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The company where I work is fully-remote, and to the extent possible we genuinely try to find the best people, irrespective of location. That's great, but it also means that we have people spanning many timezones. Today, we're as far west as California and as far east as India, with people in all kinds of places in between.

There are some issues that simply have to have many people or everyone, like an all-company or all-department announcement meeting.

We also really care about people having good work-life balance and reasonable hours.

With people spread out as much as they are, if we start with any group of people (be they our smaller contingent in EMEA or our bigger US contingent), there is always some other group that has to live with a disagreeable time. If we pick something that's great for people in Europe, it's terrible for people in the far western US; if we do the opposite, the people in Europe or India have to stay up too late.

What's a workable strategy? Are we wrong to think that we really need everyone "there" (in, say, a video call) and interactive? Should we make people tolerate it? Run the same meeting twice at different times to accommodate people that way and split the difference?

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  • Does this answer your question?: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/301/73791
    – DarkCygnus
    Apr 30, 2022 at 0:19
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    for an "all company" or "all department" meeting, is it really necessary that everyone attend the same meeting? Most of those meetings don't have a lot of back and forth discussion. Couldn't those be split into two meetings that each cover a reasonable number of timezones?
    – DaveG
    Apr 30, 2022 at 0:35
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    What DaveG said. Why the hell would you force people to attend a meeting where they have no input? They could just watch a recording. Or better yet, send an email. Apr 30, 2022 at 2:53
  • "least-bad time when taking everyone else into account." - so some of your employees are more valuable than others? Apr 30, 2022 at 7:40
  • Definitely not strictly required! Why I was fishing for an answer. And I rephrased to clarify that it's not some people are more important and more that you just can't please everyone given how spread out we are.
    – josephkibe
    May 2, 2022 at 20:14

4 Answers 4

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Are we wrong to think that we really need everyone "there" (in, say, a video call) and interactive?

Yes, that is a colossal waste of time. You said it's an "announcement meeting". How is that interactive? How does that need a live audience?

The easiest way to handle this would be to schedule the announcement meeting in whatever time zone is convenient for the announcer, invite everyone optionally, then record the meeting and send the recording afterwards to every person in the company. Don't go around asking why someone wasn't present. It doesn't matter.

There are two reasons to have a non-interactive all hands meeting:

  • for legal reasons something has to be announced to every party at a specific time
  • you want to hinder gossipping and some feeling less privileged than others when information is not available to all at the same time.

The first is something employees couldn't care less about and the second can be remedied by giving out the information to all employees that are interested, and all others will have the good feeling that they could have had the same privilige, but decided they'd rather sleep or feed their children or attend their sports club. But they got the very same information as soon as they wanted without waiting for something.

Now, if you actually want to encourage interactivity in your meetings, make them smaller. There is no point in a 200 person interactive meeting. If everyone gets 3 minutes to be interactive with the speaker, everyone has to sit through 10 hours of passively wasting company money and personal braincells while others ask questions they don't care about. That is 2000 (!) hours paid for but wasted on making them sit in a chair not working.

So to sum this up: "announcement meetings" are a waste of your money. That money goes directly into the CEOs ego bank. It does not pay for anything, produce anything, get anybody dividents or make anything else better.

Announcements can be pre-recorded or recorded while doing it live for a smaller audience and those recordings can be consumed at the pace and time that is most convenient for your employees. Looking at the bright side from an exploitative capitalistic view, your employees might even watch it in the subway on their way home, or after hours because they want to know what was talked about and don't want to wait until morning. You would not even pay them for it.

So drop the all hands announcements. It's a a bad idea in general, even before timezone problems.

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What's a workable strategy?

  1. All-hands meeting can be a great tool for sharing information and building culture, they can also be a colossal waste of time for everyone. Depends a lot on how they are designed and run. If it's the latter, skip them, or better, fix it.
  2. All-hands are mostly show and tell. Run the meeting at two or three times (America, Europe, Asia). Most global companies that I have worked for do that. It's much better to inconvenience a small handful of presenters than a large remote team. Since presenters are typically very senior, this also shows respect for the local teams. It also allows tailoring the content to cultural differences and local points of view.
  3. Make sure there is plenty of time for Q&A, that people are encouraged to ask questions and that the process is well moderated. One company I was with used a dedicated Slack channel to collect all all-hands question live.
  4. Make sure the cadence of meetings is appropriate. Don't stack company, department & team all-hands on top of each other. One a quarter is plenty.
  5. If you need people of conflicting time zones in a regular meeting make sure that you occasionally switch the "bad time slot" so it's not always the same person (even if that's logically the best choice).
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It depends on where everyone is located, and to some extent on their lifestyles.

Up to six hours difference is Ok, you can do a meeting that is say 10am for some and 4pm for others. I have worked with people in India who worked from noon to 9pm to be available for meetings all the time.

12 hours difference (say UK vs Australia) is hard to do during everyone’s working hours. Personally I don’t mind taking calls at home at 10pm so it can be done. I’ve told people they can call me even later if something is urgent, but there’s no guarantee that I will answer. But that is just me, others wouldn’t like this.

You just have to juggle peoples different time zones, what hours they find acceptable, and do your best. With a large range it may be impossible that everyone is meeting at the same time.

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I've worked with people remotely since long before the pandemic. One of the compromises between having a remote international job or employing people overseas is timezones.

The best way to handle it is just to pick the best time you can and tell everyone to attend. 6AM isn't all that bad, I've had plenty of meetings after midnight. 6AM runs the risk of interfering with parents getting their children ready for school though, so best to use a bit of common sense.

I have a lot of kids. So at 6AM I'd be preparing breakfast and making sure uniforms are ready, checking on homework etc, I'd attend the meeting but you wouldn't be doing me a favour at that time, it would be very inconvenient as that is one of the busiest times of my personal day.

Ideally though you structure your workflow such that the company doesn't need these sorts of meetings and everything is handled in smaller (perhaps regional) meetings and emails etc,.

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    People are different. Even amongst those who don't work with people in other time-zones, there are some for whom a 6am meeting would be interrupting their most productive time; and others for whom it would mean being half-awake, yawning, and pretty much useless for the rest of the day.
    – gidds
    Apr 30, 2022 at 12:52

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