Are you planning to join an international dispersed team? Or maybe going to live on a different continent for some time? See how to handle the time difference and other consequences of working in a different time zone than the rest of your team.
🎧 Listen to the No Office podcast on remote work and managing a dispersed team
⭐️ Key things you will learn from this episode:
- What it’s like to live in a different time zone than the rest of your team?
- How is life in Taiwan?
- How the heck can you work at the same desk with your spouse or partner and stay productive?
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🙋♀️ Meet the Hosts
🔗 Show notes
- Michael Sliwinski’s 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity in Chinese
- Emilia’s and her husband YouTube channel
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📝 Episode transcript
Welcome to No Office, a podcast about work, technology and life from a remote company perspective. In Nozbe, we believe that work is not a place to go. It is a thing that you do. That is why since 2007 we run our company 100% remotely in Nozbe. There is no Office. The no Office podcast is consorted by Nozbe Teams, a todo app that helps modern teams do great things. Go to nozbe.com to learn more.
Hello, and welcome to episode number 29 of no Office, a podcast about work, technology and life from a remote company perspective. I’m Rafal Sobolewski, and today Michael is on vacation. So I have a great pleasure to have on the show in this episode our wonderful customer success, agent Emilia. How are you?
Hi. Thanks for inviting me today to join you. Yeah, I’m good. Thank you.
Yeah, I’m really good. Yes, that’s very risky episode, because I think we both are on mobile data internet right now.
But hopefully it will work fine. In case of trouble, we will turn off video to have only audio.
But let’s hope everything works. Okay. We have Magda at the back stage. She can also join maybe if there are some problems, we will see.
So I invited you to this episode to talk about working from two different countries because I think you are very connected also to this country, Taiwan in Asia. Can you tell us more about that?
So actually, the first time I flew to Taiwan was in 2013. I was still a student at that time. So at that time, my main goal was just to improve my Mandarine language. But it happened that I met my husband there. So he’s Taiwanese. So Taiwan just became a part of my life from that time on. But after a year, I came back to Poland, and it happened that at that time I was thinking about looking for a full time job, and I found Nozbe so for sure at that time for me, it was kind of appealing that Nozbe has no office, because it was surprising, of course, back then because I’ve never heard about any company without office. But I thought that that’s a positive surprise, actually, because in this case, I could go back to Taiwan almost any time I want. And I’m still here in Nozbe, and it’s been six years already.
Yeah, that is true. I remember you worked from Taiwan like many months in the year because of that, you missed some nozbe reunions.
It was hard to travel.
Yes, because I had been living in Taiwan for six years and coming back to Poland every two or three months. But because Taiwan is very far away from Poland, and plane tickets are not that cheap. So it was not possible for me to just come back anytime I want. But then in 2019, we moved back to Poland because my husband also started working from home, not because of the pandemic. It was before the pandemic, because it was in December. Then it started in February next year. So, yeah, before the pandemic, he started working from home. And now we mostly stay in Poland and go back to Taiwan for two or three months every year just to meet with our family. We are going back to Taiwan in January again for three months.
Yeah. The weather probably is much nicer there.
Actually, that’s hard to say, because in Poland, when it’s winter, you feel warm inside because you have these pipes with hot water. So it’s not a problem if outside is cold, it’s still warm inside. But in Taiwan, it’s cold everywhere.
In January, it will be cold inside and outside.
or I guess it will be around ten to 15 degrees.
Yeah. Outside is much warmer, but yeah, because of that inside.
But I still prefer this weather than summer because during the summer in Taiwan, it’s really hot and inside it’s really cold because of the aircon.
Yes, that is true. And we usually don’t have air conditioning solar sometimes. I wish I had we had. Okay. So speaking of those quality of life differences - are there any more, what are the aspects of living in Taiwan that you like better than the ones we have in Europe from perspective of working remotely, of course.
