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The project manager has asked me to have an every-other-week, one-on-one check-in with an international colleague in another time zone. The meeting time has been slotted for 9:45PM-11PM my time.

My concern with this request is two-fold:

  1. I've put a lot of effort into making a consistent habit of going to bed (asleep) by 10PM on weeknights and getting up at 5:30AM on weekday mornings. Getting less sleep or haphazardly altering that schedule makes me tired the following day.
  2. My partner has done the same and is a light sleeper. Me sneaking into bed at 11PM+ is guaranteed to interrupt their sleep as well.

Under dire or self-inflicted circumstances—such as the server is on fire or there's a critically harmful bug I introduced—I'm willing to stay up as long as necessary in order to resolve the problem. But I feel that this particular request for regularly scheduled late-night meetings infringes too heavily on my personal time and is caused by (hiring) logistics outside of my responsibility.

Is it fairly expected that I should submit to this request? Or is it reasonable to deny the request reasonably while still maintaining a cooperative attitude?

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    @Fattie It’s not so trivial when the other person is 13 hours ahead.
    – 8protons
    May 24 at 22:41
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    @8protons I'm sorry, you're wrong my man. I work continually and always with completely global teams. the other slack and signal screens on this very moniotor have folks from really the whole globe (asia, europe left and right, americas left and right, africa and S.Am !!!!) Honestly it's a non-issue. Just state the professional times you are available. (comment 2) based on the hours you've given, 10PM is insanely too late and unprofessional!!!!!! It would be exactly like a 9am start worker scheduling for 3AM. No.
    – Fattie
    May 24 at 23:15
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    Based on the comments and answer, you have not provided one important information: Did you try "Propose a new time" option at all and what was their response to it? Also, if the proposed new time was in their working hours. Like others have mentioned, 9:30 AM for them is 8:30 PM for you and everyone should be happy with it.
    – PagMax
    May 25 at 9:46
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    I’ve worked on a team that had a 12 hour time difference to contend with... some of us stayed a little late and some of us started a little early. None of us had to work at 10 PM. If you’re up and ready to work at 6 AM, it’s 7 PM their time. Why can’t the meeting happen then?
    – ColleenV
    May 25 at 9:59
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    @mckenzm Ever heard of a nine-to-five job? Why would you get up that early if you start at 09:00?
    – Roland
    May 26 at 5:50
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Is it fairly expected that I should submit to this request?

Not for a bi-weekly 1 on 1. That seems way more painful than it needs to be. If the other party is 13 hours ahead, the meeting for them would be from 10:45am to noon. The other person should be able to do 2 hours earlier without any inconvenience.

If there are more people and time zones involved things can get more tricky, but if it's only the two of you and it occurs frequently both parties should be willing to make this more tolerable.

Or is it reasonable to deny the request reasonably while still maintaining a cooperative attitude?

Denying outright is not reasonable either. Make some constructive suggestion to make it better: Look at times that could work for both of you (https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html ), consider doing the call early in your day, optimize meeting time spend by agreeing to have a clear agenda ahead of the meeting and cancel if the agenda isn't "full enough", maybe you can bring it down to once a week if you are efficient enough. Maybe it can be shortened. Brainstorm other solutions: two 1:1s for over an hour per week seems excessive. Why is this necessary, what are the goals of these meetings and what alternatives could be considered?

If nothing of these works you can get more assertive. This is a non-trivial commitment outside of regular work hours. Start talking about comp time, "hazard" pay, or other benefits the company should provide.

If they still insist, you have a decision to make. You can say "no" but it's not going to help your career. On the other hand, an employer that is that demanding and inflexible ma not be such a great career choice anyway.

Update

The answer above was written by (erroneously) assuming twice a week instead of once every two weeks. I think it's still applicable but here are some additional thoughts:

  • Once every two weeks is a reasonable ask. One hour and 15 minutes still feels long for a 1:1 but can probably adjusted as needed
  • The time slot is NOT reasonable. Common courtesy would be to minimize the pain for all parties. Better choices could 8pm(you)/9am(them) or maybe 6am(you)/7pm(them). I'm an early riser so I didn't mind doing China calls early in the morning
  • Once every two weeks is not the end of the world. Maybe put it on a Friday so you can sleep in on Saturday.
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    @Hilmar it’s not your English. Bi-weekly can actually mean both of those. May 25 at 12:58
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    You might find this helpful from ELL biweekly, two weeks or twice a week? and Bi-Monthly (once every two months) The conclusion is if you really want to be clear, use "once every two weeks" or "fortnightly" (which is a bit rarer but more concise) or "twice a week" depending on what you are trying to express.
    – ColleenV
    May 25 at 14:06
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    Denying outright is not reasonable either. No, it really is. Unless your contract specifies out-of-hours requirements then a pre-scheduled meeting at 10PM is absolutely unacceptable in any but the most extreme circumstances. A regularly scheduled meeting at 10PM is never reasonable.
    – Brondahl
    May 25 at 18:52
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    @Hilmar Exploring other options is perfectly reasonable, but is entirely compatible with opening with "No I'm not scheduling a meeting at 10PM; don't be absurd". Refusing to contemplate absurd requests is not "immature" - it's recognising that you're not a slave, that you have the right to your personal time, and that your employer doesn't own your life.
    – Brondahl
    May 26 at 16:08
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The request for a meeting is a reasonable instruction. The times that have been suggested might mean that it is not.

I see from the comments that there's a 13 hour time difference. 9:45pm would correspond to 10:45am, which suggests around two hours of what could be considered normal working time for your colleague. Even if there is a good reason why only you should have to work outside normal hours, an 8:45am start for your colleague would let you finish work at 9pm.

