What Remote Workers Need To Know About Daylight Saving Time

What Remote Workers Need To Know About Daylight Saving Time

Local Times May Vary

As those of us in North America begin our workdays an hour earlier than last week, I’d like to take a moment to talk about daylight saving time. For brick-and-mortar companies, it is but a bi-annual hiccup. But for those of us who work across time zones, it can represent weeks and months of confused meeting times, missed appointments, and general frustration.

Here are a few things all distributed companies and remote workers should know about daylight saving time:

It’s “daylight saving time” not “daylight savings time”

It’s not plural.

“Daylight Saving Time” is “Summer Time”

People are often confused about whether we’d want to save daylight in the winter or in the summer. It seems counterintuitive that we’d want to save daylight during the summer when daylight is so abundant. Nonetheless this is when daylight saving time happens. The rest of the world makes things much easier by simply calling the time offset “summer time,” which makes much more sense to me.

The Majority Of The World Don’t Observe Daylight Saving Time

China, Japan, Russia, India, the majority of Asia, most of Africa, most of Australia, and most of South America don’t shift their clocks twice a year. So although your development team in Ecuador may be on the same clock as your New York team during the winter, they’re going to be 1 hour off when we “spring forward.”

The Shift Doesn’t Happen Everywhere At Once

North America, Europe, parts of Australia, and parts of South America all switch their clocks at different times of the year. And the majority of the countries in the world don’t observe this odd ritual of shifting the clocks twice a year. 

What’s more, for countries in the Southern Hemisphere, “summer time” begins anywhere from August to November and ends anywhere from January to May. Their summer time happens during our winter months.

Even within the Northern Hemisphere, things are confusing. Europeans begin summer time about two weeks after North America. They end summer time about one week earlier. This means that European employees are likely to be an hour late to meetings this week and next.

The States Are Not United

Think you’re safe if your entire team is in North America? Nope!

  • Arizona doesn’t not observe daylight saving time. This means that during the winter months, they have the same clock as the Mountain Time states. While during the summer, their clock lines up with Pacific Time. However, the Navajo Nation, much of which overlaps with Arizona, *does* use daylight saving time.
  • Hawaii does not observe daylight saving. This means that they are 2 hours shifted from California in the winter, and 3 hours during the summer. 
  • Saskatchewan, Canada does not observe the daylight saving time change. Instead they are essentially ALWAYS on daylight saving time, putting them on the same clock as Central Standard Time, even though they are geographically in the Mountain time zone.
  • None of the US territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands) observe daylight saving.

Greenwich Ain’t Always The Mean Time

Since Greenwich (along with the rest of England) observes British Summer Time beginning at 1am on the last Sunday of March, Greenwich spends half of the year outside of Greenwich Mean Time. This is one of the reasons that modern time offsets tend to refer to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) rather than GMT. 

So What Of It?!?

The most important thing is to be aware of these differences and anomalies. If you know what time it is where you are, don't assume that you know what time it is elsewhere. Ask. Research. It's just courteous.

There are a several meeting planner websites out there. I've used TimeAndDate.com's World Clock Meeting Planner for years. These are helpful. Calendar invites are essential. Don’t just say, “let's meet on Tuesday at 2pm.” Send an invite! If you're going to be an unlocal worker, you need to think globally.

– Jeff Robbins


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