Timezones and distributed teams

Weeknotes: March 1–5, 2021

Andrea F Hill
3 min readMar 8, 2021

I moved from Ottawa (Eastern time zone) to Penticton (Pacific time zone) at the end of 2020. This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with coworkers across time zones — when I was in Denver I was on Mountain time while many of my co-workers were on Eastern time — but the extra hour difference with Pacific time has taken some getting used to!

When I was on Eastern time, I generally kept a 9–5 schedule, and enjoyed leisurely mornings to run, journal, or generally just ease into my day.

But if I were to start at 9am PT, my colleagues in Ottawa would be just sitting down to lunch (I mean, I don’t know that, they may stand up... But generally 12 noon is respected as ‘non-meeting / break time’). So I decided to start my workday at 8am PT / 11am ET. But of course not everything revolves around me, so a daily standup at 7:30am (sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later) has snuck its way onto my calendar.

Working from home definitely makes this a lot easier: my commute before that meeting is about 15 steps. So I start my morning most days around 7:30, and my colleagues often go silent around 9am for their lunch. Noon here is 3pm there, and then after about 2pm my calendar is devoid of meetings as the Ottawa folks have ended their work day.

So my days are pretty stacked from 7:30–9 and 10–2. I’d love to try to carve out a dedicated lunch break in there to go for a run, but I’m pretty conscious of the limited shared working hours I have with my colleagues. No one is going to tell me I can’t go, but I do want to be available if a teammate wants to talk through something at the moment.

There have already been a couple times when a teammate has reached out and I haven’t been around, and I feel SO BAD about it! Probably more than I need to: we are not chained to our desks. But I want my teammates to feel that I’m available to help out. I don’t want the time zone difference to discourage people from involving me in projects (for example, what if the rest of the team wants to discuss things at 9am ET?)

Things will undoubtedly change again as people return to offices. Now it won’t just be a time difference that separates us, there will be physical proximity too. Teammates sitting close together can just talk about things organically, and may not think to try to dial in someone remote to a casual chat.

We are getting more and more distributed team members (J and me in BC, A and C in Alberta, and R, F, J and M in Ontario, but not Ottawa). So hopefully our team will establish a good practice of ensuring distributed teammates are involved. I just hope to find a good way to work productively without having to start work at 6am PT! :-)

I like my quiet mornings, and feel I can get a lot done in the mornings. Now it seems like I have a lot of meetings, and by the time my “quiet time” rolls around, I’m mentally pretty exhausted. I need to figure out how best to manage this new schedule. Maybe it’s taking my run at the time my coworkers are off for the day, then “coming back” for a couple hours of quiet focus time. I’m not sure yet. It’s a delicate balance of figuring out how I can do my best work, and how I can be present for collaboration with my team.



Andrea F Hill

Director with the BC Public Service Digital Investment Office, former web dev & product person. 🔎 Lifelong learner. Unapologetic introvert