A distributed team of software or web developers spanning across international borders and time zones makes a lot of sense in today’s globalized business landscape. Advanced tech skills are in high demand due to rapid digitization across all commercial industries. And local talent pools are quickly drying out. But the world is a big place; you don’t have to limit your labor pool to just within your country’s borders.
Thanks to modern collaboration and communications technologies, your business can seamlessly source professional developers from any part of the world. Offshore outsourcing has indeed taken off here in the US and globally. Statistics show that US companies outsource 300,000 labor positions overseas annually, accounting for about $85.6 billion of the global outsourcing market.
Offshoring is a more attractive IT labor sourcing strategy than onshoring for the following reasons:
- Cuts labor costs
- Simplifies labor management
- Gives employers access to rich and broad talent pools
- Adds diversity to the local staff
- Makes a 24/7 workforce possible
- Deepens the thought pool with fresh insights and perspectives
However, with misguided management styles or expectations, working with developers in different time zones can be challenging. This article shares practical tips and insights for getting around time zone differences to ensure productivity with remote development teams. Read on and learn a thing or two about working with outsourced developers for maximum results.
The time zone madness
Why do we even have time zones in the first place? Naturally, time zones come about as the planet rotates on its axis, giving rise to night and day in various parts of the globe at different times. Right? But really, it’s us humans who created time zones in our attempts to quantify time. However, quantifying time is not necessarily bad; it helps us organize and plan our days, months, and years. But a quick look at the world’s time zones reveals just how chaotic this whole concept really is.
Each day has 24 hours. So, it stands to reason that there should be, at most, 24 time zones, each separated by an hour. But weirdly enough, we have way more time zones than reasonably necessary because some countries have official time zones that are less than an hour apart. For instance, at 12 standard times, France holds the record for the most time zones, followed by Russia with 11. Plus, governments can simply add or remove time zones in their region or country as they please. And we’ve not even touched on daylight saving time, which is a whole other can of worms.
In 2016, two scholars from Johns Hopkins University brought forward a radical new idea to level all time zones and have just one global clock they proposed to call “the Universal Timezone System.” This would make telling time across the globe so much easier. But needless to say, the idea never caught on. So, we’re stuck in this mess we made.
But even if there were a universal clock, it wouldn’t synchronize the global working hours anyway because the night-day cycle wouldn’t change. So, time zones aside, it’s impossible to have a standard work rhythm with an offshore workforce. In essence, branding time zones is just an inconvenient complication in an otherwise inevitable problem.
How to overcome time zone differences with outsourced teams
Remote work has become a new norm in the post-pandemic workplace. And outsourcing is a great way to take advantage of remote working capabilities to augment HR. Outsourcing development presents several perks, including lower labor costs, instant access to highly skilled labor, hassle-free hiring, and quick turnaround. But if you outsource development to far-off destinations, such as China, India, or the Philippines, with a considerable time difference, collaborating with the remote team can prove challenging.
Here are six quick tips for working with outsourced developers in a different time zone:
Understand the work schedule
Sort out scheduling right from the start. Map out your working hours against the team’s schedule to see if there’s any overlap that you could reserve for real-time communication. Remember to get every developer to share their work schedule so that you can determine availability at the individual level. And try visualizing the schedules using graphs or charts; otherwise, this might get messy and tedious.
Create a zero-supervision routine
Hands-on supervision and micromanaging when offshoring are completely out of the question. So, you have to develop a workflow routine that doesn’t require close management. Have the developers work on their own terms and provide them with all the resources and information they need to do their jobs. An excellent way to do this is by appointing team leaders and assigning managerial-like roles to each team member. So, the developers essentially oversee their own work and sort out minor issues themselves.
Get your asynchronous messaging on point
The key to effective asynchronous communication is sending messages without expecting an immediate response. That means the message has to be as clear as possible so as not to arouse confusion or misinterpretation. Ensure you put everything you want to say in the message, keeping in mind that any follow-up communication could take hours to reach its audience. Use as many words and descriptions as you have to for the message to hit home.
Invest in communication and collaboration tools
Provide your outsourced team with robust collaboration and communication tools to facilitate workflow management and resource availability. The virtual collaboration market is awash with premium cloud-based systems, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Trello, that promote teamwork among distant workers. Moreover, some virtual work and project management platforms, such as Jira, GitLab, and a host of collaborative IDEs, are specifically designed for remote software and web developers.
Avoid unnecessary meetings
In a survey, most senior managers said that meetings were unproductive, inefficient, took up workers’ time, and missed opportunities to bring participants together. This adds insult to injury, given all the trouble you have to go through to arrange virtual meetings with remotely outsourced teams. Before planning a conference call or Zoom meeting with offshore developers, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary; perhaps the information could be relayed through other more efficient or convenient means.
Work around cultural differences
In most cases, the larger the time zone difference between two countries, the more culturally diverse they are. But cultural differences are not necessarily a bad thing. A culturally diverse development team can bring unique insights and perspectives to problem-solving that you can apply to your project or organization as a whole.
However, cultural diversity, especially when accompanied by language barriers, can increase the risk of miscommunications, misunderstandings, and delays. So, you have to work out a way to ensure mutual understanding when collaborating or communicating. You can bring in a translator or mutual contact person to bridge any cultural or language gaps between your business and the outsourced developers.
Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the developers’ cultural values, ethics, and norms, regardless of how strange they might seem. For instance, you shouldn’t force the developers to work during any special holidays in their country or culture.
When working with a remote team of developers, it’s more important to focus on the outcomes rather than the nitty-gritty of how the work is done. It would be too involving and taxing to follow up on each worker on a daily basis anyway. Break down the project into various objectives and milestones to simplify progress and success tracking. From there, you can check in with the team (ideally through a representative or team leader) maybe once a week to discuss progress and new developments.
Forget time zone incompatibility with nearshoring
Wide time zone gaps with a development team can add some complexities to HR logistics and management. But if you’re not prepared to work with a team in a far time zone, you can always outsource developers closer to home. Nearshoring means outsourcing labor, projects, or business operations to a nearby country rather than an offshore destination. It’s an all-rounded compromise between onshoring and offshoring that gives you the best of both worlds. Below are the main perks of working with a nearshore team of developers.
- Close proximity, making even physical visits possible
- More control over outsourced developers or projects
- Cultural and language similarities that promote better communication and mutual understanding
- High-quality work
- Low-cost skilled labor
- Diverse talents pools
- An accommodating, business-friendly atmosphere
- Possibilities for long-term outsourcing partnerships
Nearshoring with WeDevelop
WeDevelop gives US-based companies the opportunity to outsource development to the Latin America region. LATAM is close enough to the US that there’s only a 1-2 hours difference at the eastern and western extremes. Also, LATAM countries share some common cultural, economic, and social-political influences with the US, making the two regions culturally similar in terms of work ethics, professionalism, and business outlook.
We source our developers, designers, and engineers mainly from Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay. These and other LATAM countries have vast pools of highly skilled developers that we securitize thoroughly before assigning roles or clients. With over 200 qualified developers, you can leverage our rich talent pool to augment your staff or create dedicated teams. We also offer web development services if you’re interested in outsourcing whole projects.
Enough about us. We’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your staffing, hiring, or development needs — we have just the nearshore outsourcing solution for you.