Recently I was asked to participate in a meeting with people from four different time zones. Three of the time zones were in the United States. That can be tricky to schedule, but it’s not overly difficult. The fourth time zone, however, was in Asia with 17.5 hours difference.
The gentleman in charge of scheduling this meeting had access to my phone/Zoom appointment scheduler so he could see my availability, but he had to individually reach people in the Asia and Pacific time zones. He thought he came up with the perfect solution, but it turned out his time zone math was a little off, so the person in Asia would have to meet at 2 AM. That wasn’t going to work.
If you have to schedule a meeting for people in multiple time zones, especially if they’re on different continents, here are three options to consider:
Overlap your company calendar
If every meeting participant works within the same company – and if your IT department has set up the company calendar platform in this way – you can view the participants’ calendars in overlap or overlay mode so that you can look for openings (the blank spots) on the calendars.
Group function in online appointment scheduler
Some online appointment scheduling platforms have a group invite function that allows you to send an availability request to your participants. The downside is that you still have to manually provide a range of options, each participant informs you manually of their availability, and then you manually choose which option received the most thumbs up. One-on-one scheduling options are much simpler with these platforms.
Utilize a time zone comparison website
There are many free websites which allow you to input any number of times zones, and the search result will show a comparison of times. Here’s an example from a search on TimeAndDate.com:
The above screenshot is just a slice; the website shows you a 24-hour period. It’s much easier to start with this baseline to know where to begin with your time proposals.
Since this group meeting in my example involved four people from different organizations, there was no simple way to overlap calendars without giving temporary share permissions to the others. The group function in an online scheduler (as well as discussing via email) can still be tedious, but if you utilize the time zone comparison website, it will save you time on the back and forths. This is the path I recommended to the person struggling to schedule this meeting. Here was his response after utilizing the time zone comparison website:
“OMG that site helps so much! Thank you!!! ”
He glanced at my online scheduler to check on my availability while also browsing the time zone chart for reasonable options. He further narrowed down options after checking his own availability. From there, he shared the options with the other two participants. Yes, there’s still manual legwork involved, but this time around he was able to choose possible workable dates/times much more quickly.
Keep in mind that if meeting participants are on different continents, there will usually be someone who has to meet outside of work hours. If these group meetings will be ongoing, it will be important to have a discussion to determine if there will be a rotation in who must meet outside of the workday, or if the scheduling will be based on where the majority live.
For details on how to better manage your time no matter which time zone you’re in, check out The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.