Yeah, sure. From working remotely, because in Poland, I live in a countryside. So for me, it’s also like a really different environment. I mean, if I lived in city, maybe it would be different. But I live in countryside. So this shock is much bigger from the city, like Taipei, where we live. And it’s really crowded, busy and noisy to the countryside here in Poland, it’s really big difference. But for sure, Taiwan is much more convenient than Poland. I think one of them (like you mentioned, working from home) I think the biggest difference is that in Poland, I must Cook at home. And in Taiwan, they are used to just eating every meal out. So it doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can eat out and it won’t be too expensive. So that’s very convenient. I don’t need to spend time cooking or just go out with my husband, have something delicious to eat and then go back to work.
Maybe the reason is that Taipei is so crowded that apartments are very small and there is no place for proper kitchen. Yeah.
I can’t say about all flats in Taiwan, but in really many flats that I’ve been in, there are no real kitchens (like the kitchens that we think of when we are in Poland,) usually they don’t have a Cooker. And yeah, it’s very limited because you can go out and eat something not too expensive, right. It’s really cheap to get outside, and then you don’t have to spend time cooking and cleaning. So yeah, I guess that’s the reason.
Yeah. And what about, for example, air pollution, because we have a big problem here in Poland in winter, especially. But I imagine that Taipei as it is crowded city, that probably traffic is huge. It also adds some pollution to the air.
Yeah, for sure, air pollution is an issue, actually, in our apartment, we have this air cleaner. But I would say that even bigger issue is noise pollution, at least for me. In Taipei, for me, it’s even bigger issue than air pollution.
Yeah. I just noticed for myself, like in recent couple of years, that noise is something that annoys me more and more.
Yeah. I don’t know. I’m a high sensitive person. So for me, this noise is really something that I cannot stand. And there is one funny thing, because in Taipei, where we live, there are garbage trucks that play melodies. Lovely, because here you track they does not just come to pick your garbage, you must take your own garbage and go outside to throw it to this truck. So when you hear the melody, it means that it’s coming. It’s approaching. So sometimes when we have meeting and the garbage truck is approaching and must turn off the microphone… So that’s one is disturbing, but, well, it’s just coming once or twice every day, so that’s not that bad.
What are the differences between your home office set up here in Poland and in Taiwan?
Okay. So as I mentioned, in Poland, I live in let’s call it countryside. So it’s not like typical countryside, but still there is a forest nearby, and it’s really calm and green there. Also we have a quite big room, actually, we can work in one room and sleep in another. So that’s the biggest difference. Probably the room where we work is really big. So that’s also good to have a space, right? We have one desk, one desk because we work together in the same room and just put two computers on it in different directions. So we don’t see it right now.
So we usually work like this. But because we live in a city and, of course, flats, there are generally smaller. So we just have one room where we sleep and when we work, it’s cozy, but it’s for sure smaller than the one we have in Poland. That’s the biggest difference. But we also like Poland time, and when we work in the same room. Yeah.
So that’s an interesting topic. Working together with your spouse for the whole day.
I was thinking about it before our podcast, and we just started working in one room in 2019, and it’s been already over 700 days, like day to day working together. Yeah.
Because your husband is in charge of your YouTube channel and Facebook fan page, which is very successful, actually. So yeah, you are also involved in this project.
Actually, he used to work in a normal company, in the office before and then when we started developing our own social media, he quit his job and in 2019 started working from home, but not for a company, just for himself.
I also do some stuff there, but it’s mostly him say, like we not only work in the same room but also after my work we also work together on some other projects, but it’s still going okay. Yeah. I know that some people they get along well in life, right. But not in office, and that’s absolutely all right. There is no issue with that, but quite many people ask me, how is it possible that we can work together in one room and also work together on some projects?
That’s a huge combo. I would say. What is your secret? How you don’t get tired of each other?
Well, for us, it has never been an issue. We’ve been working in one room for around two years now, and I can’t really complain, even if we could work in a separate room, like in Poland, we don’t find it necessary. I don’t know. But maybe it’s because we both are like people who like to be focused, who like silence. So maybe that’s it… You know, when there are two people who like to be focused in one room, it makes the atmosphere more focused, if you know what I mean.
Like a synergy.
