Reliable team members, solid remote processes, and a bunch of small adjustments that allow them to be productive across different time zones.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to bridge the time gap between you and your Filipino VA so that you can delegate efficiently even when you’re working from different parts of the world.
Let’s dive in:
Unlike the US, the Philippines uses one time zone: Philippine standard time (PHT). It’s 8 hours ahead of Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). If you’re in North America, this means your VA’s time zone is:
The Philippines does not practice Daylight Savings. The time difference between you and your VA increases by one hour during DST.
In a perfect world, you can leverage the time difference by having your remote assistants work while you sleep. You’d assign them a task, go to bed, and then wake up the next day with perfect deliverables waiting in your inbox. Keep at it and you can probably expand your business into a 24-hour operation.
It’s a nice idea, but the reality is a bit more complicated. The truth is that many remote employers struggle with the following challenges:
Coordinating work between time zones can be confusing, especially if you’ve never worked with remote team members before.
Here are some common scenarios that you might encounter:
Without solid systems, communicating with virtual assistants from the Philippines can be challenging. Giving and receiving feedback can take days instead of minutes. You risk scheduling meetings at odd hours or struggle to meet with everyone on your team.
A lot of things can fall through the cracks if you’re not used to working with folks from different time zones. Poor project management can lead to friction, delays, and unfinished tasks.
Working in different time zones can make remote staff feel disconnected from other team members. You’d have to put in extra effort to make sure everyone on the team feels included.
Despite these challenges, hundreds of companies still choose to outsource work to the Philippines. That’s because hiring remote Filipino workers allows businesses to:
That said, how do you work with Filipino VAs without sacrificing quality and productivity? We have a few ideas:
Can Filipino virtual assistants work in your time zone? They sure can.
You can find lots of Filipino assistants who are willing to work in US time zones. This setup works best if you need remote staff to:
As long as you indicate your time zone requirements in your job description, you’ll be able to find night owls who can match your working hours.
Studies show that working nights for a long period causes significant health and social risks for remote workers. Many business process outsourcing (BPO) employees, for example, suffer from fatigue, eye strain, headaches, and back problems due to the nature of their jobs.
To attract and retain candidates who are willing to match your work schedule, you might need to offer a higher rate or include a competitive benefits package.
If you’re having trouble figuring out different time zones, use a visualization tool like World Time Buddy to help you out. It’s a simple, intuitive tool that shows different time zones and dates at one glance.
Everyday tools like Google Calendar and Slack also have built-in time zone tools that you can use. Here’s a closer look at some of them:
Google Calendar automatically syncs events for its users, so you don’t need to worry about converting your time zone every time you create an event. For example, when you send a meeting invite for 7pm EST, your Filipino virtual assistant will see it set to their local time.
If you want to set events in different time zones, you can do that, too. Click on Add Time > Time Zone, then select the time zone you want to use. That’s it!
If you use Slack for team communication, you can easily see each member’s local time zone when you click on their profile.
Aside from using time zone tools, you can also encourage everyone to share their available meeting times, deep-work days, and planned times off. This way, you can schedule team meetings during reasonable hours and make real-time collaboration easier. Coordination between teams will be smoother as well.
If you’re working closely with an executive or virtual assistant, share your calendar and meeting preferences with them. For example, if you don’t like taking early meetings or have Wednesdays blocked off for family brunch, let them know so they can schedule your appointments according to your preferences.
For many remote teams, having a time overlap of 3-4 hours is enough to get most jobs done. Use this time block for meetings, weekly standups, troubleshooting, brainstorming sessions, and other events that need real-time collaboration.
Outside of the time overlap, the team can spend the rest of the day doing deep work or tending to their individual tasks.
Find a block of time that works for both you and your remote team. For example, if you’re located in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, you can schedule an overlap between:
Your remote team might have to start their day a little early (that’s 5am - 8am their time), but the upside is they won’t have to stay up all night. Bonus: they can end their work day early too.
Maximize your limited meeting windows by sending out talking points at least a day ahead. This allows team members to prepare their reports, resources, and answers to possible questions.
