Your Time Zone or Mine?
May 11, 2015 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I just came off of kind of a nightmarish situation where I was based in Japan but had clients on the west coast and the Caribbean, all high-maintenance.

The Japan/west coast was easiest to manage, although I could not make morning meetings, and really could only meet with them after 3pm pacific time. The Caribbean one was really tough because they want a lot of contact; the engagement was just starting. But the end of their day was the beginning of mine, and their day typically started late evening my time.

With another project, my copy-editor resides in Europe so I have to get material to her by mid-morning west coast time, or miss a day.

The interesting thing is just 5 years ago this sort of distributed working was not common at all. Seven years ago I was working as a script rewriter for a Tokyo client and my working remotely was considered very innovative. At the time there was no pay to quickly share large video files, or even do video conferencing.
posted by Nevin at 12:13 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

The growing trend of blurring work and home boundaries[10] also enabled this increased flexibility in creating time windows for global interaction. Prior assumptions about “9 to 5” workdays are no longer as commonplace in today’s information worker population. Years of promoting flextime and changing social and cultural conditions make flexible work times outside the typical 9 to 5 boundaries possible, if not preferred.
It is impossible for me to read that and then not imagine Mr. Burns steepling his fingers and saying "eeexcellent".
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:18 PM on May 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think I saw this being presented at a DMI conference in Singapore a couple of years earlier to this publication. I recall thinking that those of us who started working this way much earlier (HP in the 90s) also tend to use our learnings as a competitive advantage. "Can work with global teams" used to be a resume sentence iirc.

Right now is the best I've ever had for at least a decade. Within 2-3 hours either way of my own zone.
posted by infini at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

We're in NYC and our branches span the Middle East/North Africa region and Southeast Asia. Meetings, via Skype, might be at midnight or 6am.

I don't like it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:27 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is this the place where I rant about the apparently mind-blowing complexities of UTC.

"yeah, next update at 5? cheers mate there's like eight fucking timezones on this call but we'll all just take a wild guess at which one you're using shall we".
posted by fullerine at 12:44 PM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

"I meant 5 my time."
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on May 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

"Oh and btw, our summer time starts 3 weeks after yours so lets all miss every conference call till things settle down again"
posted by infini at 1:04 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

We spent a good 5 minutes on a conference call last week trying to work out "if it's 8 am in Chile, it would be ?? in India and ?? in the UK, no that's too early/late, what about 1 pm in the UK? That would make it ?? in India and ?? in Chile. Hm, no, what about ..."

This site is really useful for figuring out the above.
posted by desjardins at 1:15 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I worked on a project split between Pittsburgh and Tel Aviv, two cities which not only have a seven hour time skew but have a one day workweek skew since Israel takes off on Friday and Saturday. So that gives you one hour a day, four days a week to have a conference call between the two sites.
posted by octothorpe at 1:19 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I only have to regularly work with one other site. It is in India, which depending on the time of year is 12.5 or 13.5 hours earlier than here. Management is confused why we are behind schedule.
posted by ckape at 1:31 PM on May 11, 2015

Argh, I'm in West Africa right now communicating with my boyfriend and advisor in Ohio, my parents who are normally in NH but are currently in CA, and my little brother who is right now in New Hampshire but will also be in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Shanghai before I return. Coordinating skype and phone calls is confusing. I hate timezones So Much.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh look
posted by infini at 1:56 PM on May 11, 2015

It is impossible for me to read that and then not imagine Mr. Burns steepling his fingers and saying "eeexcellent".

As a counter point, I am a home based employee here in MN. I have one other co-worker in my state. My boss and the rest of my team are in Ohio. In theory, I have "core hours" when I'm supposed to be available (10am-3pm) but even that is pretty flexible. A VP a few levels up my reporting chain has told me, "We're all professional adults, as long as the work gets done and we make our deadlines I don't really care how or when you do it."

Other than a couple of mandatory HR related tasks, no one really cares who anyone's supervisor is and it is often a little fluid and we all just kind of effortlessly make it work. I have put in extra hours on occasion (I'm salaried) and the only problem I've ever had related to hours is in convincing my boss that, just because I worked an extra four hours this week, I DON'T need to take a half day some time next week.

This is at a BIG fortune 500 company and way we run things is supported from the highest levels of the company. Not every department in the company can work that way but I'm REALLY happy with my work situation.

The time-zone thing is usually a non-issue because we're only off by one hour and while they usually work 8:30-5 in Ohio, I like to work 7:30-4. The only thing I don't like is that every couple of years I have to fly out to Cincinnati for a week to spend some time in-person with my team. I like seeing my team but I HATE Cincinnati. The city is just terrible.
posted by VTX at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

A solution: Make Greenwich MT the standard for everyone on the planet. Any objection to this can be easily argued away.
posted by rankfreudlite at 1:59 PM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't get the timezone confusion. For one offs, I just say "OK, Google, what time is it in ?> and it kindly answers. Otherwise, I tell my clock to please also list the times for whatever other cities I'm working with. For meetings, they just magically show up with the correct time in my time zone because it uses UTC internally and translates to local time for display.

