Photo Credit: Stocksy/Mek Frinchaboy
By Lindsey Galloway
While the pandemic proved that working from anywhere was possible, it also brought about new challenges when managing dispersed teams — such as coordinating meeting times. In fact, the challenge has become so acute that some companies no longer offer a “work from anywhere” option in their remote job postings, but instead list a required or preferred time zone.
Salesforce has been a leader in embracing employee’s desires to work from where they want, eschewing the return-to-office mandates that other Silicon Valley giants have attempted to implement. But the company also has identified the potential gains from keeping teams in the same time zone.
“We no longer list vacancies by city, but rather time zones,” said Co-CEO Bret Taylor to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “The pandemic has taught us that it doesn’t matter in which city you live. Only the time zone is important in order to communicate and work together in this world.”
Recruitment firms say this is a growing trend as executives learn how best to navigate a remote-first landscape.
“During the pandemic, clients weren't really sure what was going on and if things would ever return back to ‘normal' so time zones weren't really a thing yet,” says Michelle Volberg, Chief Executive Officer at Giledan Search. “Now that the new normal is, in fact, working remotely, clients either request or require time zones for hires.”
The requirement gives companies the best of all worlds: the ability to offer remote options to employees, expand the available talent pool from a single city to a whole region or coast, and make coordination easier on all parties. Linda G Thompson, a Co-Founder at transcription startup Notta.ai, implemented a time-zone hiring policy when she realized she wouldn’t have a large enough talent pool if they restricted roles to their HQ in Phoenix.
“Expanding our talent pool allowed us to tap experienced talent all along the Pacific Coast,” says Thompson. “At the end of the day, companies need teams that can collaborate efficiently, and having a team on a single timezone works to that effect.” She also notes it saved her the scheduling headaches that came about when her teams were even more distributed during the early business planning stages. Of their 43 employees so far, 16 are based in Phoenix, three work within the one-hour ahead Mountain Time Zone, and the rest work within the Pacific Time Zone.
The time zone trend has been particularly noticeable for senior leaders reporting into the C-Suite. Executives tend to want to be able to reach their direct reports quickly, and ensuring they are both in the same time zone encourages a more healthy and happy relationship, says Volberg. Since implementing this style of recruiting more broadly, she’s already seen an improvement in work-life balance for its senior leaders, which shows up in better retention numbers – ever important in the age of the Great Resignation.
“Teams are much happier when their leader is happy,” says Volberg. “How do you ensure a senior leader is happy? Set them up for success so that they're working at the same time as their boss, and no one is expected to work early or late.” This helps prevent burnout in senior leaders by letting them have dinner with their families, time to themselves, and saving the stamina needed to lead a team and build the business.
Though Volberg says her clients almost exclusively recruit in either the Pacific or Eastern time zones, candidates who are rockstars will still often get a second-look no matter where they are based. But even for teams that may not have the luxury of recruiting by time zone or are still managing a distributed workforce, leaders can still benefit from the time zone balance boost by setting HQ hours, or a standard workday, so everyone has clear boundaries on when and where they’re expected to be available.
“We hire based on talent and skills first and then devise a working schedule that is conducive for all team members,” says Amanda Betts, Chief Member and VP of Marketing and Communications for marketplace platform SkillGigs, Inc.
Since their company headquarters are located in the Central Time Zone, they use that to standardize large meetings or critical decision making, knowing everyone will be online. “We do not sugarcoat anything in the interview; we are open and honest. Team members, depending on their living location, may have the expectation to work late, however, their mornings are wide open."
Staying intentional when it comes to setting working hours, whether that’s recruiting by time zone or managing with the time in mind, can streamline scheduling, keep employees engaged wherever they might live, and pave the way in creating the new remote reality.
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