Time Zone Tips

For globally dispersed teams, dealing with time zones is a nightmare. Trying to arrange a convenient time for everyone to hold a weekly meeting is often impossible. Invariably, someone will have to stay up late or get up early to attend that weekly project conference call. In large, complex organizations, many people have an early meeting almost every day.

There are a number of coping mechanisms for this problem, but none is perfect. Until we can agree on one time-zone for the entire planet, or we can stop the world from turning, we are stuck with this situation. In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to minimize time zone issues:

  • Fewer meetings—Consider reducing the frequency of meetings. For example, meeting only twice a month rather than weekly saves time and reduces stress on those who need to work odd hours to attend. Surprisingly, it also helps improve meeting productivity because more can be covered in one meeting, and only the important topics get floor time.
  • Send a memo—Rather than have a meeting, send e-mail. Surprisingly, many topics routinely discussed in weekly department meetings can be summarized in short messages, allowing people to learn about them when it is convenient, thus saving meeting time for topics that require active discussion.
  • Smaller meetings—Invite only those who must attend to discuss the topics at hand. By having smaller groups, you improve the odds that a mutually convenient time can be found, you can focus on fewer topics and get work done, and you aren’t wasting the time of those not needed.
  • Alternate meeting times—As confusing as not having a standard meeting time can be, it shows mutual respect to set up a schedule that gives team members a chance to meet at times convenient in their respective time zones. The schedule should reflect the number of people in each zone. For example, if your team has 10 people, eight in Texas and two in Germany, schedule 20% of your meetings at a time convenient for your German colleagues and 80% for those in the US central time zone;
  • Be respectful—people have personal lives outside of work. Sure, some people live to work, but many others only work to live. You must be respectful of individuals and not routinely schedule meetings on top of ‘Jake’s son’s soccer practice’.

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