Time zone challenges

So, since the MVP Summit where moved to a virtual event, and with the travel ban from Europe to the US, I find myself in a position where I will probably need to flip my sleep cycle for two weeks. I usually don't have a problem at all with jet lag, but this feels a lot more challenging, even if its workable being in GMT+1 and the Summit will be a 9 hour difference. I do think that a lot of people, especially when you work in an organization spread across the world or as a consultant, will face the same challenges. For you that have done this before, in IT or otherwise, whats your best suggestions on how to ease it? Especially with a family that would like to see me at least at some point during the day.
5 Replies

This one is a tough question @Simon Binder. My mantra is that anyone can steal your time, but it's yours to control. There is a lot of FOMO in missing meetings (and definitely MVP Summit sessions as they stream live) but if something is really more important (like family dinner) that must take priority.


I think @Sonia Cuff has a lot of experience here given she works in Australia, timezone management is a struggle! 

It's a different conversation if it's short term rather than long term.


My US contacts are very active in my morning and my Europe contacts are very active in my evening. I'm ok with being part of the watercooler chat as I start by day (or adjusting family logistics for the occasional early morning meeting), but I do have to balance how many nights I'm chatting on my phone when my family deserves my time. The FOMO is real!!


I've also moved my work apps to the last screen of my phone so I'm not tempted to check work conversations on a Saturday morning, when the USA are still working their Friday afternoon. 

That is such a good tip Sonia re moving work apps to the last screen of your phone.
This is separate to WFH but I turned off email notifications on my phone for YEARS and have never looked back. Truly restored my sanity!
Agree on that! I've turned all notifications off period on PC and Phone. Only exclusions are phone calls and text + MSTeams. I check everything else when I see fit.

Hi @Simon Binder 


I am not as extreme as @Sonia Cuff being only 8 hours in front of my colleagues in Redmond, but I totally get the upset to your sleep life. I work from 4 PM my time until about 1 AM my time which is the working day for my Redmond colleagues. It was difficult to adjust to to begin with but I found over time I just switched my day about so I go see friends and do household chores during the day and then work in the evening.


I have been doing this for 10 years now and in all honesty it only ever really becomes an issue for me when I want to do something in my social life. For example, I recently joined the local Astronomical Society but their meetings are all in the evening my time. Fortunately I have a very supportive team and we were able to accommodate me effectively taking a longer lunch, so speak to your manager / team is always key.


I would say the biggest issues I face is the social isolation that is caused by basically working every night during the week and having no local colleagues. I miss the office chat and some of the psychological benefits of being able to sit down with your colleagues and just catch up. That means, as I am sure anyone in my team will attest to, I sometimes am looking for a quick catch up before or after a call that is not strictly 'work'.


Digitally separating yourself from work can be especially challenging, like @Sonia Cuff I put all my work apps into one folder that's not on my home screen. I also make sure my personal email is in my native mail client and not Outlook, so I can look at my personal email without getting sucked into a work problem. When I take a holiday I like to either go into the Highlands here in Scotland or take a cruise, basically do something that means I have no internet or it's not easy to get online. I think working with technology is also part of the reason for these 'detox' holidays.


I have always wanted the ability to tell my devices.. "For these group of apps only notify me of things between x time and x time" or get outlook to only download new work emails in my working hours. @Anna Chu  and the rest of our team are also really good and making sure everyone, especially me, is striking a healthy work life balance.


I can't emphasize enough the importance of the physical separation between home and work, setting up an office or a space that is 'just work' and make sure you have set it up with a decent office chair, a desk and a room with good lighting. Because I have been doing this so long I have adjustable lighting so I can change the brightness, color or number of lights I have on.


Also if you live alone and work from home often I highly recommend a pet, great for stress and gives you some companionship, indeed great point to introduce Koby:


He helps me focus, gets me out of the house for walks and to meet people.


So @Simon Binder back to your ask, I think the best way to approach it would be to change slowly over a week, start an hour or two later every day and remember when you get to a certain point you need to get used to getting up later as its very important you get the right amount of sleep. Also I still eat at the right times for the time zone I live in, so breakfast when I get up, lunch at about 1pm and dinner at around 6pm. For the family, you need to be there for them, because we do what we do to live we do not live to work and your family must always come first. Our Children grow up fast enough and you do not get that time back. Again the separation between home and office will likely help manage this as well and, as per the person being interviewed on the BBC found out, sometimes even when working you just have to stop and deal with family life. 


I hope these are helpful to you and others who work remotely either for the first time or regularly.


Working from home is super productive and, when managed well, can be a highly beneficial experience giving you more time with your loved ones and still allowing you to be productive for your employer.