One of the most interesting challenges I face working at Bazaarvoice’s international headquarters in London is communication with our global offices. Thankfully, technology has made communication between offices much more effective. With the right tools and practices, keeping in touch with my colleagues in the US, France, Germany, Sweden, and Australia is easy.
Our global teams use Salesforce Chatter to collaborate, as well as instant messaging, our globally networked phone system, and Skype for personal video conferencing. Even our weekly worldwide All-Hands meeting is hosted over LifeSize, which helps emulate the experience of being at the same place at the same time. But even with all of these technology tools, nothing beats face-to-face conversations. Our CEO Brett Hurt often says the best ways to communicate are (in order of preference):
- Over the phone
- Via instant messaging
- Over email
These are important rules for any business – not only for communication between remote teams. Culturally, Europeans instinctively prefer face-to-face interactions. Europeans are more accustomed to building relationships in-person, so outside meetings that Americans often feel can be settled via email or a phone call end up taking place over coffee or lunch – which I’ve found is actually much more productive in the long-run.
However, time zone differences and other barriers to face-to-face communication between offices can make keeping in touch a chore. Here are some tips for working between international offices:
- Set international “office hours.” One of my previous managers in Bazaarvoice’s US headquarters established a recurring block of time each week to work on international projects, take calls with overseas colleagues, and be available for ad-hoc requests or conversations. This is a great tip for internationally- and US-based employees alike, to maximize the limited amount of overlap between time zones.
- Find an international ambassador. Employees working in remote offices need to find a champion back at headquarters to speak up for their priorities in meetings they’re not able to attend. People love to help – just find the individuals who have a passion for international work.
- Plan around work day overlap. Because I work from our London office, my day is usually split in two: the time before the US is awake, and the time when my US colleagues come to the office. Plan according to these overlaps in work time – spend mornings on individual work, and carve out afternoons for conversations with international teammates.
- Over-communicate. As a rule, international employees need to communicate more than their headquarter-based counterparts. Set up time each week to think about what needs to be communicated, which people need to know, and how to keep them informed. Being present and visible ensures all projects are developed with a global focus.