Timezones: the one thing you can't change about remote work

Timezones the one thing you can't change

This is part eleven of the remote work mental models series. Read the previous post.

At least for newly remote teams, if you think about the various aspects to running a team or a business, there’s a lot that can be changed. You can create new processes, you can bring on new people, and you can pivot your product. 

Unfortunately, there’s one thing you can’t change when working remotely, especially if you hire people from across your country (or the world).

Time zones.

If you hire someone in Europe and you work on the West Coast, no matter how hard you try, you can’t change the reality that 4pm in Europe is most likely 7am in the morning in San Francisco. This can create potential problems, especially for newly remote teams.

When a team decides to go remote, they tend to start by duplicating the office online, which means that you still spend a ton of time in meetings and chattering back and forth on workplace chat tools. If you want to get work done, you need to all be present at the same moment in time.

Some amount of presence is helpful

Now imagine what happens when you have people working in different timezones trying to all be present at the same moment in time. Things get hairy. I’ve been a part of teams that do daily standups where one employee is joining at 10pm at night. It’s a disaster that's fueled by time zones.

Even for the best remote companies, dealing with timezones is one of the toughest parts.

If you are early in the transition, I’d strongly encourage you to hire and work with people with a decent amount of timezone overlap. Long-term, try to shift away from requiring constant presence, but do yourself a favor and recognize that time zones are the one thing you will never be able to change.

Read the next post in the series and why you should hold fewer, better meetings.