Tips for working across time zones

This is a post from PRISM’s Social Army – regular briefings on topics aligned to our business or close to our hearts. Today’s entry is from Molly Ingle from PRISM’s Santa Monica office. 

One of the perks of working for an international company like PRISM is the ability to work with clients and colleagues across the globe. This also means having to learn techniques for seamlessly working across time zones for phone calls, Skype meetings, texting and travelling. From my experience, mastering this just comes down to solid communication and effective organisation. If you’re clear and respectful with all stakeholders, you can learn to navigate global projects without too many sleepless nights. So here are my top three tips for managing projects across multiple time zones.

Know your time zones
Use the world clock on your smart phone and get accustomed to referencing it when scheduling calls and sending out emails. It’s easy to press send after composing a really long email, but check your clock to see how that might be interrupting someone’s evening. Use Microsoft Outlook to schedule your emails so that they send during normally accepted work hours.

Effective diary management
The time difference can be used to your advantage if you determine the right formula to ensure work is being done around the clock. When I am able to complete my work and send it over to colleagues in Europe, they then have a whole day to work on something and send it back to me. Working smarter by recognising what hours you have that overlap with those of your colleagues and clients allows you to prioritize daily schedules better. Setting time aside in the morning for calls with Europe then gives you the rest of the day to focus on tasks and internal meetings.

Know your clients’ cultural attitudes towards work and home life
American businesses don’t tend to give employees as much vacation (or annual leave) as their European counterparts. Most companies in the U.K. offer employees 28 days vacation plus bank holidays. France has just passed a law prohibiting employers from requiring employees to check emails outside of business hours. Denmark is famous for its culture of seeing work as a place for happiness, while the home, especially in winter, is full of “hygge” (which is a concept focusing on coziness – think warm blankets, lots of candles, hot cocoa, and friends). When working with European clients we have to remember that they might not always be as available as we are used to, so we have to be sensitive (and maybe a bit jealous!) if they don’t always respond as quickly as we’d like.

Working with clients across multiple time zones has its challenges, but can also be incredibly rewarding. Get familiar as quickly as you can; start to live and breathe those zones. Put up several clocks on the wall if you have to! Find systems and tools that work for you and stick to them and your communication flow. Overall, it can be fun dealing with clients in multiple time zones, with contrasting seasons and different holidays. It provides a glimpse into another culture, country and society, and it definitely keeps your day interesting.

Molly Ingle

October 29, 2017