Return to About technical editing

Time zones can be your friend

by Jean Hollis Weber

This article appeared in The Candidate, October 1998. A web magazine.

“The Hiring Crunch – What’s a Manager to Do?” was the title of an article in the January issue of The Client. It included the suggestion that you “allow yourself to consider candidates outside your usual profile.” In addition to the examples given, I offer this one: consider teleworkers.

Excellent candidates may live in your area but don’t want to – or can’t, for a variety of personal reasons – commute from their homes to your office every day. Candidates may live in another part of the country but don’t want to – or can’t – relocate. The best candidates may even live in another part of the world.

Why reject these people out of hand? Have you given serious thought to the advantages to your company of teleworking arrangements?

Teleworkers (also called telecommuters) include people who work at their homes, in another office of your company, or at a customer’s site.

You’re probably familiar with the advantages of staff working at home, including fewer interruptions by co-workers, fewer days off because of car trouble or family obligations, less stress from commuting, and so on – all contributing to higher productivity. You may be less familiar with the advantages of staff living quite far away.

Have you ever been faced with a tight deadline and wished your staff could work through the night to finish a project? Or have you found that editing, technical reviews and other quality control tasks routinely add days to the design and delivery cycle, simply because of the limited number of hours in the working day? Consider a way to extend that working day – by having some

of your staff in a different time zone, perhaps half way around the world.

I recently edited a book written by an author in New York. (I live in Australia.) At 5 P.M. in New York, it was 7 A.M. (the next day) in Sydney. The author would finish drafting a chapter of the book and email it to me at the end of his working day. I would log in around 8 A.M. and find the file waiting for me. I’d edit it during the day and email it back before 8 P.M. my time (6 A.M. his time, that same day). He’d log in at 8 A.M. and find the edited file waiting for him. The work had been done while he slept – a wonderfully efficient arrangement! (I’m now editing another book for him.)

I’ve corresponded with an American who lives in Malaysia and provides technical writing services to companies based in the USA – again taking advantage of time zones. His clients email him the software, he writes the manuals or online Help and emails it back to the company. I often do the same. Reviews and corrections can be done while the other party is asleep, thus speeding up the cycle. We both communicate with our clients mainly by email, but occasionally schedule telephone calls at odd hours.

Does your company market its products worldwide (or aspire to)? If so, localization can often be done most effectively by hiring a writer, editor, designer, trainer, or other person who lives in the target country.

Perhaps your company provides consulting services. Your clients may be in another city, the projects may be short (less than a year, perhaps only a few weeks or months), and speed of delivery may be an important factor in winning the contract. Quickly assembling a team to do the work in one location can often be a problem, so consider using people scattered all over the globe – with one or two on site with the client.

A bit of creative thinking might solve your hiring problems and, as a bonus, contribute to greater efficiency and higher quality results – surely a win-win situation for all concerned.

Last updated 23 November 1998