I even noticed that if I work alone in one room before, when we were in Quarantine, I had to work alone in one room, and I was less focused than when I work with him in one room. That’s interesting. But it is hardest.
I can imagine that it works for you because we don’t have many meetings, and when you are in the meeting, it can be disturbing for other person.
Yeah, maybe that’s right. But as you mentioned, how many meetings do we have? For me these are two meetings every week. So it’s not an issue.
Of course, during this meeting, your husband is still working in front of you or he takes a break.
Good question. Usually my meeting on Tuesday is in the morning, so I think he’s still working on his stuff. But on Mondays we have meeting in the afternoon. So usually he’s busy with other stuff and go running, jogging or something.
Good for him.
Yeah, sure. But of course, sometimes I want to show something or ask about his opinion. But when we are busy, usually we say, Please give me 30 minutes or wait a moment. Not now. And it’s also we must accept it, right? Yeah. That somebody is busy with other things. Other way, it won’t make any sense. Just we need to be respectful about the interruptions. But maybe that would be most disturbing for me if talking too much. It’s like you have this flow at the time when you feel focused, like the deep work time.
We call it deep work time. And then somebody is talking. It is pretty disturbing.
Maybe your husband is more accustomed to this because he lived the whole life in Taiwan, which you mentioned there are many loud sounds.
Yeah, I don’t know… that’s maybe the reason why we can work every day in the same room.
Do you use headphones with active noise cancellation?
No, I don’t have it. I never thought about it. Actually. We also have the same daily routine. I heard that some people, when the pandemic happened, many people were forced to work from home. So I heard that some people were like they had this daily routine and it was different than their husband’s or wife’s routine. And that was kind of issue. But we also have the same routine, like exactly the same. We both wake up early and start working at almost the same time and even have lunch at the same time.
Yeah. I think routine is crucial for working from home when you need to be organized by yourself to have this routine. And I notice if my routine is broken, I’m not as productive as usual. Okay. So what I wanted to mention about your set up… I will display the photo one more time and put it as artwork in a chapter for audio version.
What I like about it is even though you don’t use external monitor, you just use your laptop.
Actually, the laptop is my husband’s. I use the monitor behind.
Okay, but still you elevate it to the eye level…
Yes, with books!
as we can see on the picture. You have those Ergonomic chair to have these cushions for the lower back, even on the Nozbe Reunion, I remember you put your laptop on something. On some books…
Because I used to put it on just like most of the people - just on the table. But then I had some neck issues and it was because of when you work long time with your head down. It may really cause some neck issues. So when I started putting it higher, all neck issues disappears.
Yeah. Actually, now I’m visiting my family place and I have only iPad as my main computer. Right now. I have a similar set up, and I decided to bring with me those holders for iPad to elevate it to the eye level. And after working it’s like second day with the setup, I must say it’s much superior than working with magic keyboard and looking down.
Like, for me, it was a big change. Yeah.
So that’s really important, especially for working from home to have this Ergonomic set up, even if you don’t have all the specific tools, you can use books or boxes to elevate your screen.
That’s not a problem, right.
Okay. You mentioned about the routine, and I think we will talk about it more after the break. But now let’s take a short break. All of his podcast is sponsored by Nozbe Teams, a to-do app that helps small teams do great things.
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Yes, and that was our sponsor. And if you sign up directly from our no Office.FM website, there is a sign up button on the website for Nozbe Teams. Once you will be ready to upgrade to Nozbe Premium for a year account, you will get the three months for free. So if you want to try nozbe teams, make sure to sign up directly from no Office.fm website. Let’s go back to our topics. So you mentioned that your daily routine starts at 06:00 a.m. And you end work around 03:00 p.m..
But that’s important. Yeah, that’s important.
How did this routine change in Taiwan?
Okay, so let’s start with the fact that I’m not the only one who’s working, not in Poland who is working in another country. Right.
Maybe. I think I’m the only one based outside of Europe. I mean, both Europe.
Of our time zone.
So my time difference is just a bit bigger.
How many hours exactly.
