How to Work Across Time Zones Without Going Insane

Published On April 6, 2015 | By Bridget | Travel, Work

Working with clients and bosses who are across multiple different timezones can make you feel like you’re going insane.

Here are some tips for making it go smoothly:

- Don’t forgot about daylight savings time changes in other countries. Don’t calculate the time difference this week and then find that your meeting next week is at different time than you thought because the person you’re scheduled to talk to has started/ended daylight savings time in their timezone. Yes, I’ve done this and screwed up a meeting time because of it.

- Carve out some time in your day that you’re definitely not going to be taking phone meetings or answering email. You need some time when you’re not “on call.” Sometimes this will end up being a random 2-3 hour period in the middle of the day, because you need to work early and late to accommodate other people’s time zones. If it seems like it would be hard for you to do this, start with a one hour period.

- Let people know what timezone you are on. People are humans too. If they know it’s 3.30am where you are, they’re not going to expect you to be answering your email for a few hours.

- Use email scheduling apps. There are some nice ones for gmail. This allows you to have your email show up in a person’s inbox at the beginning of THEIR workday. This prevents sending people emails while it’s their evening or weekend time. To me, it’s polite to only send emails during the work day. It’s just annoying and stressful to get emails after work hours, because you inevitably end up at least mentally working on dealing with them straight away. You might say “just don’t check it” but when you work internationally people expect that you’re check your email regularly in case something urgent comes up, since it’s less likely people will know your foreign phone numbers.

- Set up your phone with the world clocks for all the time zones you need to be aware of.

- Hire staff in convenient time zones, or if you bounce around time zones then you have two choices

(a) hire people in various time zones so you have somebody that will be able to do tasks for you at different hours, or
(b) hire everyone in one time zone so you don’t have to be responding to messages and managing them at all hours.

I prefer option A. It works better in my experience. I don’t like only have a short window of waking hours that I can use for managing staff when me and them are both awake.

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