Even when your team works remotely from locations around the globe, you still need to get some face-to-face meeting time. From interviewing job candidates to conference calls with clients, you’ll often need to schedule meetings for individuals in multiple time zones.
So how do you become a master meeting scheduler of time zone differences? No matter how far apart your team members are, these tips can help you schedule meetings more effectively.
How to Quickly Calculate Time Zone Differences
If you live in New York but you need to talk with a marketer who’s based in Los Angeles on a call, do you know the time difference?
If not, the easiest solution may just be to do a Google search for the difference between your local time and the time zone of the other person attending the meeting. For example, do a search for “time difference between Ohio and Nebraska,” and you’ll find that Ohio is one hour ahead.
You could also simply type “What time is it in [place]?”. With a little math, you can use these search results to tell if someone you want to meet with is six hours ahead or three hours behind.
Be mindful of changes such as daylight savings time, as these don’t affect all time zones the same way. For example, Hawaii and Arizona do not observe daylight savings time, nor do the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some countries, like Brazil, have also scrapped daylight savings time.
This means the time difference between where you live and the person you are meeting could change depending on the time of the year. For example, during daylight savings time, Arizona is three hours behind Florida. During standard time (when the rest of the country adjusts its clocks back one hour), Arizona is only two hours behind Florida.
Check When Everyone’s Schedules Overlap
The easiest way to schedule an interview or meeting across different time zones is to have your team members use a shared Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook calendar that shows the hours that they will be working. Schedulers should have shared access to everyone’s calendars so they can see which time slots overlap in their local time.
With a shared calendar on Google or Microsoft Outlook, you can automate the process of lining up everyone’s work schedules in comparison to your own time zone. A quick overview of when everyone’s office hours overlap means you won’t have to constantly look up time zone differences.
Needless to say, you should try to choose a meeting or event time that lines up with everyone’s normal working hours. This can be tricky for international meetings. For example, Belgrade, Serbia, is five hours ahead of Buenos Aires, Argentina. To accommodate team members in both locations, the ideal solution would be to schedule meetings early in the morning for the Argentina team, so the Serbian team doesn’t have to stay late.
However, even the most efficient meeting planner may find some time zone obstacles too much to overcome. For example, Mumbai and San Francisco are 12 and a half hours apart. When it’s 7 a.m. in California, it’s 7:30 p.m. in India. This can make it nearly impossible to find a time that is truly convenient for everyone.
When such issues arise, be mindful of how you schedule your meetings. If you always schedule your meetings at 9 a.m. for your California team, the Mumbai staff is going to have to work late, inconvenient hours. Treat everyone fairly by swapping who has an inconvenient meeting time.
Plan in Advance for Those Who Can’t Attend
Of course, you can also plan ahead of time to accommodate individuals who won’t be able to attend your video conference due to time zone differences or any other reason.
When this occurs, create your agenda a couple business days in advance so individuals who can’t attend the meeting can submit their questions and talking points. You, as the meeting facilitator, can then read these talking points and questions to the rest of the group at the start of the meeting. Recording or transcribing the call will allow you to send all the notes and quotes to those who couldn’t attend.
For example, if you are interviewing candidates for a technically demanding job, your IT manager will likely have a few questions directly related to the job beyond what is found in your standard interview template. If this manager can’t come to the interview, collecting their questions and sending them the candidate’s responses can help them effectively evaluate the candidate.
Be Mindful of When ‘This Could Have Been an Email’
The phrase “This could have been an email” has practically become a meme in the modern office environment. While online meetings can help everyone connect, not every task requires a Zoom call.
This is especially true for teams that are geographically dispersed and may already be suffering from Zoom fatigue. Too many online meetings could cause your remote team to feel burnt out and become less productive, particularly when meetings are at inconvenient times for them or scheduled back to back.
Of course, events such as client pitch sessions or a job candidate interview do need to be live meetings. But just make sure meetings are a thoughtful choice for discussions, not the default.
For example, after completing a round of interviews with prospective job candidates, your team doesn’t necessarily have to hold another Zoom meeting to share their opinions. Instead, the meeting scheduler could ask everyone to share their insights in a Slack message board or other task management system. That can help everyone reflect on one another’s notes before deciding whether to move forward with a candidate.
While some managers may worry that switching to this type of system could cause accountability to go out the window, it doesn’t have to be the case. Many digital communications and task management platforms allow you to set due dates for specific tasks.
For example, you could create a task for everyone to share their thoughts and suggestions about a specific candidate by a specific date. Rather than requiring everyone to adjust their schedule for another meeting to discuss the decision, they can do their share of the work at a time that fits best with the rest of their workload.
This will ensure that you still get everything done in a timely manner, while respecting everyone’s time and helping them be more productive. It also leaves everyone’s schedules more open for meetings where “live” attendance is an absolute must.
Get Help Scheduling Job Candidate Interviews
Navigating meeting scheduler time zone differences doesn’t have to be a hassle. By making use of the digital tools that can streamline scheduling across multiple time zones, you can ensure that all team members who need to participate in a meeting can make it.
This can be especially helpful when interviewing candidates to join your company. By offering interview time slots at moments that are convenient to both the interviewers’ and interviewee’s schedule, you can make a better first impression. Prelude can help with a streamlined interview scheduling solution that allows candidates to self-select available time slots based on when your team is available.
When everyone is given the opportunity to meet at a time that works well for their own time zone, they feel valued and you can get more done.