Time Zone Manners
How to Show Cultural Respect When Scheduling Global Appointments
When you work in an office, it’s very clear what times you should and shouldn’t schedule appointments— will the building be unlocked and occupied? Then, go for it. But when working remotely, your location flexibility usually includes a good deal of schedule flexibility, too. If you want to get a meeting out of the way at 5:00 am before hitting the gym, you can! Want to wrap up the last few loose ends on that project from bed at midnight? No problem.
It’s all well and fine for you to be creative with your own schedule, but let’s also remember that our work schedule usually impacts the days of our team and network, too. Forgetting this fact and regularly trying to book appointments that cater to our local time zone can be interpreted as insensitive and disrespectful in a professional work environment.
So, to mind your virtual manners, ask yourself these questions any time you’re scheduling across time zones:
1) Is the appointment within local business hours?
Sure, hosting a weekly wrap-up meeting at 4:00 pm on Friday will work beautifully with your schedule in Dublin, but have you considered that it will be 7:00 pm for your teammate in Dubai, regularly interrupting the kickoff to their weekend? Remote workers may be trying to maintain work-life balance, but it’s already challenging, since we carry our offices around with us 24 hours a day. Show your guests some support by prioritizing boundaries over deadlines. If you can’t find a time slot within overlapping business hours this week, it can wait until next. (Tip: Use tools like World Time Buddy or Every TIme Zone to simplify your “time zone math.”)
2) Are you proposing windows in their time zone, or yours?
We all hate time zone math. So, are you trying to avoid the nuisance by proposing times in your local time zone, requiring your guests to make the conversions? Proposing times to others in their local time zone is a small gesture, but it proves to them that you pay attention to little details and are willing to go the extra mile, which can go a long way in developing the trust and credibility that is so crucial in virtual relationships!
3) How is punctuality valued in the local culture?
Remote workers often live and work by the minute, and therefore assume that if a guest hasn’t logged in to a 11:00 meeting by 11:04, they aren’t coming. However, many regions are, by nature, much more casual and flexible. Such a guest might sign on at 11:13 and think nothing of it. If so, you should avoid booking back-to-back appointments that day, and block a comfortable amount of cushion time after the appointment, just in case the meeting starts late and you need to extend the time slot.
4) What time will be required before or after the appointment?
Let’s imagine that you’re having a project review call with a freelancer, after which your expectation is that they will immediately implement the changes that you discuss and get a final version back to you by the end of the day. Do you think they are going to be eagerly willing to do so at 6:00 in the evening? Or maybe you’re requesting a live virtual tour of a venue first thing in the morning, for which the site manager would have to come to work 2 hours early to set up. Remember that every appointment requires preparation and follow up, and if you want your guests to be fully invested in the content, you need to take that time into consideration.
5) Does the appointment conflict with national holidays or customs?
No matter who you’re doing business with, it’s crucial to continually reinforce how much you understand and value your contacts as individuals, so they can reciprocate and trust you with more work. But nothing says, “I don’t care about your personal life,” like requiring a Brazilian to attend a meeting during a World Cup match, or accidentally scheduling a brainstorming call on Lunar New Year with your teammate in Beijing. A 3-second Google search is always a good idea when creating a new calendar invite.
In his presentation 18 Time Zones – Asyncronous Communication to the Rescue at Nomad City 2018, João Valente, Software Engineer at Doist, will be discussing the logistics of global collaboration in depth. Join us on October 8-14 to learn it all, plus more keys to professional location independence, in the beautiful city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.