Time Zone Differences In A Global Company.


I’ve worked for a couple of non-Asian companies and the one thing that gets me insanely irritated is having to adapt to the timezone of wherever their headquarters is located. If in Europe, that’s not too bad – Asia still has some overlapping work hours. If in the US, good luck – early morning conference calls at 6am or late night calls at 9pm are the norm. Although annoying, I do accept that these situations are sometimes inevitable for work productivity.

What I can’t accept is when companies take employees having to work in a different timezone for granted, especially in cases when the employees aren’t paid an early morning or night shift allowance, or allowed flexibility to come in later or leave the office earlier (i.e. “deducting” the hours from their normal working day).

“C’mon, it’s not that bad. It’s only a 1 hour call.”

What employers need to realise is that an hour long call at 9pm isn’t just 1 hour. Scheduling a call at that time could mean that the employee forgoes reading a bedtime story to their child, rushes home from a dinner out with their elderly parents, or can only start doing household chores after the call (and consequently gets to bed in the wee hours of the morning). It’s not JUST 1 hour.

I once worked for a company which though it was fine to plan a key business review over the Lunar New Year period, expecting the managers in all the countries that celebrate it to be on call and working through the submissions during that time. That’s akin to forcing US employees to work on the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, or asking European employees to put in overtime during the summer vacation months. It was completely baffling. They would never think of doing that to their US or European employees – an upheaval would almost be guaranteed – but somehow it was perfectly acceptable to impose on their Asian counterparts.

I understand there are business constraints, but employers should start thinking about equity, regardless of where their headquarters are located. How about asking your US employees to take a 5am call to accommodate Asia once in a while?

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