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Are Time Zones Sustainable?

Cover Photo by Icons8 Team

It’s an awkward moment that many of us have had the discomfort of experiencing – you sign onto your 8 a.m. Zoom call, coffee in hand, only to find an empty room. Of course, it’s 8 a.m. Pacific Time where you are, but the meeting was scheduled for 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Wonderful. 

In the pandemic era, remote work has stolen the spotlight from bustling cubicles and crowded boardroom meetings. While the concept of older adults struggling to master video calling interfaces has by now become a tired meme, I’m honestly uncertain that we’ll ever return to the norm. 

 

Where are we now?

Twitter and Square have already declared that employees (with some exceptions) will be able to carry out their duties from home indefinitely if they so choose. Tech giant Google has also announced that employees will have the choice to work remotely through the end of June 2021. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even estimated that over the next five or ten years, 50% of the company’s workforce might have the potential to work from home.

These moves from massive firms in the public eye are likely to serve as precedents for smaller firms across the country and the globe. Even in a post-pandemic world, how many employees, especially older or immunocompromised ones, will be willing to take the risk of heading into the office for a job they could do from the comfort and safety of their own abodes?

It is important to note that this is not a major concern for the world’s millions of blue collar workers, whose jobs oftentimes cannot be executed from home. However, if working from home comes to dominate the white collar labor force, one really has to wonder how our perception of time and time zones might change. 

 

How will we move forward?

In 2017, the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis found that roughly 42.5 million people worked for multinational enterprises. For global companies with numbers of employees who travel across countries or continents to meet with team members and clients, the challenges time zones pose in a world of remote work could get dicey. Inconvenient meeting times every once in a while are certainly surmountable. A daily rendezvous at 9 a.m. for the employee in Los Angeles, though, means 11 p.m. for the employee in Jakarta, 1 a.m. for the one in Tokyo, and 2 a.m. for the one in Sydney.

Is this really sustainable? 

A simple solution, of course, would be to form work teams based on geographical location. However, with an increasing emphasis on globalization and growing work to construct diverse teams, this resolution is only a cursory and unsatisfying one. 

This logistical nightmare also extends to education. Several universities are largely relying on remote learning this fall. Princeton University, for example, will keep all undergraduates learning remotely. Sure, pre-recorded lectures or 24-hour exam windows have proven useful in some cases. The need for face-to-face instruction, though, spills over into virtual office hours, discussion sections, study groups, and more. In groups with any degree of geographical diversity, it’s almost certain that someone will have to rise at the crack of dawn or burn the midnight oil just to ask a question face-to-face. Who, then, is to decide which students get the short end of the stick? 

Do you think that COVID-19 could bring a shift in the way we think about time zones? Let us know in the poll below. 

Cover Photo by Icons8 Team

  • Question of

    Has the pandemic forever changed our perception of time?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Are time zones sustainable?

    • Yes
    • No

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Written by Megan Pontin

Enthusiastic word-collector, avid pancake-consumer, and experienced hammock-lounger. Student at Cornell University.

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