Exploring Time Zone Differences in Outsourcing: Clearing the Air on a Common Concern

When it comes to considering outsourcing to an offshore location as a solution for addressing cost and efficiency challenges, you may find yourself pondering a range of questions. Often, misconceptions about the quality of work, company culture, work-life balance, and the level of control you maintain over the work can be swiftly dispelled. However, there’s one question that tends to lurk in the background, cropping up more frequently than it gets addressed. It’s a query that often preoccupies leaders who are poised to collaborate with an offshore team and are eager to concentrate on tasks vital to their organization’s success. They may have already recognized the immense talent pool in the Philippines, or they might be keen to work with a team of customer care agents in Cebu, known for consistently achieving sky-high customer satisfaction scores. Yet, one question lingers: “What are the working hours of outsourcing employees?”

Indeed, anyone who has embarked on an international business trip or even enjoyed a family vacation to a distant time zone understands the challenges that come with navigating a significant time difference. It can impact everything, from effective communication to getting a good night’s sleep.

For instance, our sites in the Philippines are positioned 10.5 and 13 hours ahead of our home base in Miami. Such considerable time differences make collaborating with remote teams a subject well within our expertise. This holds especially true for our Director of Client Services, Elizabeth Ocampo, RN. Given his extensive experience, we enlisted his assistance in addressing some of the inquiries that often trouble newcomers to the world of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) when it comes to coordinating with teams across multiple time zones.

Concern #1: Collaborating Across Time Zones with Remote Teams

When an organization chooses to collaborate with a remote team located ten to twelve hours ahead of their own, a common concern arises: will they end up working around the clock, managing a team that operates in a completely different time zone, leaving them to handle work-related matters late into the night?

Thankfully, addressing this concern is quite straightforward: you won’t be working extended hours unless you choose to. Here’s the breakdown – our teams based in locations like the US and the Philippines align their working hours with those of our clients. This means that when you’re sipping your second cup of coffee on one side of the world, they are starting their workday at 9 p.m. on the other side. However, if you prefer, you can arrive at work with tasks already completed and awaiting your attention. At Arvios, we have teams that operate round the clock to cater to our clients’ diverse needs. Ultimately, you have the flexibility to determine the working hours that best suit your requirements, making it a seamless process to accomplish your tasks.

In fact, we find it beneficial to establish client expectations right from the start and incorporate them into the service level agreements we collaboratively create. This includes defining working hours. It’s crucial to partner with a provider that grants you the same level of control and equips you with effective project management tools.

Elizabeth Ocampo emphasizes the importance of addressing this concern early on, stating, “Whether it’s a specific project or a long-term program, clients should proactively review work shift requirements or preferences and engage in discussions with potential offshore service providers right from the beginning.” This holds true for scheduling meetings and ensuring alignment with your team on suitable meeting times.

Furthermore, there are substantial advantages to having divergent work schedules from your offshore team. Elizabeth Ocampo elaborates, “Certain clients actually favor offshore day shift work hours (corresponding to U.S. nights) since they can delegate tasks and deliverables to the offshore team during onshore non-business hours. For some clients, commencing the workday with a set of completed tasks and deliverables holds immense value.”

In the grand scheme of things, no one will raise an eyebrow if you opt to collaborate with an overnight or night-shift team. Elizabeth Ocampo affirms, “If the service provider operates in the BPO domain, they are accustomed to accommodating all shifts to cater to global time zones as per the client’s request.” Whether you kickstart your day in California or New York, your outsourced team stands ready to assist whenever you require their support.

Concern #2: Offshore Outsourcing and the Reality of Real-time Communications Across Time Zones

In the realm of relationships, the age-old adage “communication is key” rings true and is echoed by everyone from business consultants to marriage counselors. Its importance cannot be overstated.

If you’ve ever found yourself a mere time zone away from your regular communication partners, you’re likely aware that even a slight time difference can disrupt your established routine. What used to be effortless check-ins can quickly transform into coordinated team efforts.