You can’t monitor your remote team’s every move — and you probably shouldn’t.
The good news is that you don’t have to micromanage to ensure productivity. To make sure that everyone remains accountable despite the time difference, ask your team to send regular status updates.
These status updates can be as simple as answering automated “What Did You Do Today” prompts on Slack or Basecamp. Have everyone answer this at the end of their workday so you can have a birds-eye view of their progress.
Here are other insightful prompts that you can use:
Another option would be to ask your assistant to send a daily Loom video update. Ask them to create a Loom video that includes:
Review these videos at the start of your day and answer their questions with a Loom video of your own. Now you have a nice little async feedback loop with your assistant.
If you’re working with an executive assistant, regular 1:1 calls are essential, especially when you’re still building your working relationship. Schedule these calls at least once a week. Use this opportunity to:
You don’t need fancy tools to manage the time difference. Sometimes, all you have to do is maximize your existing communication channels.
Solid project management systems allow your team to stay productive despite the time difference.
A combination of the right tools, workflows, and team members can help your remote team:
The best part? Through effective project management, you won't have to go to long meetings just to get stuff done. You'll be able to free up more time for yourself — and your team can develop autonomy while delivering good work. It’s a win-win for everyone.
To make the most out of your project management systems, make sure to:
The goal of delegation is for you to ultimately remove yourself from the daily grind. Instead of monitoring projects yourself, hire a remote project manager to oversee activities and manage teams.
Project management tools come with lots of workflow features. Asana, for example, has templates that you can tweak for your own projects. Trello allows team members to add and move tasks into buckets. Clickup helps you save time by automating recurring tasks. Basecamp allows you to integrate other productivity tools and work from one place. The options are endless.
Maximize these features to save time, energy, and resources.
Set your team up for success by creating feasible timelines. Keep your goals SMART.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) make delegation faster and more effective. Instead of asking for your input on how to do things, your remote team can just refer to your SOPs to get stuff done.
You get more time for yourself, your employee gets a learning resource, and both of you can get stuff done without having to meet.
No matter how in sync you think you are, you and your team won’t be on the same page 100% of the time. To get specific results, you have to communicate specific goals. Be very obvious about what you need from them. Leave no room for assumptions or misinterpretation.
The key is to give clear instructions so that you can get the results you want — and spend less time going back and forth for revisions.
Apart from the time difference, the Philippines also has different national holidays from the US. This can affect your productivity as well.
Will you be following US holidays or Filipino ones? How about your leave policy? How many PTOs are your employees entitled to? Just like your time zone requirements, let applicants know about your leave policies from the get-go so that you can coordinate without a hitch.
Remind everyone to set their out-of-office (OOO) messages before they go on vacation. Make sure that tasks are endorsed to teammates or direct supervisors.
According to Peter Drucker:
“In most organizations, the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle.”
In your organization, are you the one causing bottlenecks and blocking your remote team from success? Take a moment to sit down and reflect if you’re:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might need to examine your work habits, style, or schedule. Work with your virtual assistant to recalibrate. Perhaps you can ask them to triage your emails for you so that you can focus on replying to critical ones. Or maybe you need to create a system that allows your team to work with fewer meetings with you.
If you want to leverage global talent to grow your business, you have to start treating the time difference as a feature, not a bug. Work with your team to create systems that allow you to stay productive, even when you’re in different time zones. There are lots of creative ways to work around the time difference. Which tips are you most eager to apply?
There are a lot of effective solutions that can help you deal with the time zone difference that comes with remote work. First, you can hire candidates that are willing to work in your time zone. You can also:
You can easily calculate time zone differences with tools like World Time Buddy. Google Calendar also automatically converts meeting invites into the recipient’s local time when you set up a meeting.
Most tools like Google Calendar, Slack, and Zoom automatically convert schedules into the person’s local time zone, so you don’t need to worry about manually figuring things out. You do have to be mindful about the time difference — you don’t want to schedule a 2pm EST meeting with someone from Manila. It will be 2am their time!