Now? In winter it’s 7 hours. So that’s a lot. And then, in summer time, we have 6 hours difference because in Taiwan there’s no this daylight saving.
But in Poland we have it. So it’s either six or 7 hours. So as you mentioned, for me, I work best in the morning. So I like to start my work at 06:00 A.m. In Poland and then I have maybe an hour break during the day and I can finish my work around 03:00 p.m.. Then I usually go for a walk and just have free time for my other things.
But when I’m in Taiwan and I’m going back there in January again, so it will be 7 hours difference, I need to adjust my routine. I can’t just finish my work at 03:00 p.m. Because it’s 08:00 A.m. in Poland. So many of my colleagues are just starting the day or sleeping. So it’s just not possible to do it like this because then six or 07:00 A.m. In Taiwan it will be like twelve midnight here. So just not really possible. We not only have some meetings, but also I often need to ask for something and so on and so on.
So I still start my work early in Taiwan, maybe 07:00 a.m. A bit later, and then I have a longer break in the afternoon, so I can be back for one or 2 hours in late afternoon or evening. And then I finish my work around maybe 01:00 p.m. Or twelve Polish time, which is around 7 or 08:00 p.m. in Taiwan. So of course, if we don’t have any meetings later that day because sometimes I had to turn on my computer at 09:00 p.m. In Taiwan. But on the other hand, I don’t want to influence my schedule to influence others because it’s only me working from Taiwan and then I don’t want other people in our company to change the meetings time and so on. So I always think, okay, that’s just one meeting per week, so that’s okay. I can be there at 09:00 p.m.. Yeah.
That’S another advantage of our website. We communicate mostly in tasks in those teams, including we have only few meetings. 09:00 p.m.. It’s like, okay, it’s not perfect, but it’s acceptable for a short period of time.
Just as I mentioned when I start my day in Taipei, my colleagues are sleeping. Probably. I guess so. If I have an urgent or not that urgent question, I must wait for them to wake up. But as you said, of course, we work mainly asynchronously, so we still can communicate in tasks. And Michael mentioned it one time. That actually is a pretty good thing because he said he delegates me a task in the evening and then because I have the time to finish it when he sleeps, so when he wakes up, the task is over there.
Yeah, we can expect many tasks from you in January in our Incoming when we wake up in the morning.
That’s an advantage.
I would say working in different time zones can be a catalyst for asynchronous communication because it makes it even better. And feedback loops can be faster if it’s well done. Also, I imagine that you can respond to our customers emails that come from senior time zone.
One of the reasons why I still work in the evening. I mean, when I’m in Taiwan, so I don’t finish my work at 08:00 a.m. Polish time. It’s also because of our customers. I don’t want people, especially from Europe to wait too long for the answer. So I even had an email like this from our Polish customer, and he was like, do you ever sleep? I see work all the time. Even if I’m not in Taiwan, we still have people working like this. I mean, there are some people working till late night just because it’s their choice. It’s not like not just telling him he must work till midnight, but it’s just their choice. And then we have people waking up really early so even if I’m not in Taiwan, we are still there.
Yeah. That’s really cool. And how is working sleeping. So I imagine you can have really get some stuff done that requires focused work because we don’t bombard you with new tasks in the Incoming.
That’s right. And I don’t feel this pressure because here in Poland, if I get a task, for example, in the morning, then I think like, it’s something I must finish today. And then I have like, what time is now. But in Taiwan, I could just wake up. Nobody is going to delegate task for me or during my deep focus time. So I don’t feel this pressure that I must finish it now. I just have time to finish it without any disturbing things.
So exactly as you said.
Yeah. I can relate to this because I think last year I adopted this method, like this weekly schedule called week and Wednesday. That means that unusual week. I don’t work on Wednesday. And instead of that, I work on Saturday. And because of that, I do my weekly review on Saturday. I have my Mike Friday on Saturday, and it’s so much easier to do it properly and to take more value from it when there is no other colleagues in our no office environment.
That’s funny, right? We don’t have any office, but still it’s different when there is nobody there.
