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I am working as a UI developer in India for an MNC. Previously, I worked as a developer in another organization. There are no issues with UI development or back-end programming. I really enjoyed both positions, their challenges programming part time. In my previous organization, I worked on a team with 7 people. But here I am working in night shift to co-ordinate with my onsite teammates who are in the US, and I am alone here.

I hardly find time to speak with the team members when I come to office. When I reach the office, their duty time is almost over, and they are updating their status to higher officials. They are busy. When they complete their work, they rush to get a cab to go home.

When they are organizing a team outing or team lunch, it's not aligning with my regular working hours. I tried to join in the past, but it's difficult for me to wake up at that time. Once finished, I need to come back and go to sleep. Otherwise I can't work that evening.

What is the best way to build a relationship with the team that is offshore?

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  • Do you work with people in the US every day? I wouldn't suggest working different shifts, but you seem to feel the contact with your team is really important. – user8365 Mar 20 '13 at 18:46
  • @JeffO Yes...I am working with the people in US everyday. – vinothkumar Mar 20 '13 at 18:55
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    I think that the US team should put some effort into building relationships as well. So you could try to speak to them and find a compromise so that you don't have to wake up in the middle of the night. – superM Mar 20 '13 at 19:43
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    I've done this myself, working on distributed teams, from my past employers' India offices. What really, really helped on my last job there was the company flew all the developers from India to the onsite location for weeks at a time. That helped us build working relationships so none of us were a mere voice on a phone or "that dude we got in India". That helped developers on both sides put more effort into working with the others. – Kevin Rubin Mar 20 '13 at 19:54
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    how is this different than this question? I also don't understand why you need to work such ridiculous hours to overlap at all with USA based teams - I have worked with India (as an American) significantly and always found time in both workdays to overlap. If they don't want to come in until 9 or 10am then they need to do some compromising on their part... – enderland Mar 20 '13 at 22:42
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Building work relationships takes time, and that time is lengthened when you're working with a remote team. It's even worse if you're the only person who is remote from the others. Addressing this issue takes awareness from everyone involved.

I've worked extensively with remote teams, and here are some of the things that I have found to be effective in building work relationships.

  • If possible, meet in person. Right now, you're just a name on a screen, or maybe a voice that they occasionally hear on the phone. You're not a person to them.

  • If your team is the sort of team that includes personal information in some emails, respond privately to that person. For example, one of my overseas colleagues is going on holiday next week, and his email to our team reminding us that he'll be out included a picture of where he's going. I responded privately that I was quite jealous of his trip. Another colleague said that she was going to be out sick taking care of her son who has contracted pneumonia, and I emailed her privately with wishes for a speedy recovery. Doing this builds individual relationships, which helps immensely.

  • When I book meetings with the team overseas, I have made it known that I generally start the call about 15 minutes early to make sure that our audio conferencing and screen sharing tools are working. Others have begun showing up early to these meetings, and we have informal chats about what's going on at work, or talk about other things like our plans for the weekend. This has gone a long way towards building relationships.

  • I include gentle reminders that I'm trying hard to accommodate the difference in time zone. For example, I recently conducted a meeting at 6am in my time zone, because I was the only person from my time zone who was there. When we were scheduling the meeting, I told them that I was willing to do that since I was the only person impacted, and it meant that the meeting could be at a more reasonable time for everyone else. The overseas team thanked me for my consideration of their time, which also reinforces that they should try to be respectful of mine as well.

  • If there are language barriers, simple screensharing in a meeting can go a long way towards addressing that. For example, I work with one developer who struggles with English occasionally. When I have meetings that include him, I make sure that we use screensharing and that I prepare something beforehand so that he can have some time to read it and understand it. During the meeting, I take notes which are visible on the screenshare. This helps to ensure that everyone comes away from the meeting with the same understanding. We've had some instances where someone thought that they had expressed an idea in a way, but the notes didn't reflect that understanding. The notes that we were all watching being typed as we talked meant that we were able to identify that difference in understanding immediately and address it.

  • I try to have one regular meeting with someone on the remote team, generally the person who is most impacted by my work. This can be very short, but it's a meeting that we agree to have, and it helps us ensure that we have a shared understanding of our goals and progress. It also gives us a chance to chat a bit about other things, work-related or no. I sometimes use this meeting as an opportunity to ask clarifying questions of something that I've heard or inferred about recent events that the overseas team would know more about than I do, and they get to ask the same types of questions of me.

  • If your company has the facilities to do so, video conferencing can help immensely. If you don't have video conferencing abilities, but you are allowed to use third-party video chats, then use that instead. This also helps the remote team remember you.

  • If your manager is also remote from you, then ask their advice for how to build relationships, and check in with them regularly to see how they think that this is going. (This could be the regular meeting that I mentioned above.) This helps remind your remote manager that this is something that needs to be considered.

This is an ongoing process, and something that you will have to work at for as long as you're in the position.

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