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Jess Lee
Jess Lee

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How does your company deal with massive time zone differences between teammates?

Top comments (17)

nitya profile image
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

Subscribing to this discussion immediately 😍

As someone who works on a distributed team and is also a remote worker, the challenges are along two fronts:

  • How do you make sure information is shared in an inclusive way (localization, respect working hours)
  • How do you collaborate when you are not necessarily in compliant time-zones

What I've seen/learned are:

  • Ensure that all meetings occur in duplicate - every region should have at least 1 friendly time option
  • Record all meetings - folks can catch up if they miss out
  • Shared documents - write everything and allow for async comments that everyone can see
  • Compromise - take the occasional early morning or late night call so others enjoy regular hours
  • Provide enough runway time for decisions - allow everyone to have a chance to watch/read and weigh in (36 hrs at least)

Curious to learn from others.

nitya profile image
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

Also forgot to mention that I really love this utility

Helps to identify the right times to have a meeting in a way that helps optimize it for all timezones involved. If you have a Slack channel pin this so folks remember to use it for meeting planning. 😁

_morgan_adams_ profile image

I can't upvote this enough!

nickytonline profile image
Nick Taylor

We don't record our standups, but when we have other meetings, like show and tell, those get recorded.

nickytonline profile image
Nick Taylor • Edited

It's tough.

Currently, on my team, the developers are based in Montreal, product/design and QA are in the UK and another part of design is in San Francisco.

We have daily standups, so we find a time where it works for those three time zones. For us, that is 10:30-11am Eastern. It is not always ideal for the developers as we get out of our morning groove (people start work anywhere between 8:30-9:30am).

For getting answers to things, you need to be mindful of people's timezones, so for example, the UK is 5-6 hours ahead of Montreal (depending on the time of year), so we try to get questions about design or product as soon as possible during the start of our day. If for some reason we have questions closer to the end of our day, we just leave a question in Slack or JIRA with as much information as possible. Usually, come morning, for us in Montreal, we have answers.

We use Slack heavily (good and bad), but we also use tools like MURAL which we've found to be quite helpful. For design, Figma is great since you can add comments and it's web-based. And we use GitHub for source control, so once again, web-based with comments/back and forth in pull requests.

It's not perfect, but it's how we've been working for the past little while.

It's not perfect, but it's going to be okay

highcenburg profile image
Vicente G. Reyes

We, the designer, VA & devs are from Asia/Manila and we work for a company in Canada(I forgot the timezone)/ I make sure that I'm online at least 4 hours their time just to be present when they need something from me.

darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar

That is a very good approach πŸ‘

highcenburg profile image
Vicente G. Reyes

Oh, and sometimes, I receive messages at lunch time in Asia/Manila from my teammates about a task that I need to do so it's a fair practice I guess πŸ˜„

jrohatiner profile image
Judith • Edited

Great topic! I've managed teams offshore and it can be really tough. If it's a 3 hour time difference its no big deal; but when it's nine or ten hours difference it can wear you out trying to catch up with everyone.

As far sharing info:
a lot of emails cc'ing everyone on the team!
Good code commenting.
Good documentation.
Communicating through an established , secure network (always)
Take care to include relevant teammates in all invites; making those who are not essential to the discussion optional in attendance.
Get up really early in the morning to respond to overnight emails.

Collaboration is only tricky if you're sleeping while they are working! You just have to put in the extra time to get it done. You may have to stay late or come in early. Also, online tools in Azure, Github, AWS and more (my top three) are essential so another programmer can see the progression of everyone's contributions. Use notifications and filters (and be smart about the rulesets).

The only thing I haven't noticed in my experience is that there isn't any extra time allotted for the differences in timezones and (you're right) there really should be.

cristinaruth profile image
Cristina Ruth

Collaboration is really tough when schedules are different.

For real-time collaboration, I find it best to find a common 1-hr (or even just 30 minutes time) among everyone to be able to sync up (outstanding tasks/progress updates/what's next).

For non-real time collaboration, I find it best for everyone to keep things documented as things move along so that everyone else can follow. Sometimes, as simple as a slack channel would help. Or even just capturing and summarizing any discussions from that and send that to the general group.

I'm also curious on how other people have found/are doing to accommodate for this.

jrohatiner profile image

Totally agree. We have scheduled early morning or late evening standups to accommodate everyone. The schedule is switched up to be fair to everyone as well.

Slack is awesome for communicating as well (with the right add ons!).

omrisama profile image
Omri Gabay

We have one guy on our team in Russia, and another in Pennsylvania. We have a standup on Zoom in the morning every day at 9AM. We use Google Hangouts to chat and get on calls when we need to.

Most of the team is in one location however

aaiezza profile image
Alessandro Aiezza

We all work on a timezone invented only for the company. It’s basically EST, but 17.2692 minutes ahead. But if the current month is divisible by 3 and not also 2, you just subtract 12 hours from -5:17.2692 timezone. This evens it out for people in Europe.

If you work for us in say, England, you simply need to completely change your schedule to wake up and fall asleep in line with that clock. That means waking up when it’s very dark out to start work, and leaving work when the sun is highest in the sky where you live.

It was really hard to get used to, but everyone seems to really like it now. And we all are able work at the same time!

jwp profile image
John Peters • Edited

This requires major management flexibilty, because when you need to start a call at 7:00pm, you should be able to work from home.

For any long night shifts you should flex out to ensure good sleep.

Finally if you cannot understand your remote team; ask them to speak slowly and louder.

jackharner profile image
Jack Harner πŸš€

Hopefully going to get my first remote position soon, where, as of now, I'd be the only North American employee. So definitely interested in people's responses.

jacobmgevans profile image
Jacob Evans

Previous jobs... Not well.

rafi993 profile image

I would highly recommend the book