Collaborating Across Time Zones

Today I have a meeting with a local doctor about his website. He said 3:15. I’ll be there at 3:15. But I also have a meeting at 10:00 my time with an East Coast client and a West Coast designer. We’re also working with one designer in Europe and one in the Philippines. So we have an 8:00 for her, a 10:00 for me, and an 11:00 for him. And then at some point we’ll hook up with the overseas guys.

Remote collaboration is wonderful. It’s great to be able to pick and choose among talented people all over the world. But the time zones can be tricky. I have met people who won’t work with overseas clients or who won’t hire someone more than a certain number of time zones away, but I think it’s unfortunate and unnecessary to limit yourself in that way.

How can you keep the time zone issue from being a problem?

  • Get savvy.  You don’t necessarily need to memorize all the time zones and learn to make lightning calculations in your head. Still, it helps to have some idea of the time frames you’re dealing with. I have clocks on my desktop showing the times in the three alternate time zones I most often deal with. The World Clock time converter can help, too.
  • Sleep on it. When you’re in very different time zone from your collaborator or worker, be prepared to send a message at night and get a response in the morning — or vice versa. I don’t like waking up to an email from 1:00 a.m. asking me to do something followed by emails at 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. asking if I got the first email, and you probably wouldn’t either. If you’re on the other side of the world from your collaborator, you just have to accept that there’ll be a longer lead time.
  • Specify. I used to say, “I’ll have that for you tomorrow morning,” not considering that I was talking to someone in London. My tomorrow morning wasn’t his tomorrow morning, which led to confusion and possibly disappointment. Get in the habit of adding “PDT” or “EST” or whatever it might be when you set a time.

It gives “time management” a new meaning.





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