At Agape Red we technically don’t have office hours. However, that only goes so far. The rest of the world still has some variation of a 9-5 work day, and at the very least, we’re expected to be available by phone or email during that time.
To absolutely no ones surprise, your clock changes as you move around the globe. Unlike traveling for pleasure, it’s imperative to communicate when it’s convenient for your coworkers and clients back home.
Several weeks ago I was in Kuala Lumpur, a 13 hour time difference from Omaha, and it’s something I wouldn’t suggest. For our 9am meeting, I would have to call in at 11pm. That might now seem too bad, especially if you’re used to staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning (like me). But what if your client has a question? What if there’s an incredibly urgent bug that just came up? and what if someone invites you out for pizza? Your body suffers, your trip suffers, and your work suffers. Our clocks were so mismatched, it quickly became difficult to manage urgent bug fixes, client questions, and general day to day business while trying to experience the culture in Kuala Lumpur. It’s an all around bad situation.
Earlier this year I was planning out a year or two stay in Poland and trying to work out some details with David Hopp, our scheduling ninja. I had just finished reading “Remote: Office not required” by Jason Fried of Basecamp (which is required reading for any company that deals with remote). Basecamp (formerly 37signals) is really the poster child for the remote office, with employees located all around the world. Their strategy is to find a target time for a few hours every day where everyone is going to be available. Trying to replicate this, I aimed for a 9a – 1p central time schedule.
If you’re going to work from a different timezone, definitely prioritize the people signing your paycheck. Some days, 9a-1p was really all I needed. Other days, I would get a question or two sent to me outside of those hours. That was all Kosher. On days I had meetings I would shift my schedule around so I could work 8 or so hours and still get enough sleep to enjoy my trip. Six or seven hours ahead really seems to be the sweet spot for maintaining a work life balance. Even on Friday nights, when I stayed online working until midnight, I was still able to go out afterwards and meet up with friends.
Here are some tips for anyone who wants to travel abroad:
- If you’re using Hipchat, it comes with timezone support, so anyone who starts a 1:1 message with you, can see what time zone you’re in. Just remember to actually change it, since it’s not automatic.
- Sunrise is a calendar that has fantastic Google Calendar integration, but more importantly it’s great for timezones. You can simulate what time zone you’re in, and the calendar will shift accordingly. There’s third party app support for things like Tripit, so you can see when your flight, trains, and buses will be alongside the different time zone.
- Communication is key. If you’re going to be leaving earlier than an hour before quitting time, definitely let people know.
- Another point on communication. If you’re out with friends, and it’s maybe 3p back in the office, let them know this. Pulling out your phone in the middle of a conversation to respond to an email is generally rude. But people are understanding if you let them know that “you’re on call.”
Remote workers everywhere are working from different timezones. From Canadians in Thailand, to Russians in America. A different schedule shouldn’t limit your ability to see the world. What’s more, it can be a great asset when searching for a work schedule that’s best for you.