It may also be relevant where you are. In Western Europe legislation (the EU Working Time Directive 2003/88 and national implementations of it) mandates 11 hours continuous rest in any period of 24. If you're in the EU or UK, working until 11pm would mean you would not start work the next day before 10am.

The way to approach this would be as a benefit to the company - it's in no one's interest to have staff tired and unable to work effectively. The personal schedules included in the question are useful to us, but your employer doesn't have to care about that, so doesn't have to be told - I would restrict the conversation to professional factors.

It's a general rule of employment that all reasonable management instructions should be treated as contractual. In this case, the question of whether the instruction is reasonable would seem to depend on the details of how it was operated.

Cooperation doesn't have to mean accepting the first suggestion without raising any legitimate issues you had with it.

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    "If you're in the EU or UK, working until 11pm would mean you had no obligation to start work the next day before 10am." No, it means you are forbidden to start before 10AM (and the burden is on the employer to make sure the 11 hours are respected) May 25 at 18:16
  • @Jean-Pierre - I see where you're coming from, but 2003/88 was an obligation on Member States (or those states who were, or were acting as, members at the time of adoption). The national legislation based on it is an obligation on the employers operating in that nation and provides an entitlement to employees. I'm not aware of any legislation that puts any obligation on the employee (which "you are forbidden" would imply), though you're right that it's an employer's responsibility to ensure compliance. I think we're on the same side, but we're debating the terminology. May 25 at 20:02
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    It sounds to me like the key point is that it's not a right the employee can waive. In other words, that your employer is in trouble if you don't get 11 hours of rest, even if you the employee were okay with it. May 26 at 4:52
  • @JosephSible-ReinstateMonica - I'm not sure how that disagrees with what I've written, but I'll tweak it as the words don't seem to be coming across right. Worth mentioning again that the employee is not forbidden : they will not be prosecuted if they allow it to happen (though the employer could be). [There are also some national exemptions - for example with shift changes is the UK - but I'll avoid making this more complicated than it already seems to be getting.] May 27 at 10:37
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13 hours ahead is obviously bad. I have to work with Australians sometimes; they are 12 hours ahead of me. There is very little direct communication. But I have all day to do my work, send it to them, they have then all day to look at it, figure out if it is exactly what they want, send suggestions back etc. That works quite well once you're used to it. We can do nine working days in a week between us. As I said, no direct communication.

13 hours ahead: Your manager could do the 1-to-1 at 8am and you do it at 9pm. Slighty inconvenient for the manager, a lot better for you. But definitely the manager ought to schedule your 1-to-1 before any others in the morning. It might be better if you do the 1-to-1 as soon as you get up at 5:30am and call him at 4:30pm his time. Or if it is possible, he could contact you as soon as he arrives home, say 6pm or 7pm his time which would be 7am or 8am your time.

The important thing is to talk to your manager, and if they are reasonable, a reasonable outcome should be possible.

PS I have heard that plenty of people in India who need to communicate with the UK have moved their working hours by five hours. Which is Ok with some people, not with everyone. So you would put the people who don't mind into the positions where they have to communicate.

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Probably, you can try one of the following:

  1. Tell the project manager that if you stay up late to talk to the international colleague one night, then the next day, you should be allowed to show up at work around 11:00 AM. Tell him exactly what you write here that is : if you stay up too late, you will feel very tired at work the next day and need extra time to sleep.

  2. Tell the project manager that the task of talking to the international colleague should perhaps be rotated among many members of your current team. If you take that task this time, the next time someone else should take it.

  3. Ask the project manager to ask the international colleague to adjust their schedule for the video meeting. Is it possible to have the video meeting in this manner : if one month you stay up late at night, and then next month that international colleague should stay up late at night for that meeting ?

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    Job, you'd have to be careful about "going on so much" here, 1, 2, 3 points. In any slack these days you will see a thousands times "Meeting at X" and someone replies "What about Y?" due to the time zones. It's a fait accompli. All you haave to do is hit reply and say "recall I'm on 5AM-2PM currently in this time zone, what about 4PM" that's all it is
    – Fattie
    May 24 at 23:12
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    There's no way how a 1-on-1 meeting could force anyone to stay up late, no matter where in the world they are. Worst case timezone difference is ±12 hours, that's 8AM for one person and 8PM for the other one. (And 99% of the time, the difference is going to be less than 12 hours, enabling even more convenient times.)
    – TooTea
    May 25 at 12:41
  • Rotating the 1-on-1 is likely not a solution. The purpose of 1-on-1s is generally to build a relationship with someone. Rotating who this person is interacting with defeats the purpose. How would you feel if you have to interact with another branch, and every time you talk to someone there, it's a new person you haven't talked to before? May 25 at 16:43
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    No, not everyone has the luxury of shifting their sleep time on wish. Not everyone is party teenie partying up to the morning and sleeping afterwards up to late afternoon. If I get to sleep lately, I'll wake up on the daylight nevertheless, having terrible headache. May 25 at 20:07
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You can maintain cooperation accepting the possibility of having meetings outside your working hours, either before or after (which means, shifting your working hours when the meeting has place).

It's cooperative enough. You don't stick to your usual working schedule and accept to be more flexible in order to comply with the challenges of the international cooperation. But it shouldn't be at the cost of your working balance.

Scheduling meeting middle in the night is absolutely inappropriate. Your manager should ask you instead, if it wouldn't be a problem for you to do a meeting in that time window, before even scheduling it. You need to put clear personal boundaries.

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Whomever arranged the meeting may not understand that you most likely would be ok with a 6am meeting. So if you try to get it rescheduled also try to say you are an early riser, then instead of being 13 hours ahead you are 11 hours behind.

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Your PM is probably taking advantage of you. Have them reschedule the meeting so it is more reasonable for you. Is the international team member a bigwig?

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