Don’t lose your sleep over time zones
I once coordinated a team that had members in Hong Kong, New Delhi, London and Boston. Our task was crucial, preparing for a merger of two brands. We needed to log in hours together, hashing out issues in different regions and reaching difficult decisions. Meeting physically was out of the question. Frequently, anyway. So we labored through long conference calls, gulping down coffee and doing our best to be understood.
Particularly nightmarish for me was the scheduling of these meetings. There just wasn’t a way to keep it within work hours for everyone. I dreaded having to calculate the different time zones and sending out a meeting invite. One fine day it happened. I scheduled a meeting which was middle of the night — 2 a.m. for my colleague in London. Astonishingly, instead of protesting or pointing out my error, he simply showed up bleary-eyed. You can imagine my horror and embarrassment.
If you were nodding along as you read this, you have likely dealt with similar scenarios and hopefully fared much better than me. While technology has made it easier than ever to connect and carry on business without travelling, the problem of different time zones persists. There are ways, however, to plan meetings and work in teams across different time zones that do not require a lot of time or effort.
Tools to the Rescue
Time Zone Converter — This is a simple tool to tell you the time in whatever city you choose. It works very well for obscure destinations for which time zone information isn’t easily available.
WizCal — WizCal is an artificial-intelligence based meeting scheduling solution. It is super quick and easy to schedule meetings simply by entering the names of participants. If your meeting has participants in different time zones, WizCal will take that into account and suggest time slots that work for all automatically. WizCal is integrated with Outlook and Google web calendar and you don’t have to leave your calendar to schedule across time zone meetings.
Time.is — Time.is provides the official clock time for any time zone in addition to some useful graphics and information such as the biggest cities in that country. it will also tell you if your computer clock matches with the official time of your location.
24 Time Zones — Presented as an interactive world map, this site helps you determine where its currently daytime and nighttime.
Time Zone Abbreviations — Is IST India Standard Time or Irish or Israel? Is it all three? How about Irkutsk Summer Time? If you’re managing different time zones it helps to know the abbreviations.
Team Time Zone — Built as a Slack App, this tool keeps track of time zones for remote teams.
Strategies to manage time zones
In addition to the tools above, there are certain steps you can take to make working in multiple-time zone teams smooth.
Put time zone in your email signature — How many emails do you exchange asking or giving time zone information? make it easier for everyone and include your time zone in your email signature.
Be mindful — The most basic tip is to be mindful and practice awareness of not only other time zones but what is likely to be an acceptable time to reach out across cultures and individuals. Being considerate always goes a long way!
Asynchronous communication — This is ‘everyone-at-their-own-pace’ communication as opposed to ‘all-at-the-same-time’ communication. Tools like Trello facilitate team members to log the work they have done and ask questions of colleagues which they can get to in their own time.
Smaller group meetings — Try to reduce the number of participants in a meeting, thereby reducing the number of time zones. Simple enough and more productive too.
Recurring Meeting — Creating recurring meetings if you meet the same group often. This predictability will help scheduling especially when odd hours are involved for one or more participants.
Get together — In the end, the best relationship building tool is to meet in person. Carve out time at least once a year for your whole team to be together in one location to get to know each other better. Then when you go back to your respective locations, coordinating and working together will suddenly seem a lot easier.
WizCal’s mission is to improve individual and organizational efficiency through AI Orchestration of Calendars.
Current scheduling tools use the free/busy information to find time. These tools start to fail as the complexity of scheduling increases due to factors like busy calendars, participants external to your organization, multiple time zones, finding a meeting location etc. The result is that it takes away precious time and focus away from core work and leads to lost opportunities by not making a timely connect with your partners, customers or team. WizCal is an AI-powered meeting scheduling assistant that addresses these problems.
WizCal’s is integrated into Google and Outlook calendar and has an app for iOS.