Chelsea Wilson, the Community Relations Manager from Washington University School of Law (@WashULaw), contacted me recently about a new resource that they had created: the ”Working Across Time Zones” infographic. She asked me whether I was interested in sharing this on my blog.
Having worked for teams that are spread across multiple time zones (and having lived in multiple different countries), I know the importance of “awareness” when it comes to communicating with others. (Refer my earlier posts.)
@WashULaw also gave some excellent tips when working across time zones. I’ve repeated these below, and added my own comments.
- Stick to one reference point. When discussing a time for a conference call, use a single reference time zone – generally yours or your counterpart’s. This can cut down on the possibility for confusion quite a bit.
Agree totally. There’s nothing worse than trying to work out whether that’s 3pm your time, or 3pm my time.
- Always specify a time zone. Don’t forget to mention a time zone when discussing times. It’s a good habit to be in even if you aren’t making international calls. With today’s interconnected world, you never know where a person might be located when you correspond with them for the first time.
I would go one further. As well as the time zone, I suggest adding the offset from GMT (or UTC, if you prefer). Just having the time zone of the organiser can be confusing. Not everyone knows what the acronyms mean. But most people know what their own time is in relation to GMT/UTC. And by adding the GMT/UTC offset when discussing times, it makes it easier to work out the time difference. For example 11am NZDT (-13GMT) helps someone in another time zone work out what 11pm NZDT would be in wherever they were.
- Use a modern calendar app. Google Calendar, for example, will allow you to create events and email invitations that automatically adjust for each invitee’s time zone. All you have to do is set a meeting time in your own time zone — no calculations are necessary.
Having the app adjust the time certainly is handy.
- Check the time before making a suggestion. Again, Google is your friend. If you search for, “Time in _________” and insert the name of the city you want to know about, Google will tell you the current time in that city. This can be very helpful when calculating the distance between your time zone and your counterpart’s. Once you have an idea of the gap, you can figure out which times are optimal for each of you, and you can start off the conversation by suggesting a time that might work right off the bat.
The WorldTimeBuddy is a good way of seeing the times of different locations at a glance.
- Don’t forget about daylight savings. Some parts of the world observe daylight savings while others do not. On top of that, even if both parties observe this practice, the date when the clocks change might be different. @WashULaw’s graphic indicates if the cities listed observe daylight savings time but don’t forget to check the specifics prior to scheduling meetings around that time of year.
…and two more that I would add are:
6. 24hour format. The concept of am/pm is not used everywhere. Many countries use the 24hour format for their time. (Even 12am/12pm can be confusing for people who do use am/pm). Best to include the time in both 12hr, and 24hr, format to avoid confusion. E.g. 11pm/23:00.
7. Be specific. Avoid saying something like “half ten”. In some parts of the world “half ten” is a quick way of saying “half past ten (or 10:30). In other parts of the world “half ten” means 09:30, or 21:30)”. This can occur when people from different countries are discussing times. Best to be aware of the confusion taht it might cause, and state a specific time.
Here’s the graphic from @WashULaw
- The original Washington University School of Law article
- The Confusion of Time and its Rescue by GMT (mangosalute.com)
- A Verbal World Time Zone Map (geography.answers.com)