The Challenge of Working Across Multiple Time Zones

Remote workers often work for companies with no central office. The advantage to your employer in this scenario is that they can hire from anywhere in the world. This can introduce the minor complication of having colleagues distributed among several different time zones. What are some strategies to minimize these complications?

Small teams, small meetings
Keeping your teams as small as possible, as well as your meetings, will make it far easier to find a common, reasonable time to sync up for a quick meeting. Strive to keep people working on the same project within nearby time zones is an obvious way to reduce friction, so fostering a culture that relies on small teams is a good long-term strategy for this.

Always specify Time Zones in meeting times
A small but important thing to remember is that time of day is useless without the time-zone! Also, try not to mix different time zones in the same conversation; if someone suggests a meeting time in EST, don't suggest an alternative in PST!

Video conferences at weird hours
Sometimes working in different time zones means showing up for meetings at unusual times of the day. It's not always possible to look put-together at 3am! Recognize that your colleagues might not be bright eyed, bushy tailed, or (ahem) showered yet and allow for an audio call outside normal waking hours.

Asynchronous communication
As with all remote work, asynchronous communication becomes even more important when working in different time zones. If you use Slack to communicate, take advantage of their recently introduced Custom Status feature (https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/201864558-Set-your-Slack-status-and-availability) to let your teammates know what hours you are normally available. At my current employer, we have standardized
on statuses like

"Tue 8:30am - 4:30pm ET"

whenever we're online. When we're away for something like lunch, we try to put what time we expect to be back (don't forget to include the timezone!).

"TACOS!!! Be back at 1pm ET!"



Home base, require overlap
It's helpful when hiring to establish a "home base" if you can, and require the team to be online within some number of hours of that home base's time zone. It may be fine to work outside that home base, but require any new hires to be online with a reasonable time overlap.

Tools
Since remote work started becoming more popular, a lot of people have built nifty tools to visualize time zones and choose compatible meeting times. Here are a few:

World Time Buddy is a pretty website that lets yousign up and add the time zones of all your team mates,displaying timelines vertically to easily see overlap. https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/


Spacetime.am lets you visualize teammate's online hours and has some sweet Slack integration that enables commands to show their work day schedule right from Slack.



Meeting Planner is an attractive iOS app that helps find meeting times across several different time zones. Its handy visualization uses the familiar "traffic light" pattern of red/yellow/green: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/meeting-planner-by-timeanddate.com/id400899317?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4



It's not rocket science
Working across time zones just takes a little thoughtfulness and practice. What techniques and strategies do you use to stay on top of multiple time zones?