UTC is the timezone of the future

Posted on January 26, 2022

An image of the earth from space.NASA

A lot has changed over the past couple of years in how we work. Remote work has become the norm and teams are becoming increasingly distributed.

There’s a lot of upside to this evolution: employees have more freedom in where they live, companies can better leverage talent from all across the globe, and there’s increased access to high-quality jobs no matter where you live.

However, there are definitely additional considerations to make as teams become more distributed. One that becomes apparent pretty quickly is how to deal with scheduling across multiple timezones. It’s important, as an organization, to think through how you communicate time in general.

Timezone headaches

As you dig into it, you quickly realize just how complicated our system of time zones actually is. It’s logical to assume that there are 24 timezones. However, some timezones have 30 and 45 minute offsets, making the total much higher. Additionally, there are irrational, seasonal shifts, like daylight savings time, to account for.

With a distributed team, simple scheduling becomes an error-prone exercise of translating times into multiple timezones. This isn’t a new problem. Various global systems and organizations have already adopted a standard approach to communicating time. It’s UTC.

Coordinated Universal Time

Coordinated Universal Time, better known as UTC, is a solution in wide use across aviation, meteorology, information systems, and the military. Software that we use daily and networking devices that power the internet run on UTC. When clear, concise communication of time is needed, UTC is the go-to solution.

UTC is the primary time standard used to regulate the worlds clocks. It is set to solar time at 0° longitude and is not adjusted for daylight saving time. Essentially, UTC exists as a global, shared language around time.

It’s like taking a step back from the problem. Instead of thinking in local terms, with each timezone having its own clock, UTC is a single system that everyone can easily coordinate around, no matter where you’re located.

Benefits of UTC

With UTC, you have a way to concisely reference specific times without showing preference to a single geographical location. While some organizations settle on using the timezone of their headquarters, UTC is truly global alternative. If you’re thinking seriously about trying to create a truly decentralized team, you need to stop thinking about time in your own, local terms.

By adopting a universal time within your teams, you’re able to remove a lot of scheduling overhead. It becomes a system that streamlines coordination. When you standardize how events are scheduled and communicated, it’s much simpler for distributed employees to translate times to their own location.

If events are always scheduled in UTC, it’s always the same quick conversion. Eventually, thinking in UTC just becomes second nature.

Switching to UTC

Switching to UTC is just a matter of setting your calendar app to use the new timezone. Most of the popular calendar apps used today, like Google Calendar, support UTC. If your calendar software doesn’t list UTC as an option, you can set it to Icelandic time. Iceland’s clock is the same as UTC year-round, with no seasonal adjustments.

If you’re ready to fully convert over to UTC, you can change the timezone used by your operating system. This will change the timezone across all the apps you use.

Standardizing your organizations time tracking is a forward-thinking way to minimize scheduling overhead across remote teams. As work becomes increasingly distributed, it’s important to think about time the right way, allowing you to capitalize on the benefits of this new evolution in how people work.

If the future is remote, UTC is the timezone of the future.

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