Use the tools available to you, folks! A lot of programmers have already done the hard work so you don't have to.

posted by wierdo at 2:22 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It is impossible for me to read that and then not imagine Mr. Burns steepling his fingers and saying "eeexcellent".
As a counter point, I am a home based employee here in MN....The time-zone thing is usually a non-issue because we're only off by one hour and while they usually work 8:30-5 in Ohio, I like to work 7:30-4...

To be fair, I don't think your situation is much of a counterpoint, it doesn't sound like you and your coworkers are globally distributed.

Mr. Burns is going to see how well you work remotely, and offshore the rest of your team to Hyderabad and make you the US-based liaison.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:36 PM on May 11, 2015

This is one of the banes of Navy work - even using GMT (Zulu) it could get overwhelming. The worst example was drafting an email for someone in the US with someone in Japan, while I was supporting an exercise in Thailand while physically sitting in Singapore.

Then you throw in different daylight savings time changes in different countries... it's a mess!
posted by aggienfo at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2015

Quick shout out for that website has saved me many times. Go to here and there, enter all the locations for a chart. Add your offices for a dashboard. I manage global videoconferencing and events. Work hours are whatever makes sense that week based on who we are working with today.
posted by envygreen at 3:15 PM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Octothorpe - try being a West Coaster (or even a Chicagoan, I've done both) who is a member of a team (aka reports to) Jerusalem. Zero overlap in business hours, and by the time you get to the office on Thursday their day is over- three days during which one can send an e-mail and have reasonable expectations of a next day turn around. The only way to make it work is to read email every morning when you wake up.

I also do the occasional bit of work with folks in Australia and NZ, but that's not quite as tricky.
posted by wotsac at 4:24 PM on May 11, 2015

Not quite so sure what the big deal is here. Shipping companies have been doing this for a long time; remember telex? and booking international phone calls? Having said that most shipping managers are used to calls in the early morning and late at night as well as working part of the day at the office. I used to have no trouble working ahead in time or behind in time. The killer was being in the middle; think based San Diego and dealing with Rotterdam and Brisbane.
posted by adamvasco at 4:55 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

What I love, as an academic, is the papers I am writing with co-authors in Europe. (I am in Australia). We have the draft files and datasets in a shared dropbox folder, and I go to sleep at night, and wake up the next day to find new pages of text have magically appeared while I was sleeping. They have the same experience. It's like the elves and the shoemaker.

The timezone meeting thing isn't a problem, since everyone on these projects works in academia and are used to treating all hours of the day as potential work time. Our skype meetings are usually at my 11pm.
posted by lollusc at 5:23 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Well, global shipping is a job specifically about working with people distributed around the globe, so people who don't want to have to deal with meetings at odd times don't do that and get a 9-to-5 job instead.

Then one day they're working their 9-to-5 job and their manager says oh by the way now we're working with a bunch of people who are in an inconvenient time zone and you have to skip your dinner to have meetings with them. No, you don't get a raise; yes you still have to also be at your desk 9-to-5 every day.
posted by ckape at 10:47 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sat through a 5AM meeting once. I apparently nodded off mid-sentence and said something about not finding my comfy pillow. Could have been worse, I guess.

Don't mind the timings anymore now (except, naturally, any calls between 12AM and 6AM), but accents, especially on the phone, are a five-letter word rhyming with itch; as in, people who'd understand each other normally face to face often have trouble keeping with accents over the phone. I've realized having a quick email on the specific talking points sent over 10 minutes before a meeting often helps quite a bit in getting people to take quick decisions.

I still get quite worked up in not being able to see the person in front of me, but I insist on at least a headphone these days; forcing me to cradle a phone on one hand or shoulder, either makes me sound nervous or extremely cranky.

Yeah, different time-zones are a solved problem for me. I've given up calculating times completely; it's all on the phone or laptop these days. Also, I kind of encourage people to talk about "in x hours", rather than "by x hour"; find that helps better than either UTC or sticking to a single time-zone.
posted by the cydonian at 1:25 AM on May 12, 2015

The only way to make it work is to read email every morning when you wake up.

A crappy way to start the day. It is nice when everyone goes offline though. Work gets done.
posted by Nevin at 7:06 AM on May 12, 2015

I once joined a telecon with participants on the West and East US coasts, UK, various central European locations, Greece, India and South Korea (it was an EU research project with one US partner, but various people were travelling/on sabbatical at the time). We did find a time everyone could make, but I was the one at the conference in Korea, so it ended up being 11pm-1am my time. Not good.
posted by gnimmel at 7:15 AM on May 12, 2015

I've been working with teams in California, Boston, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney for about 4 years now. We chose our next location according to time zone (Chile) to match the US offices. Working out well.
posted by mdoar at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2015

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