How to help your team get work done across continents

Collaborate across continents

By Oliver Jay, Head of International Development at Dropbox

Until somewhat recently, it was nearly impossible for offices on opposite corners of the globe to work together quickly or efficiently. Today, data can travel the 7,600 miles from Shanghai to Houston in milliseconds.

But while working together from thousands of miles away is now faster than ever, it can still be complicated and challenging — especially when you factor in time differences, culture gaps, and different workflows. Don’t despair quite yet, though — given the right technology, it’s very possible for two far-flung offices to work together harmoniously.

Here are five ideas to make working together anywhere in the world a little simpler, especially when it comes to critical areas like communication and collaboration.

1. Manage time wisely.

From the very beginning of a project, make sure your team manages time zones correctly. Whether the time difference is 3 hours or 13, encourage teams to reserve the few overlapping times for inter-office collaboration, not in-office meetings. For example, a team in New York should block off time in the mornings to speak with their colleagues in London, saving in-person meetings for later in the day. And when those time blocks aren’t an option, tools like Every Time Zone can help teams make sure their meetings are scheduled at reasonable times for all participant.

2. Remove the barriers to information flow.

All too often, teams in separate offices have a hard time accessing and exchanging files. Whether it’s issues with local servers, a clunky old FTP system, or attachments getting buried in emails, keeping teams on the same page with all the right files can be a huge pain. File sync and share solutions like Dropbox for Business can help solve this problem, letting teams anywhere in the world share individual files or entire folders simply and easily. For example, an employee in Sydney can open up Dropbox, click on the project folder, and find all the files a colleague in San Francisco uploaded the night before. Having one home for all your team’s work can go a long way towards setting you up for global success.

3. Make it personal.

When it comes to building relationships across offices, nothing breaks down collaboration barriers better than meeting co-workers face to face. But if you can’t justify the travel budget, you can meet virtually from the comfort of a conference room, thanks to simple video conferencing solutions. Not only will video calls help put names with faces, but they’ll encourage deeper conversations — teams are more likely to discover common interests beyond the workplace, turning distant strangers into trusted colleagues.

4. Manage to-dos and timelines with the right tools.

With emails flying back and forth, managing agendas, workflows, and tasks can quickly become a headache. That’s where project planning and task management tools can make a huge difference. Services like Asana and Smartsheet have simple interfaces that allow you to track different workstreams, add tasks, create project plans, and assign task owners. Every project needs a central command and control hub; these solutions create one, and many integrate into file sync and share solutions like Dropbox for Business.

5. Brainstorm smarter.

We’ve all heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen.” When everyone decides to start implementing their ideas on a team project — without discussion or agreement — the resulting process usually goes in a thousand different directions at once. “Mind-mapping” tools like SimpleMind and Coggle can help your team visually represent brainstormed ideas and processes, keeping everyone on the same page while still giving them creative freedom.

Neither technology nor creativity alone are collaboration silver bullets. But exploring ideas like these — combined with your own creative solutions — can make far-away offices feel closer than ever.

Looking to simplify global collaboration? Try Dropbox for Business free.