March 31, 2022

Working Remotely? Here’s What You Need To Know About Time Zone Management


Episode Highlights

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Join Chelsea Renaud and Michelle Mehlis as they share successes and challenges from managing teams living across the country or globe


  • Get SENIOR leadership involved and have a plan. Set boundaries and communicate it!
  • Have a plan for how to collaborate while respecting work life separation 
  • Be intentional about team building

Candidates/employees – what should you be thinking about when considering a job switch to a remote role?

  • Am I allowed to set my core work hours based on the time zone based on where I live or based on where headquarters or the team is located?
  • What is the company culture and expectation about responsiveness, especially outside of core work hours?
  • What does the team/company do to build relationships for remote employees?
  • What percentage of the workforce is remote?
Episode Transcript

Hello. I’m Michelle Mehlis with Hirewell. I’m a recruiting consultant and currently embedded at Civic Plus, which is a SaaS that helps local governments create positive experiences with the communities they serve. So basically the ability to do the things you need to do inside your community and inside your local government online, instead of standing in a long line.

And I’m here with my coworker. Hi! And I am with Hirewell, of course, too. And I am embedded with Roofstock, which is a mid stage startup. They’re making real estate investing easy and accessible to everybody. So through different platforms and courses on how to teach people to invest in real estate. Doing a lot of big things.

They’re based out of Oakland, California. And so we’re here to talk to you about when you’re probably thinking about, okay, so talent acquisition why are you talking to us about managing across time zones. But we’re both recruiting for a variety of primarily remote roles, but also then some in location and companies are trying to figure out how to do this.

And people are trying to figure out what they want as it’s likely to be that there really is some companies that are onsite and some are remote. And we decided that we needed to talk about this because we’re experiencing these and it’s making it harder to recruit and it’s making it harder to manage and keep your employees engaged.

So that’s what we’re here to talk about. I’m going to throw it off to Chelsea first, because she was the one who was really experiencing this and let her share some of the ideas that she was seeing in some of the challenges she was seeing with her hiring managers. Right. So I think as companies now are deciding whether they want to go back to a hybrid

environment or an in office environment, a lot of companies are seeing the benefits of working a hundred percent remote. The first off being that you get a wider net of talent pools. So you can really focus on getting and attracting the top talent for your needs. I think as we look at this and what I’ve experienced, one of the main concerns or challenges that comes up is collaboration because when you’re working in different time zones, or when you have a team that’s on West Coast and East Coast, and then you start looking at are we going to

bring in more of a global workforce environment? And those time zones, if you don’t have a strategy in place or from top leadership, if you’re not thinking about those things, that’s where the biggest issues come up in terms of are there going to be core business hours? Are we going to have the whole team work and the hours where the company is headquartered or those collaboration tools must be in place before you start being open to that flexibility of having a team in different time zones.

Right. Are you seeing that too? Yeah. So, I mean I think it was so funny because we’ve been talking about this topic for, I don’t know, three, four weeks now. And we get this email yesterday from Hirewell, which Hirewell’s gone fully remote, right. And we’ve hired 19 people this year across the country.

And we get the email because we have a weekly meeting and it’s been set at 8:30 am Central time. And the president says, oh, by the way, we’re going to move that back an hour because we’ve got enough people working on the west coast now that 8:30 central time is 6:30 to them. So not really a core business hour to have a company-wide meeting.

And that’s kind of like the little things that we’re noticing is that it’s great to think, oh yes, I can hire people anywhere, but you really need to start thinking about what types of roles and are you going to do it company-wide? Are you going to do it by teams? Like how is it going to get

structured. What other types of challenges have you seen with it Chelsea, outside of like, oh, you got this company wide meeting before you might normally get up and certainly before you typically would start working. I run into experiences with scheduling interviews and some of the leaders that I work with are across the globe and then coordinating between mountain time and Pacific time and Eastern, the different team members of leadership, you need to be involved in the interview panel.

And so I can only imagine what that experience is like for teams if you have your daily stand up or trying to figure out that aspect of it. And then I think another challenge that has come up is team building. How do you create that flow or that communication or that collaboration with team building when your team is in different core hours?

Yeah. And so one of the things we’ve seen, so Civic Plus where I work is fully remote. We’ve got employees in 45 states at this point. But we are, and they’ve consistently said we are focused on US-based employees. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have contractors, right? We do have two sets of offshore engineers.

So like there’s little pockets where they have to deal with global time zones, but at least we’re primarily dealing with Eastern through Pacific time zone at four hour difference, but manageable. I had a candidate who was talking to me know he took an offer with one of the bigs, one of the Fang companies.

And he was like, I’m going to try and keep it under control. And then he reached out to me a year later, which was early in February and he was like, Michelle, it’s just rough because you know, I have to talk to Indian and meetings. I need to get up at two in the morning to talk to the dev team there.

And I get DMS all through the night. Like I’m getting pinged at 10 and 11 o’clock at night. So this idea of remote work is great, except for when all of a sudden the work life for the mental health you know that we’re also talking about, that we’ve discovered through the pandemic as being important to the world of work, you know, it interferes with that.

You got ideas? What do we suggest?

Yeah, that’s so true. And I experienced that too with my client and I think it all stems back to leadership. The leadership team at any company really deciding how they want to handle that and how they want to approach it before they start bringing in teams that are in different time zones, especially globally.

