Time Zones are the Hardest Problem in Remote Work

I was recently asked for advice on getting US Remote work from outside the US. There are several things you need to figure out, but while most can be worked on, time zone overlap is the hardest to overcome. Even inside the US, it’s an issue.

When I worked at Trello, we were about 70% remote, but almost all of us were in the US, Canada, or Latin America. We required that everyone work NY afternoon hours (12-5pm Eastern US). In the UK, that’s 5-10pm. Practically, this meant we didn’t have very many people in the UK and Western Europe, and I can’t think of anyone more East than that.

After we got acquired by Atlassian, we had some contractors in Ukraine who partially worked our hours. When Atlassian announced Team Anywhere, their remote policy, time zone overlap was a big part of the requirement for long-term remote teams. I personally had to interact with people in Sydney sometimes, and time zones made that painful.

This is just a single company, but time zone overlap was part of the secret sauce that made remote working better for us.

So, if you are outside the US time zones and are applying to remote jobs, I would think about how much time zone shifting you are willing to do. Perhaps you really like working extremely late (my father worked nights when I was young). If you think you’d like it, then I would say that directly in your cover letter. Also, I would concentrate on the part of the US that is easiest for you to overlap with.