We all have unusual job skills. Some people actually know how to change the toner in the copier, others possess the perfect potluck recipe, and some lucky souls can go an entire career without emptying a coffee pot (ahem). My weird skill is that I know what time it is in Auckland, New Zealand. When it’s 3:00 PM here in Madison, WI, it’s 8:00 AM the next day in Auckland. Midnight in the Central Time Zone is 5:00 pm the following day at the bottom of the world.
In a past job, I worked for a company that was based half in Wisconsin, and half in New Zealand. With over 8,000 miles separating the staff, we had to quickly learn how to manage workflow, and clients, across vast time zones. These five time zone tips will help you whether you’re working with people in Perth (currently 13 hours ahead of Madison), folks in France (7 hours ahead), or anywhere around the globe.
1. Know the time: Use tools like Every Time Zone and World Time Buddy to make the calculations for you. Get to the point where you automatically know what time it is for the rest of your team. This will help eliminate scheduling faux pas and near constant games of “What time is it for you again?”
2. Share the pain: Rotate off-shift events across the team. For every time someone in California has to get up for a 6 AM meeting, their East Coast counterpart should expect to stay late for a 4 PM Pacific Time talk.
3. Lengthen the day: Working across time zones does have some significant benefits. For example, the combination of staff in America and New Zealand meant that my former employer’s typical office hours ran from approximately 7 AM to 1 AM Central Time. Clients could talk to a “real” person most of the day. The key to really take advantage of this was to make sure that responsibilities were spread across the teams and not limited by geography. Someone in every office needs to be able to take care of your customers, no matter where they’re located.
4. Keep overlapping hours sacred: With a team spread throughout the world, there may be only a few hours a day where everyone is available to meet. Treat these times like the precious commodity they are, and don’t schedule anything local over them.
5. Embrace your alone time: Likewise, plan your work day to take advantage of times when your colleagues aren’t in the office. You’ll have time to put your head down and work free from interruptions, and you’ll be able have everything teed up for the rest of your group when they hit the office.