Hate Morning Meetings? Move to Ireland
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- A longstanding business variable is gaining in relevance: Which time zone are you in? This is going to be a bonus for some parts of the world, and a setback for others.
The relevant driver of change is the growth of remote work. That started with the pandemic, but the movement has taken on a life of its own. It is now possible to work for many major companies, or do your own work, from just about anywhere — provided you have a good internet connection. And as foreign travel resumes, the ability to work “from the road” will be a growing factor even for tourist destinations.
There is an obvious choice for “best” time zone — and it is on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, which are usually five hours later than U.S. East Coast time (set aside the vagaries of Daylight Savings Time).
You have to keep somewhat later hours, but you overlap with many important meetings. Obviously, for British or European meetings, you are situated just fine. For meetings on the North American East Coast, five hours is not so great a difference. A 4 o’clock afternoon meeting is 9 p.m., which isn’t so bad. In fact, I wish I could shift more of my meetings into the later hours.
West Coast meetings are trickier. But if you don’t take any past 2 p.m., they’re still manageable. Keep in mind that a lot of technology types start their day at 7 a.m. or earlier, precisely because they are trying to more closely match East Coast hours. So the nominal time difference might be eight hours, but due to work norms you get about an hour and a half of that back, leading to what is in effect a six-and-a-half-hour time difference between your Cotswolds chateau and that conference room in Seattle.
I, for one, prefer to be working in the British time zone, even though most of my commitments are on U.S. East Coast time. For one thing, I have mornings largely to myself. Emails have accumulated while I slept, but there is little pressure to answer most of them right away. Americans on the East Coast are sleeping; if they’re on the West Coast, they will soon be preparing for bed.
Call it an illusion if you wish. But sitting in Dublin with my computer, it feels like I am several hours ahead of everybody else. By the time the email and meeting onslaughts arrive, I’ve already gotten a lot done.
What about Asia? That’s difficult for almost everybody outside of Asia. In Edinburgh you might be seven hours behind your Asian counterparts, but there is still partial overlap between the two business days. Compare that to New York: If you start your day at 9 a.m., it is already 9 p.m. or maybe even 10 p.m. in Asia’s major business hubs. While you are working, they are sleeping or getting ready for bed.
As far as the Middle East and Africa are concerned, residents of the British Isles have decent synchrony with them.
One implication of all this is that the real estate along the coast of Northern Ireland, situated in the optimal time zone and with lovely scenery, is probably underpriced. In fact there is a nascent real estate boom in coastal Northern Ireland, perhaps in part reflecting these considerations.
Which are especially bad time zones? Hawaii is 6 hours behind the U.S. East Coast and a dismal 11 or 12 behind the U.K. and Europe, respectively. For global business reasons, you might want to consider doing your weekend surfing somewhere else.
India also suffers. It is 4 ½ hours later than London, a disadvantageous 9 ½ past New York and 12 ½ past the West Coast. India has plenty of global call centers, but their employees often have to work overnight. That might be OK now, as India still has plenty of people willing to work unusual hours for much better paying jobs. But as India gets richer, its time zone will become more of a pure inconvenience. Indians won’t want to give up a normal schedule simply to earn a bit more money.
As for Australia and New Zealand, they don’t coincide temporally with the world’s largest commercial centers. Their problems fall somewhere between those of Asia and those of Hawaii.
I consider all this another reason to be optimistic about the U.K. and Ireland. But if you wish to optimize further yet, at the expense of the weather, might you consider Akureyri, a lovely town of about 19,000, the “Capital of Northern Iceland” and a mere four hours later than New York time? Just perfect for that pending call to Chicago.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include "Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero."
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