email to keep us in the loop. Emails also tend not to get overlooked as often as a Slack message might in a busy channel.
Tip 3: Find a good video conferencing system
We’ve found that Zoom video conferencing works well for us. We host team meetings, one-on-one meetings, all hands, and more on Zoom. These meetings are often a gathering of members dispersed throughout our offices. As we expanded to four offices in pretty disparate time zones, we've had to move to a system of rotating our All Hands meetings. This means one or more offices are not online for the live meeting and instead watch a recording later. Thankfully, Zoom allows us to easily record and share these recordings, which is a big plus.
Video chats also come into play during our new hire onboarding process. New hires meet with people across the company to learn about our different teams. Since we’re spread worldwide, these meetings require coordination between time zones, chats on Slack, and the final video call.
Tip 4: Encourage and support in-person visits
Video conferences are great for seeing and hearing other people but are not the same as face-to-face meetings. We routinely have team members make visits to different offices. An important part of this travel for us is to build empathy and a better understanding of each location’s work environment, customer needs, and micro-culture.
We also encourage team members to meet via our Camper Coffee Lottery. The slack bot, Donut, connects Campers across offices for casual chats every few weeks. As we continue to grow, it continues to be a great way for us to stay connected.
Find the right communication tools for you
With the available tools and services, it’s possible to have a team that spans the planet. Google Calendar, Slack, email, and Zoom are tools that help us stay connected across offices. By being aware of times and locations and good communication, companies can become global workforces, working together no matter where they are.
Best practices for making remote work, work
Megan Wheeler, leadership trainer at LifeLabs, shares best practices for remote work - including a checklist you can use to optimize the WFH experience.