I think that from the team perspective being respectful, so once those decisions are made on which time zones, or if there’s core four hours that everybody’s going to be online and being communicating with like the various standup meetings or all hands meetings during those four hour blocks or six hours or whatever it may be, but being respectful. I’ve seen

situations where in Slack or teams or the company calendar, people will put what time zone they’re working in so that you know and you can be respectful of not emailing them at 10:00 PM at night in Eastern time zone, and then expecting a response within 30 minutes, you know. It’s kind of like resetting expectations of

your timeliness, of collaboration and responses and communication. Okay. So I want to sum it up from a company perspective here for us. And then we’ll talk a little bit from a candidate looking for a job perspective. So both of us agree, this has to be something up at the top, right? Because if each individual team is doing it different and whatever, then there’s no consistency.

And then you have meetings across teams and that kind of stuff. So up at the top you have to decide, are we hiring across the country? Are we hiring only in Eastern and Central or Mountain and Pacific? Which that is certainly a way we see going, or are we hiring globally? And then once we have that, we need to know what boundaries are. And the boundaries need to be set up at the top and said, “Hey, this is the core hours.

And this is the responsiveness we’re expecting outside of your core hours.” And there needs to be some talk about whether it’s adjustable based on team. And obviously sometimes you’re going to have to take in the function of the role. A customer service team is obviously very set on this. But we strongly encourage anybody up

who’s at the leadership level or the C-suite level, if you haven’t thought about this, you need to be getting with your CHRO and your operations head and figuring out what this is. I once came into a role and I was managing a lot of people and I had a 12 hour shift, whatever. It was five days a week where it was essential that we would be able to answer a cell phone and deal with an emergency anytime.

And couldn’t figure out why they were having so much turnover in both of the roles that were reporting into me. And it was really just that it wasn’t scheduled, right? No one had taken the operational mindset of figuring out, like how did these people have a life outside of this because they’re human and they’re people.

So please, leaders figure it out for your company, start to convey it out, it’s coming. It’s great and we can collaborate, but it can’t be, “Well, yeah. When it gets busy, you need to be available at all times” because we do have lives outside of this. And when we’re talking to candidates, they want to know what the expectation is.

So any other thoughts on that as to what your recommend? No, but that’s a good transition into the candidate expectations when they’re going through the hiring process. And I think, like you mentioned with different teams or what your position is, is important to notate here because customer service, yes. Typically that’s a 24/7 type environment.

So it actually probably works out better in different time zones. But I think that I just ran into a situation where the candidate was in Eastern and the rest of the team is on Pacific time zone. And this is a program manager type position so the candidate is expected to, you know, sometimes they’re going to have to work on 11 to seven shift. And the candidate was asking, “Well should that be my normal four hours then?”

And the director was saying, “Well sometimes you’re gonna have to do an 8:00 PM meeting. So, and the candidate was fine with that, but it’s all about setting expectations up front because if you go through the interview process as a candidate and are not asking those questions, then you start

at your new job in surprise, you’re working until 8:00 PM. And so those are the things that I think are really critical to find out during the interview process. And the onus is too on the leadership team who’s hiring for the role to express those expectations. But I think we’re going to be running into a lot of situations where it’s just not at the forefront of your mind because we haven’t had to deal with that before.

Yeah. Well, and I think another one that’s kind of interesting and it’s one that I had worked a really like when my kids were young, I worked really odd hours because I had a job that didn’t require me to work at certain times, I just needed to get the work done within the 24 hour period. So I put my kids to bed and then do it.

And when I would send emails, it didn’t bother anybody because they knew I wasn’t expecting a response till they got in the next day. But sone people are looking for that response. And I remember when I went to another job, one of the things I kind of learned as the software got fancier is like, Oh, schedule this thing

so it hits people’s inboxes at seven o’clock or eight o’clock their time. And just those little things, like the message they send about whether you believe someone’s allowed to disconnect from their job or not. If your manager is emailing you at 10 o’clock at night, he kind of sends you the message that you’re supposed to be checking your email at 10 o’clock at night.

So I’m thinking about that and then just directly asking in the interview process, do you expect people to check emails? Do DMS come in? And am I allowed to when I’m not working, deal with them at the beginning of my next day, you know? Because that stuff matters.

You have any other hacks or any other ideas for people about questions to ask or ways to keep this in balances as they maybe work on an opposite coast of where the rest of their team works? No. I think that the technology is a blessing for this and with the remote flexibility, it really works to a lot of people’s benefit in regards to schedules.

If there’s the core hours, you can kind of create in certain circumstances, create your own schedule. Work two hours here, work the core four hours, work two hours later. It gives people a lot of flexibility. So it’s a huge perk being able to work remotely. I think companies having more education on

creating a culture of remote and creating these environments where people can meet and greet each other on the team virtually, building that rapport. I think that that, again is just going to be one of the hurdles that companies are going to face and candidates are going to face as far as their experience.

But yeah, that’s the only other thing that I wanted to mention on that. Yeah. So leaders, make a plan, decide what your core hours are, or if it’s all over the place and know that if it’s all over the place, it’s probably going to create turnover and lack of productivity like burnout, all those kinds of things.

If you have a plan, just communicate it because then people know whether or not, I’m working headquarter hours or I’m not. And let your recruiters and your HR people know that upfront so that it can get communicated out and then it’s consistent. And then be sure your managers are doing that, right? Because you got to not have one thing set at the top,


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