How to facilitate communication and collaboration across time zones

The working world has become a much different place thanks to the increasing functionality of the internet. More teams are working together across the globe, companies are building increasingly remote work forces, and recruiters can search for talent regardless of location. Employees no longer need to be in the same location to collaborate on projects. But what new challenges do you face when you have a global team?

At Culture Amp, we have offices in London, San Francisco, and New York, with our headquarters in Melbourne, Australia. 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 to operate as a distributed organization. 

Tip 1: Have an awareness 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 that require people from distributed teams to be in attendance.

Thankfully, Google calendar makes this easy for us. A handy lab called World Clock displays selected time zones to the side of your weekly or monthly view. This way, you can quickly see what time it is in our 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 3am meeting.

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We also need to keep in mind daylight savings, which starts and ends at different times of year across our offices. This change can either shrink or grow the overlap we have between offices.

Tip 2: Use chat and email together

As of publication, we have 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 in addition to working 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 of the offices is not online for the live meeting, and instead watches 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 all over the world, these meetings require coordination between time zones, chats on slack, and then the final video call. 

Tip 4: Encourage and support in-person visits

Video conferences are great for seeing and hearing other people, but they’re not the same as a face-to-face meeting. We routinely have team members make visits to our San Francisco, New York, London, and Melbourne 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 - Donut. This slack bot 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 tools and services currently available, it’s possible to have a team that spans the planet. Google calendar, slack, email and Zoom are just a few tools that help us stay connected across offices. By being aware of times and locations, along with good communication, companies can become global workforces, working together no matter where they are.

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