managing remote work when you’re in a different time zone from everyone else — Ask a Manager

I’m in the same adjustment period as your husband, albeit not as a developer. (Complicated by being in a non-profit so, uh, working hours/work-life balance is sometimes a learning curve to be sure.)

And I’ll be honest, I think some or even a lot of the solution is going to be internal work for him. I happen to be a night-owl by habit, as is my partner, so sometimes just working a noon-to-8pm Eastern schedule that meshes with a 9-5 Pacific one is easy for me. That said, I also had a discussion with my boss about this and discovered she believes strongly in work-life balance, and she legitimately does not expect me to be working after 6pm Eastern unless there’s something pre-scheduled.

So that’s where I’d start, I think! He should ask his manager about expectations for his time in the role, and if there are other remote workers who are in similar positions, he should also talk to them. But at some level, I think this is going to have to be him talking to himself about if he’s getting the work done and still being available-enough.

One possible strategy that occurs to me is to do exactly what he’s been doing, of work in the morning and wind down major work, and treat the “morning standup” as a capstone on the day, and then consider time after that to be “on-call” time where he’s available for co-workers but also free to, for instance, go about his business a little bit too. That way, if he has a really busy day he can work with them/answer questions/etc, and if he has the downtime and already completed what he needed to get done, he can go back to his routine. This is *especially* true if he’s working from home, I think. I work from home, and I have found that if I’m having trouble concentrating, or if I’ve wound down but know I’m waiting on a response from Pacific time zone/EOD issues, I’ll just walk away for thirty minutes, check back in, rinse-repeat. Helps me relax and still get stuff done around the house without feeling like I’m abandoning the later time zone.

It’s kind of that combined blessing-curse of working from home and being a hard worker, right: you feel you’re on call more of the time, but also, you can step away to check your laundry. If he uses coworking space obviously that’s less useful, but if he’s at home, I think it’s really gonna be mostly him negotiating with himself.

He could also consider working out how to set up a priority system for interrupts later in the day to figure out which ones need addressing immediately and which ones can, frankly, wait until morning. That would require way more negotiation with his coworkers and manger, but it’s pretty fair.

Either way, I think a lot of this is going to be him having to accept that he needs to maintain work-life balance–and especially in a day and age where a lot of folks are remote, time zone differences happen and honestly, unless something is highly-urgent-by-EOD, if I send something at 330 Pacific and it’s answered by 9am Pacific (and maybe at 7am Pacific but 10am Eastern) that’s pretty fine by me.

And also, he really doesn’t need to feel available to his work at all hours! He sounds very dedicated. Seriously, as long as his manager doesn’t raise concerns, and he can check in with her about that, it’s probably fine!

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