As more and more companies expand globally and source employees from around the world, working in different time zones is becoming increasingly common. Working with clients and employees in different time zones can be a challenge. It also requires making some changes to the way you think about conducting business. If you’re new to international business, this may take some time to get used to, especially when it comes to remembering everyone’s current time zone. Here are some tips and tools to help.
Benefits of Working in Different Time Zones
Multinational companies and large enterprises often have office bases in more than one country or location. This helps them grow their geographic coverage and sell to more customers across the globe. Even small businesses are trying to break out of geographical boundaries and increase international sales. So, why work across multiple time zones? Here are some benefits of expanding your company and working in different time zones:
- Grow as an international business.
- Establish a local presence for your business in multiple locations.
- Improve business awareness and visibility.
- Make it easy for global customers to connect with your business for sales or assistance.
- Adopt a Follow the Sun model for global customer support.
Tools for Working in Different Time Zones
There are many services and tools available to make it easy for businesses to work across time zones and countries. These services and tools help improve communication, productivity, and collaboration:
- Call forwarding and time-based routing to route customer calls coming from across the time zones.
- Time zone trackers (more on this below) to be aware of different time zones.
- Virtual voice and video communication tools to communicate effectively.
- Project management software to track projects and tasks and support team collaboration.
- Customer relationship management systems (CRMs) to keep track of customer information.
Besides using these tools and services, what can your business and teams do to make working in different time zones easier?
Working in Multiple Time Zones: Best Practices
Let’s looks at the best practices you and your teams should pay attention to when working across different time zones and dealing with global customers:
1. Mind the Time
Make the most of the clock features on your mobile phone or tablet. If you have employees or clients in multiple geographic locations, set up a world clock for each of them so you can see at a glance what the time is wherever they are.
2. Set Time Zone Boundaries
Each time you begin working with a new employee or client in a different time zone, discuss issues that may arise because of time differences. This is particularly important when arranging meetings, setting deadlines, and any other time-sensitive communications. You will need to decide whether to book the dates and times in your zone or theirs.
3. Be Considerate Of Time Differences
If you’re working with clients or employees in a time zone that is very different from yours, show some consideration. Don’t book meetings or set deadlines that are very early in the morning in their time zone unless they specifically request that. Bear the same thing in mind when you are texting or calling people.
4. Keep Communication Channels Open
If you are rarely going to meet with your clients or employees in person, it’s important to maintain regular communication. Otherwise, they will begin to feel left out of the loop. Schedule a Skype or Facetime call now and again so that your communications don’t become too depersonalized.
5. Offer 24/7 Customer Support
If you own an online company and provide products, services, or both and your reach is global, your customers will need 24/7 access to your customer service team. If you’re a small business and don’t have a call center, an easy and affordable way to get around is with international call forwarding. You can give your customers virtual, toll-free international numbers that are local to them, and the calls will be forwarded to the number of your choice at various times of the day.
Related: 5 Ways to Leverage Time-Based Routing for Global Expansion
6. Maintain Realistic Boundaries
Although it may be dinner time in your time zone, it might be breakfast time in your client’s region. Although you may be gung-ho about working 24-7, not everyone else can handle that kind of rigor, especially if they are part of a different culture. Remember that your employees and clients may have family responsibilities, and it is important to be reasonable with your expectations.
Tools for Managing Time Zones
Here’s a rundown of some tools and apps that can help you manage time zone differences.
World Clock Meeting Planner: Things can get tricky when you’re trying to schedule a meeting with three different people, each of whom is located in a different time zone. But it doesn’t have to get too confusing. This tool will let you pick a date and plug in your location and the locations of your clients. The app will then generate a series of suggested times that may be feasible for your meeting. It even color-codes the times into sleeping, non-working, and working hours to clearly find a suitable time for everyone involved.
Spacetime.am: Slack has become one of the most popular cloud-based collaboration tools available today. If you are one of the 3 million users, you might want to add Slack bot Spacetime.am to benefit your whole team. Each member of your group can add their location and schedule their work hours so everyone can see who is available online, when, and for how long. This tool also allows you to arrange meetings and automatically adjust the time zone to suit each user.
World Time Buddy: This tool has a three-fold application; it converts world clocks and time zones and can schedule meetings. You can plug in numerous locations, and each time you revisit the site, they will load up. The neat color-coding system helps you keep track of business hours and where they sync.
Every Time Zone: If you’re looking for a tool that can keep track of your time zones with a pleasing and easy-to-use overlay, this is the one. Wherever in the world you and your clients are, Every Time Zone makes it easy to see the location and the time and how they correspond.
Time Zone Converter: When you need a simple tool that quickly converts the time across any time zone, this is a great choice. It’s a great app for people who are constantly making business trips all over the world.
24 Time Zones: This app’s colorful interactive world map makes it easy for users to see where in the world it’s time for business and where it is nighttime. Just click on a city to see the time there.
Time.is: Designed for time zone management, this tool displays the atomic clock, which can be set for any time zone in the world. Other useful graphics accompany the clock. It’s also a good app for telling if your computer’s clock is slightly off.
Time Zone Abbreviations: Are you familiar with AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time), CAT (Central Africa Time), and PYT (Paraguay Time)? Time zone abbreviations can be confusing, especially when you come across one you haven’t seen before. This tool provides a list of all of them, so you can easily look them up and avoid confusion. Now you won’t get mixed up between British Summer Time and Bangladesh Standard Time.
With more than 24 global times zones, it can be difficult to keep up with everyone if you’re conducting business internationally. Following these tips and using the suggested tools can help you keep your time under control.