When I started my own business one of the most important decisions I had to make was should I hire full-time in-house staff or outsource to remote employees. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to go with a remote team.
There were several reasons why, but most notably it was because it was cheaper and allowed me to tap into a deeper talent pool.
While I don’t regret my decision, it’s also been a challenge to calendar with my online team and also to motivate my virtual team. We also have to keep everyone on the same-page. This means being able to manage several different calendars across different time zones.
After a little trial and error, along with some awesome tools, I’ve been able to successfully manage my team — even when they’re spread out across multiple time zones. Want to know how? Here are my six secrets to managing multiple calendars in various time zones.
1. Know your time zones.
Let’s say you live in NYC, but have a colleague in Chicago. Since there’s just one time zone difference between you, calculating that one hour difference isn’t a big deal. But, try that with multiple team members spread out across several time zones.
Instead of trying to calculate time zone differences on your own, and memorizing all of these various time zone abbreviations, make use of web-based converters, browser plugins, and mobile apps. There’s even a handy world clock widget that you can install and put onto your website of blog.
I would also make a note of each country’s daylight savings period and holidays. This way you won’t schedule a meeting at the wrong time or when your team has-off.
2. Communicate clearly and regularly.
It happens to the best of us. You get so carried away on a project that it slips your mind that you’re in a totally different time zone then the rest of your team. Next you think you know you get frustrated that someone hasn’t responded to your email or on Slack until the next day.
That’s why communication is key when managing multiple calendars in different time zones.
You need to be open and transparent regarding your availability, upcoming holidays, movements, and your preferred communication channels throughout the day.
Find an online system.
For example, encourage your team to use Slack during business hours, but have them switch to email when off-the-clock. Also encourage your team to share their calendars with the rest of the team.
A Calendar is a critical scheduling tool.
Also use a scheduling tool like Calendar. It allows you to share your availability via email or an embedded link. This way if someone needs to schedule an event with you, then can see when you’re available without going communicating back-and-forth.
Finishes off at night before bed.
Finally, before unplugging for the night, go through your emails — or whatever communication channel you use. This way you won’t wake-up to any surprises. I also go through my emails fight thing in the morning as well. Not only do have the undisturbed time to do so, if there’s an emergency I can my day accordingly.
3. Be flexible.
I’m a stickler for having a routine. This allows me to create a daily schedule so that I’m at peak productivity.
At the same time, I work with people from all over the world. As such, I also need to have little flexibility with my schedule. For example, if a client or team member can’t chat until eight PM EST, and it’s five PM my time — then I might have to work longer that day.
Sometimes this evens out though. If their workday is done hours before mine on a Friday, then I’ll just leave the office in the early afternoon.
By all means, create and stick to a schedule. But, also set aside blocks of time so that you have the flexibility to meet with others in different time zones when need-be
4. Establish boundaries.
To avoid burnout, you need to establish boundaries. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t compromise. It just means learning how to say “no” sometimes.
I live on the West Coast. So if an employee or client from New York wants to chat Monday morning at nine am, that’s not the best time for me. So, I’m awake by then, but I’m in the middle of my morning routine and not ready for a meeting. Just pushing the meeting back two or three hours could be more beneficial for everyone.
In other words, don’t force yourself to wake-up extra early, stay-up all night, or give-up your weekends just to accommodate someone else in a different time zone.
Again, using Calendar, you can share your availability so that the other party knows when it’s best to schedule a meeting with you.
5. Set “official office hours.”
This is definitely a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Just look at the common times when you and your team are “on the clock.” This way you’re not eating into each other’s personal time.
“Let’s say you have team members in California and New York. To maximize collaboration, team members should be ‘extra available’ during the four or five overlapping hours in the middle of the day,” says Joe Moore of Pivotal Labs.
“That means New York team members schedule their local-only meetings and events during their morning, before California comes online. Similarly, the California team schedules local-only activities during their late afternoon, after NYC is done for the day.”
Since I have team members located across the country, I’ve set official business hours as 10:30 AM CT to 4:30 PM CT. During these overlapping six hours, I expect my team to be available for phone calls or meetings. However, I also don’t expect them to attend a virtual meeting if it’s not within those six hours unless it’s been scheduled far enough in advance.
What if your team doesn’t have many overlapping times because you’re a multinational organization? You can try a rotating meeting schedule.
“Every month, each team member now has one evening, one mid-day, and one early morning meeting, and misses one meeting that falls in the middle of their night,” says Donna Flynn of Steelcase Workspace Furniture. “No team member is expected to attend a team meeting between 10 PM and seven AM.”
6. Use technology to your advantage.
Finally, as alluded to in my first point, use technology to your advantage. Besides the time zone converters and scheduling tools, use an online calendar like Google.
View calendars in local time while traveling.
It allows you to change your time zone and create events with certain time zones. And when you travel to a different time zone, you can view your calendar in the local time.
There’s also scheduling tools, like the aforementioned Calendar, as well as communication tools like Google Hangouts, Slack, and Skype. This allows you to stay in-touch with your team seamlessly. Again, communication is key when managing calendars in multiple time zones.
How do you manage multiple calendars while in different time zones?
Nina Gass is a content writer with a diverse background who understands the struggles of small business owners, freelancers, and company founders. Her content delivers insightful and actionable advice to improve time management, productivity, and sanity despite wearing numerous hats and juggling multiple responsibilities in work and life.