It’s no wonder, then, that some individuals harbor the misconception that remote teams inherently lack cohesion. This misconception often arises when the fact that remote teams can and do work within the same hours as their clients isn’t fully grasped. Fortunately, this perceived challenge is entirely surmountable, and it hinges on one crucial factor – communication with team members.

“Effective communication with your offshore team and leadership is paramount! At the commencement of your project or program, it’s imperative to establish a communication plan,” advises Elizabeth Ocampo. The key lies in being specific and defining concrete times and expectations that prioritize your unique communication requirements across all communication channels. Some elements that the VP recommends incorporating into this plan include:

  • Daily – or as-needed – operational calls with your designated point person or team
  • One-on-one sessions with your operational manager
  • Monthly and quarterly business reviews
  • Comprehensive documentation outlining escalation procedures and contact information

Elizabeth Ocampo says that as the program and the relationship between you and your BPO partner evolve and mature, this plan can be adjusted, refined, and adapted to suit your evolving needs. This may involve altering the frequency of these check-ins or designating different point persons. What we greatly appreciate about our interactions with clients here at Arvios is the close-knit working relationship between our team and our clients. There are no hoops to jump through – just good, old-fashioned responsiveness.

In addition to determining when you’ll engage in communication, establishing a collaborative infrastructure is vital to ensure real-time interactions with your remote team, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky. With an increasing number of the global workforce operating remotely, there has never been a more opportune time to invest in collaborative software or team communication platforms. Elizabeth Ocampo communicates in real-time daily with his overseas counterparts using tools like Microsoft Teams and advises clients not to overlook this aspect.

Elizabeth Ocampo elaborates, “You need to maintain an open channel for daily support, so you can address offshore operations questions and concerns promptly,” adding that clients should have a subject matter expert available onshore during their convenient working hours to facilitate efficient ongoing operations. “When offshore agents encounter queries, the ability to receive immediate assistance and guidance from the client can help mitigate operational delays and preempt potential misunderstandings or errors.”

Concern #3: Finding Skilled Outsourcing Workers Who Align with Your Schedule

What’s the real deal when it comes to collaborating with a BPO provider across different time zones? One prevailing misconception is that to secure a team willing to work during unconventional hours, you’ll have to make do with whoever is available. But the reality couldn’t be farther from this notion. In countries where BPO services are a vital part of the economy, the terms “highly-skilled talent” and “willing to work overnight” are not mutually exclusive.

Take, for example, the Philippines, where Elizabeth Ocampo sheds light on how working across various time frames is seamlessly integrated into the business landscape through specialized hubs. “BPO hubs are purpose-built to accommodate the BPO workforce, which includes overnight shifts. These hubs are designed to facilitate employees’ commutes, strategically located near 24-hour bus stations and other public transportation hubs. They provide round-the-clock amenities such as restaurants, food vendors, convenience stores, and mobile phone vendors. Additionally, BPO providers are obligated to offer on-site services like nursing staff, rest and nap areas, and security.” More recently, remote outsourcing companies have also adapted their operations to cater to the remote working needs of their employees.

Established BPO providers with decades of experience tend to boast lower attrition rates compared to industry standards because they heavily invest in all their employees, regardless of their working hours. When such a commitment to employee engagement is combined with the infrastructure of hubs as described by Elizabeth Ocampo, BPO clients discover that the talent pool is far broader than they might find domestically. Coupled with the fact that the BPO industry offers well-compensated and highly esteemed careers abroad, particularly for U.S.-based clients, you’re presented with a remarkable talent pool for your offshore initiatives.

When seeking a provider, prioritize those with lower attrition rates, supported by transparent statistics. Look for providers with a track record of long-standing partnerships. Whether you require a remote worker or an entire team operating from home or on-site, Arvios’ award-winning employee engagement initiatives and demonstrated ability to craft flexible solutions for organizations in need of highly skilled offshore professionals are the reasons we’ve been proud partners to our clients for several years.