The Different TimeZone Productivity Myth
How do we work effectively in Remote Team setup?
I am going to share my perspectives on a common misconception and myth that “colleagues spread across different timezones actually reduces Productivity”. I have been working in a different timezone from my colleagues for 4.5 years now and have come to realize that there is a huge potential to use this situation for your own benefit if you find out the right things to do to make it work.
- When we have team members in the same time zone, if one member is waiting on the other to complete some work, he/she maybe blocked until that work completes as they effectively share the same working hours. This can lead to frustration, etc.
- Now, if the team members are in different time zones, and if they communicate effectively, they can avoid such a situation and possibly use it to their advantage. The member dependent on another team member’s work will communicate to them about their dependency before he/she goes to bed and the other one starts his workday. By the time, the dependent member arrives for work the next day, he/she can resume without being blocked and can have an awesome productive day.
- Checking your communication channels once before going to bed when you team mate is going to start his/her day and checking it again after waking up and sending quick replies to any open issues for the team mate can in fact achieve higher throughput for tasks in a distributed team than a team with all members in the same place.
Available Work Hours Spread
- When you have team members in a team spread across lets say two/three timezones, it helps cover the on-call duties without anyone having to do an on-call at night.
- Lets say all the team members are in the Pacific timezone. What happens is that there will be times when you run into production issues and someone will be paged at night. If this happens frequently, the day-time productivity reduces and overall team morale starts dipping.
- If the team is spread across two time zones, i.e. Pacific timezone and India timezone, then due to the innate difference of 12.5 hours, it gives an advantage to setup the on-call duties in such a way that the engineer is on-call only when he is awake. i.e. 7 AM to 7 PM for the India Engineer and then the engineer in PST time zone takes over during 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM PST. This way, an engineer is only on call during his day time and will not be woken up for any production issues, leading to higher productivity and high morale.
Setup Overlap times
- For remote teams, it becomes very important to setup overlap times so that they have some time to work on issues that require both the team members.
Anticipation and Forward Planning
- Anticipating what the others will need, Forward thinking and Planning, Communication about the tasks to be done, having multiple items in the to-do list to avoid having a ‘blocker’ scenario, etc. is very important for remote teams to succeed.
- Doing these exercises also makes you a good task manager and helps you grow professionally.
I do acknowledge that there will be certain situations where having the team co-located will be your best bet. I have been part of ‘Project War rooms’, but having done both the things, I feel remote teams are more powerful if the team members conduct them with proper planning and anticipation.
I hope I have convinced you about how remote teams spread across time-zones can be more successful than teams with only local team members.
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