UK & Europe (+1 hour GMT)
Having never left Europe while running my business, I never realised what a powerful tool having the time difference on your side could be. While in Spain even though they are only 1 hour ahead, it is amazing how much breathing space this provides you.
Instead of starting the race at 9 am with everyone else, that 1-hour head start allows you to get out in front and manage to organise or address a few high priority items or clients before they have even reached their desk.
It was only once I started travelling to North America and S.E Asia did I find out what a crucial role the time difference can plan. While I am back in London now, I never feel like I have enough time and always playing catch up. To ensure I am on top of all my correspondence, ideally, I need to be starting work 1 – 2 hours before everyone else.
This might sound a bit alien to someone in North America where I don’t think they see distance within their own country as a major factor. Being exposed to different start times for TV shows and events is a common occurrence, however, in Europe, I always feel my clients become a bit flustered when they discover I am in a different time zone, even if it is just by 1 hour.
California (-9 hours GMT) & Mexico (-5 hours GMT)
Being in California was probably the hardest time zone I have had to compete with. Being a full 9 hours behind the UK was extremely challenging. By the time you are heading to bed, your email inbox is beginning to fill and by the time you wake up, people are finishing work back home.
This was leaving me with slight angst and would prompt me to wake up 2 – 3 times to check emails and ensure there was nothing urgent to answer. I found this never let me truly recover from my jetlag.
This was the same issue in Mexico however slightly more manageable with there only being a 5 hour time difference. This did lead to numerous calls from 4 am – 7 am which is just a horrible way to try and manage clients. My stay in Mexico lasted 6 weeks and was the catalyst for several improvements to handle project management which we will cover in an upcoming post.
One positive of a hefty time difference is once work finishes back in the UK, you are left with peace for the remainder of the day to catch up with correspondence without any replies and really concentrate on projects without further calls.
But the early morning really did play havoc with my mindset and my work ethic or efficient was nowhere near-optimal.
Thailand – S.E Asia (+6 hours GMT)
Heading to Thailand and the Far East for the very first time, this was the longest I aimed to be away from Europe while running my business and working remotely. In fact, once I settled in, the only issue was to avoid meetings but other than that, the time difference proved to be an unbelievable asset.
I no longer had a sense of urgency when working in the UK. It sounds stupid, but those 6 hours really does put you ahead of the curve and allows you to be ahead of your clients and easily schedule calls later in the day, not at painful times. Most importantly for me, it completely frees up my time to relax and focus on my own personal projects. I have previously been very opening with certain clients that for a number of months I would be unavailable due to being in Asia and one response was that they were worried I would be spending my time on the beach rather than their project.
In this particular scenario, I didn’t actually want the project but their assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. While over in this part of the while, I am definitely more productive and it gives me huge advantage in getting organised and tackling not just my own projects, but my clients too.
Working With Remote Teams
Just as you can utilise time zones to become more efficient, a time zone can also become a benefit when using remote teams to work as members of your own organisation. Many people do this because of the price, but having a few team members working a few hours ahead of time can really become a selling point when looking to fill a vacancy.
We have worked with contractors from all parts of the world, from the Philippines right round to Mexico. Whether culture or skillset played it’s part, we certainly had issues when trying to work with people in certain parts of the world and time zones was a major contributing factor. The Philippines was too far ahead, meaning that as they finished work, we had only just begun. This left a small window to really be able to communicate. Whereas Mexico proved too far behind, often meaning that requests took an extra day.
By far our best experience has been working in Central Europe with only a 2 hour time difference. As with working in Asia, those 2 hours meant that client requests could often be addressed before they even got to their desk and it gives us a head start. The same could be said for Nepal, the time difference did cause issues however in this particular scenario, their work ethic was immense and they usually counter balanced the difference in time zones.
Top tip: Google Boomerang.
Google Boomerang is a great Google Extension which can help your manage time and becomes invaluable while travelling. Personally I used Gmail as my email client as I find it extremely easy to use and easy to set up. If you are using Gmail like me, then Boomerang is perfect to help you manage your time.
We all have some clients who like to send a tonne of emails, they always answer super quick and you know they expect a quick response. With Boomerang, you can write an email and then set a time that it will be sent out. By doing this, you can slowly train your clients not to expect an immediate response. It also means you can time your emails to go out later in the day so you are not inundated with responses when you really would like to concentrate on other projects.
Another way it can really help is if you are working abroad and you don’t want your client to realise. For instance, in Thailand, I begin answering emails at around 2 am UK time. I don’t want them to know I am in Thailand, nor do I want them to think I am a party animal! For that reason, I use Boomerang to time my emails to send out around 7/8 am UK time. This way you look like an early riser and they have the answers they need by the time they have reached their desk.