August 4, 2021

5 tactics I use for remote collaboration

BY NATALIE KHOO

Avion remote team meetings

If you think collaborating with a remote team is hard, try collaborating with a remote team across multiple time zones! In this article, I share 5 key strategies that I lean on every day to keep international projects moving.

Collaboration strategy 1: Know your time zones

The United States has 6 time zones. So, as you can imagine, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes standing up people across San Francisco, Austin, and New York. In addition, I juggle our team in Australia—which has 3 time zones—and my assistant Rachelle works in the Philippines. I also sometimes meet with partners in Singapore and the UK.

How do I keep on top of what time it is? Here are 3 things I regularly rely on:

  1. Adding different cities to the world clock on my iPhone (via the ‘Clock’ app)
  2. Adding different cities to the world clock on my Mac laptop (top right-hand corner of your screen)
  3. Checking TimeAndDate.com’s meeting planner when I’m not sure.
Three critical things I regularly refer to. From L-R: The world clock on my iPhone, the world clock dashboard on my Mac iOS, and TimeAndDate.com’s meeting planner.

But wait, there’s more. I also need to know when daylight savings is.

If you’re in the same situation, I suggest adding the switchover dates into your Google Calendar (you should be able to do a search for this). Don’t forget to keep the changes in mind when you’re creating events! Otherwise, things get very confusing…

Collaboration strategy 2: Make Google Calendar your friend

Speaking of Google Calendar, I’ve learned how to make it work for me.

Firstly, I take note of the available times that are best suited to cross-border business hours (“cross-border” meaning “across multiple countries”). For example, Melbourne mornings are Austin afternoons, but the day before. I then plug these windows into my schedule, so I can quickly see what time it is when trying to plan ahead.

Secondly, I add multiple time zones to appear via my Google Calendar settings. See in the screenshot below, I have GMT-05 and GMT+10 clearly visible on the left-hand side of my days. It’s another quick and easy way to see what time it is, at a glance.

Thirdly, I add national holidays across the US, Australia, and the UK into my calendar so I also know when people won’t be at work! See this in green, below.

Here you can see I’ve blocked out (in pink) the windows for cross-border business hours—my 6am in Melbourne is 2pm in Austin. You can also see multiple GMTs added, which is handy, as well as national holidays across the regions I work in.

Lastly—this is very important—when I send calendar invites for guests that are overseas, I make sure the invite is created in their time zone, not mine! As Australia is one day ahead, there have been several instances where recipients have mistaken the time for the following day.

Here’s a video clip showing how I adjust the time zone of my meetings in Google Calendar. Doing this ensures there are no miscommunications on their end.

Collaboration strategy 3: Record questions and feedback instead of email

Thanks to COVID, we’ve all adapted to Zoom and other online tools like Miro, Mural, Whimsical, and Jamboard. But what happens when we’re not awake at the same time to discuss our ideas?

This is where the magic of screen recordings come in. By using the screen record option with audio in QuickTime, it’s so easy to talk through a copy deck, a wireframe, or a report, while using your mouse as a pointer. You can also do this in Zoom (see video below). Just run a meeting on your own to capture your input!

Once done, simply save and send to teammates afterwards. Not only will they be thrilled to have context beyond bullet points, but your project will move in the right direction faster, too.

Here’s a quick Zoom tutorial on how to record meetings—a function I use with peers overseas to talk through my input when it comes to copy decks, wireframes, or reports.

Collaboration strategy 4: Venture beyond Zoom

Don’t limit yourself to the same ways of doing things. On top of Zoom meetings and screen recordings, there are other ways I communicate effectively with people on the fly.

Before you dive in, make sure you set boundaries with your peers. Have an honest discussion about what platforms everyone is comfortable with using before enforcing these channels on other people.

  • Slack—when others are online: I connect with employees, contractors, and partners in dedicated Slack workspaces and establish relevant channels to organise conversations. Best of all, I use Slack’s in-app call feature to phone others when I want to bounce ideas.
  • WhatsApp—when others are offline: I leave text messages and voice recordings when I have questions or feedback but know the other person is asleep. It’s such a quick and easy way to ping each other… as long as you’re both respectful knowing how long it might be until they reply.
  • Cell phone—when I’m unsure: If it’s business hours, there’s no harm in just picking up the phone! If you don’t know whether your colleague can accept Wi-Fi calls, take a moment to research what your international call rates are (or if they’re included in your plan). Skype credit is also a good option.

Collaboration strategy 5: Create a structure for reporting

I once worked on a project that had key stakeholders across 4 different time zones. Instead of struggling to find one suitable Zoom call per week, we set a dedicated calendar event weekly in which everyone was expected to review and report on their allocated tasks in Trello. In advance of the recurring calendar event, we sent a project status message to the entire team at the same time each week. It summarised sprint progress and called out what specific team members were expected to address that week.

While this wasn’t exactly a meeting, this approach allowed everyone to be involved without the need for early morning starts or late evenings. And overall, it was a success—probably one of the only projects I’ve completed without having more than one Zoom call!

In summary: Fostering a happy Avion family

If you’re a small business owner looking to expand internationally, be warned: it’s tough! Unless you have enough capital to set up leadership teams in every country, you must accept you’ll be stretched across multiple regions.

But working across borders doesn’t need to be a chore. Get your time zones right and incorporate tools and systems that help you communicate—quickly and efficiently. Once you’re in a routine, you’ll fall in love with having a diverse community of professionals around you.

Our content strategists and copywriters are always on the lookout for new projects, no matter where you are. Avion’s clients span Melbourne, Austin, Los Angeles, Virginia, Vancouver, and Dublin, just to name a few. If you’re ready to take your marketing and comms up another level, contact our team today.

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