As technology is bringing the world closer and closer together, the corporate work place is going global. Distance is a thing of the past, and with mobile phones, texts, emails, and numerous messaging applications, business communication has become as easy as pie even if your colleague happens to be on the other side of the planet. Many workers live in a completely different country to that of the firm that they work for and keep up with ‘the office’ via electronic communication tools. The only factor that does not seem to be a variable is the time issue. It may be easy to move your office from New York to London and still service your clients back home, but unfortunately you won’t be able to take your time zone with you.
Erran Carmel, the dean of Kogod Business School at the American University states that, “Distance is dead, but time zones aren’t.” He maintains that the difficulty with living in one time zone and working in another is that it disrupts the rhythm of a person’s day. He goes on to say that the time zone dilemma is one that technology simply can not solve.
The number of people working across time zones has been estimated at 500 million by Microsoft. Carmel indicates that approximately 10 million people communicate with a head office, co-workers, and/or clients on a daily basis worldwide. This means that for many people mid-night calls, evening meetings, or early morning video conferences are the norm. People in Europe, for example, who work primarily on the US market, end up with a work day that spans most of the afternoon and evening. This would interfere with family life especially if one had young children. Inversely, if one was working for a European company and living in the states that would entail a very early wake-up call.
However, one thing that has become evident is that these workers learn quickly to balance the time difference and their schedules with very little corporate guidance, even though much emphasis has been placed on issues like language barriers, cultural understanding and team work over the past two decades. This particular skill has been informally dubbed ‘time-shifting’.
Many who live this lifestyle have become diligent and determined to say the least. Miss Brown, who lives in London, works mainly with American clients. She begins her day in the afternoon, and continues until just before mid-night. She says this suits her well as she is a ‘night-owl’, and her husband loves to watch sport on TV after dinner anyway! She does, however, turn off her phone at 11pm and makes it clear to her clients that she does live in Europe and that her day ends at that time.
Mr. Klein lives in Berlin and works in San Francisco. He employs tools such as scheduling all of his conference calls on specific days of the week so that he is free from being interrupted at other times. He does have to check in with his boss twice a week and the phone call falls in the middle of the night. Klein takes the call in the bathroom so as not to disturb his family while they sleep.