Today’s workforce operates differently than in the past.
The standard workday of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday is swiftly changing, to a more flexible, work-on-demand model.
Instead of working with people across the room or across town, we often find ourselves working with people across the world.
The expanded opportunities and flexibility are both an asset – and a challenge.
How can you as a leader create a collaborative team across different time zones, schedules, companies, and cultures?
1. Recognize the advantages.
Think about it. If all companies today operated in the standard 9 to 5 Monday through Friday framework, opportunities would be lost. The flexible hour model allows companies to communicate across more diverse time zones, and capture productivity across an extended day. A project that is begun by an employee in the Eastern US time zone could be completed and returned by the time the employee returns to work the next morning if the right collaborative tools, processes, and expectations are in place.
It also allows an employee to work at their optimal times, creating a higher quality and volume of work. For some, mornings are most productive. For others, late nights are when they accomplish the most. When someone can apply their strengths to their most productive times of day, the results are compounded exponentially. An added bonus for the company is that ROI is higher, as results are more closely tied to the actual work hours.
-Greater job satisfaction.
Assuming there are clear lines of demarcation, flexible time creates greater job satisfaction as well. This is where many leaders get it wrong. They assume that flex time means “anytime,” which can quickly degenerate to “all the time”.
A good flexible time arrangement is one where the framework is clear for when someone is available and not available. This also requires that processes be in place for backups when one person is off…and that, again, requires collaboration.
2. Appreciate the differences.
When you work across various time zones and companies, you encounter different cultures. If appreciated, these differences can actually be of great value to your organization. The outside influence may bring fresh ideas and new thinking. The strengths of expertise in certain areas is highly valuable to a company, as technology becomes more highly developed, and we become more specialized.
As a leader, you can see the differences as an obstacle…or embrace them as an added facet to your in-house team. As the different teams work together, each individual team member grows in knowledge and expertise.
3. Address the challenges.
Many companies dip their proverbial toe in the water of flexibility, only to retract it quickly when reality hits. The fact is, flexible doesn’t mean unstructured any more than it means rigidly structured, and that is where many fall short.
If you stand by the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago as the wind howls across Lake Michigan, you will see the building sway. If you are on the 99th floor observation deck – in one of the Skyboxes that juts out – you can actually feel it. It can sway as much as three feet! Many find this disconcerting. Engineers, however, find it comforting. It means it is designed to flex in the wind. Too rigid, and with a strong enough wind, the building could collapse.
The key for collaborating across the various avenues of business is to create a structure that is mean to flex. Establish boundaries with regard to availability. Establish expectations with regard to work. And establish tools and procedures for open collaboration. A good project management tool will keep communications clear and moving forward, with no one feeling left out of the loop on a project for which they are also responsible. Video conferencing can be a very effective tool for communication, but use it with respect to various time zones, and save a recording for those who may not be available for the live call.
The bottom line is, in an increasingly diverse workforce, collaboration can be better than ever – perhaps because it is done more intentionally.
Are you, as the leader of your organization, actively promoting collaboration across your teams?
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.