Schalk Neethling

@schalkneethling

Remote by Default: Use Google Calendar’s Time Zone Tools

Remote by default. A series on working remotely. What it can mean for your company, your workforce, making effective use of tools, and why you should care.

Being a remote worker myself, these topics are of course important to me but, the indications are clear that working remotely is on the rise.

There are of course a multitude of benefits to embracing a distributed workforce. In fact, it not only opens the doors to a diverse, and global talent pool, it makes your company more appealing to these individuals.

Because this removes the concept of borders, it creates immense opportunity for people of all walks of life, everywhere. Contributing to a more prosperous global society.

With the context set, let us start by looking at how to make use of Google Calendar’s time zone tools.

World Clock

To enable the world clock in Google Calendar, click on Settings(the gear icon), then Labs. Scroll down to the bottom, enable the clock, and click on Save.

Screen shot of World Clock on the labs view

Back on the main view of the calendar you will now see the world clock at the top right of your screen. For each location, it displays the current local time. It also clearly indicates locations where it is currently evening.

To add more locations, simply click on the Settings link at the bottom right of the widget. Something that is not immediately obvious, but is hinted to in the widget description, is that the world clock is context sensitive.

Have a look at the animated gif below. It demonstrates that, when you highlight a meeting, or time, on the calendar, the widget is updated to show the local time for all locations.

Animated gif showing in context highlighting of World Clock

Dual Time Zone Main Calendar View

By default, Google Calendar shows your current time zone to the left of your main calendar view. However, you can configure this to show one additional time zone.

This is particularly useful if the majority of your team members are located together in a single time zone. To enable this, click on Settings, and then in the drop-down Settings again.

In the resulting view, look for the “Your current time zone” section. In this section, click on the link titled “Show an additional time zone”. Select your desires time zone, give it a name, and Save your changes.

Back in the main view, you will now see both time zones listed on the left hand side of your calendar.

Animated gif of the above instructions

Scheduling Meetings

In the final part of the article, we are going to look at using Google Calendar’s time zone tools for scheduling meetings that respect all participants.

Click on Create, and on the next view click on the “Find a time” tab. Under Guests, add the list of people you intent to invite to the meeting. As you add guests, you will see that, not only are their calendars added but, at the top of the view their name, and local time is displayed based on the currently active time selection.

Screen shot showing calendar with guests, and their local times

Now, as you can see above, while 1PM might be a perfectly good time for myself and Madalina, 7AM just is not good manners so, we need to find a better time.

Madalina is busy between 2:30PM to 3:20PM but, there is a opening in all of our calendars between 3:20PM and 4:30PM. At 4:30PM though, meetings galore start for almost all of us so, I do not want to add to much to that.

In general I avoid scheduling meetings that run back to back so, even though we thought we will need an 45 minutes for our meeting, I am going to instead shorten the meeting to 30 minutes, and suggest the time of 3:30PM to 4:00PM.

Screen shot showing the final suggested meeting time

And with that, we have arrived at a time that should work well for everyone taking into account previous and upcoming meetings, as well as each guest’s local time.

The long term success and happiness of a distributed team very much depends on choosing the right tools. While meetings aren’t always the most pleasant/productive part of your day, I hope this article will make planning them easier.

I look forward to your comments and insights.

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