How to Manage Time-Zone Differences When Working Remotely From Abroad

Whether it’s via telemedicine, rocking remote research, or launching wellness coaching services, physicians are turning the globe into their offices. 

But here’s the catch: managing time zone differences can be like spinning plates. And you may worry about messing up time zones if you were to work remotely from abroad. 

You’re not alone! 

This is a legit challenge, AND we’ve got 4 pro tips to help you successfully manage time zone differences! 

1. Be Honest

Let your patients, research collaborators, or clients know you’re in a different timezone and let them know your availability in THEIR time zone – for meetings, appointments, or when you’re more likely to respond to emails and texts. 

For example, with the caregivers I coach based in New England, I let them know that I’m 5 hours ahead of them which means I’m most available in the mornings EST. 

For meetings across multiple time zones, I’ve used World Time Buddy to help me visualize and find times that work for all of us. 

2. Block Off High-Value Times

Block off when you DON’T want to schedule patients, clients, or meetings – like gym time, dinner time,  bedtime, or when you need to pick up/drop off the kids. 

Since I live in Portugal, 5 hours ahead of EST, I block off when I have to pick up the kids, have dinner with the family, and get ready for bedtime. This means I don’t see clients after 1pm EST. 

Emeric, my husband who does telepsychiatry from Portugal into the US also blocks off dinner time and bedtime, but twice a week, he’ll see patients from 3-5pm EST (8-10pm Portugal time)

Does this restrict the amount of time you can see patients or clients? 

Yes, AND…you’d be surprised at the number of people who like to schedule a coaching appointment or a therapy session early in the morning, before going to work or school. 

The key is to experiment and find what works for you! 

3. Sync your EMR/Computer

If you’re seeing a ton of patients or clients in a particular timezone, consider syncing the timezone in your EMR and of your computer with that of your patients. That way when you schedule patients, you can schedule them quickly in the EMR, without doing mental math. 

4. Beware Daylight Savings Time

Twice a year, the time zone differences get wonky due to daylight savings time. For example, the EU and the US do daylight savings about 1-3 weeks apart. So you’ll want to pay extra close attention during these weeks. 

I highlight these two periods of time on the calendar and I adjust my available times to account for daylight savings – that way I only schedule meetings, etc when I’m actually able to make it. 

Life in 2 Time Zones

Let’s be real—I’ve messed up time zones, especially around daylight saving

But as long as you’ve been open, and transparent, most people get it and will reschedule. 

Like many physicians who have moved abroad, I’m living life in two different time zones. but that’s part of the adventure!

So use these tips and don’t let something totally figureout-able get in the way of fulfilling your dream of living abroad! 

Now I’d love to hear from you! What’s helped you manage the time zone difference? Any tools that you’ve found helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ashwini Bapat, MD, is a palliative care doctor, a co-founder of Hippocratic Adventures and EpioneMD Coaching. She lives in Portugal with her husband and 2 kids. When she’s not blogging, you’ll find her swimming in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, frosting a cake, or watching the Korean reality show “Single’s Inferno” with her husband.

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