Having an offshore team is an incredible opportunity to delegate work to an excellent group of professionals. However, with remote workers or offshore development staff, time zone and cultural differences can cause some difficulties.

Misaligned schedules can lead to missed deadlines, postponed communication, and other issues that affect team performance and overall productivity. Having worked with our offshore partner teams on many projects over several years, we know from experience that there are certain common practices that can alleviate some of these issues and improve the experience of working with offshore teams. In this blog post, we’ll provide 8 essential tips for handling time zone differences in offshore teams effectively.

Establish a communication plan

Before you start working with your offshore team, create a communication plan that outlines the daily, weekly, and monthly communication schedules/deadlines. This will help you align with your offshore team and help ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities, deadlines, and work hours. Set clear expectations of what type of communication will be used by everyone in the team. Utilise multiple channels of communication such as email, video conferencing apps, chat applications, and collaboration tools. Ensuring that everyone follows the same communication plan is critical to managing time zone differences.

Set-up an onshore visit

If costs and time allow, setting up an onshore visit for the offshore team can be incredibly valuable, and will accelerate and increase team bonding. Provide the offshore team with the opportunity to meet as many of the onshore team stakeholders as possible that they’ll be interacting with, and provide the teams a chance to work together in one location for the duration of the visit. This may seem like an expensive luxury, but especially for longer term programmes, it will pay dividends.

Set realistic deadlines

The time differences with offshore teams can mean that communication is a bit delayed, and thus deadlines should be adjusted accordingly. Trying to enforce a strict timeline to meet the same deadlines as you would with an in-house team can lead to a lot of missed deadlines and project delays for offshore teams. To set realistic deadlines, ensure that you factor in the time differences, availability, and other project milestones.

Flexibility

Flexibility is a critical component for managing time zone differences in offshore teams. It is essential to understand that offshore employees may not work the same hours as the in-house team; therefore, you must adapt your own working hours to establish communication during their working hours. Being flexible and adjusting your working hours can help build a harmonised work environment with offshore employees.

Collaboration Tools

Several collaboration tools in the market can help boost productivity and reduce time zone-related communication issues. A few examples of popular collaboration tools include Slack, Teams and Zoom. Using such tools can help facilitate effective communication between offshore teams and in-house teams without having to be online at the same time.

Time Zone Overlap

To help working with offshore teams, try organising a small time overlap that allows in-house office hours and offshore workers’ overlap. This way, you can schedule critical meetings and work sessions during the overlap time. It is important to keep the overlapping time flexible to allow for possible adjustments due to unforeseen circumstances in an effort to keep clear communication lines between all teams.

Be understanding

It’s essential to be understanding of offshore staff and their surroundings. The time difference can affect offshore team members, their personal lives and personal responsibilities. It is important that you understand these issues and consider these when organising communication schedules and other work commitments.

Follow International Holidays

Being aware of international holidays and important dates for your offshore team can help you both plan your work and communication schedule accordingly and provide an opportunity for further team bonding. Different countries have different holidays, and it is important to plan your work and communication schedules to ensure that they do not conflict with these holidays, which can leave you without support when you need it the most.

Time zone differences, and a lack of team bonding can pose a major challenge to effective communication and collaboration in teams with offshore components. However, following the steps highlighted above can significantly boost the productivity of the offshore team and help ensure they are integrated into your wider company culture. Through establishing clear communication schedules, being flexible, using digital tools, setting realistic deadlines, being understanding and following international holidays, the quality of collaboration and work can be improved significantly.

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