Yeah. It’s always hard to resist to don’t checkup on Nozbe Teams: what’s new in the Incoming, in the Activity view, what new comments are there. And sometimes you really need to have this deep, focused work to really resolve the problem. To find a solution. We want to design this feature to figure out what customers need, etc. All right. So let’s move on. How was your Nozbe reunion for you? As we mentioned, you’ve worked in Nozbe for six years. And I think you have only been to 3 reunions. In Wroclaw, Stare Jablonki and Jastarnia.
That’s actually not really funny, but we went back to Poland in 2019, and then the pandemic happened and we missed, like, four or three or two reunions. I don’t know. But anyway, I missed reunion just when I come back to Poland, and I found that I can now be on every reunion. But before because my husband also, he was not working from home, so he had to stay in Taipei, especially because in Poland we have over 20 days free every year. But in Taiwan they don’t have that many.
So usually they have, like, ten days. And that’s already a lot. So we just couldn’t go back like this. Our schedule was not that flexible. So sometimes I couldn’t go back to bond for our Nazi reunion, as you know, like, Taiwan is quite far away. So we have some people knows that they’re working away from Germany or Spain, but it is not that far away as Taiwan is. So yeah, I couldn’t go back to Poland every year. But now, as we are more flexible, I tried my best to adjust my plans, my plans, so I can be on mostly reunion.
As I mentioned, we are going back to Taiwan in January, but I asked about the reunion date before booking my flight, so I can be sure.
Yes, we already planned for the end of March. Yeah.
But I’m glad that we finally have more like I can be on more Nozbe reunions because still, we don’t have office, but it’s important to meet each other, right? At least. Yeah.
At the last retreat, one month ago, we could feel that we really missed each other. Any additional observations? How changing places from Poland to Taiwan, from Taiwan to Poland influences your work?
How it influences my work? I’d say maybe for me, it’s not a big issue because Taiwan is not a foreign place for me anymore. I mean, it’s like second home, right? So when I fly back, I don’t feel like on holiday, I don’t feel like it’s traveling to a foreign country. People have this idea that when you have no office, you can work and travel and they have.
Yeah, workation. I used to do it sometimes. Now I kind of do, because here, we have some things to do in the garden for my family. So i try to do it during the day, because now in November, the day is very short, especially on daylight saving time after the change of time. So I really like work for 2 - 3 hours in the morning and then I take a break and finish the back after the sunset.
So for you, it’s not that hard to do it, right. Because I feel that some people, for some people, it is a challenge because they may feel less focused or because there’s a new place and everything is so exciting feel they maybe more like on holiday and work falls to second place. But for you, it’s not an issue, right?
Yeah. Again. Here I’m in my family’s house. So it’s kind of a second home for me. But still, when I used to before the pandemic, when I used to do some workation, for example, we went to Cyprus for two weeks in winter, and it’s always nice to have done, like little break, like 4 hours, four or even 5 hours break during the day to visit new places, explore new places. And actually it can be very beneficial because each day is different as you explore new place, so it doesn’t feel like time is passing through your fingers. It actually can stimulate your creativity. But still, it is challenging because you have to be organized and work those routines out and make sure that you communicate well with your team. And again, asynchronous communication in Nozbe Teams. It’s perfect for this.
For sure! But I just think that we have one person in our team that is now traveling and working at the same time already for a few weeks. And it’s still okay, as you mentioned with Nozbe Teams it is easy.
Yeah. We didn’t notice a difference. I’m traveling for like, a couple of months now.
You know, you open the task and you see feedback. See, the tasks are done. I mean, that’s all what matters, right?
Yes. Exactly. That is true. The work is done.
We always have this saying here at Nozbe, that work is just the thing that you do. So it’s exactly like this. Oh and one more thing. When I started working, it was my first full time job. So I can say I’ve never worked in office ever. But for my husband, it was different because he started working from home only in 2019. So I even asked him yesterday, how does he feel about this change? As somebody who experienced this transition from office to no office and from the office, like in Taiwan, it’s also different than office in Poland. I mean, they work from 09:00 a.m. Till 06:00 p.m., which is 9 hours, but with 1 hour break for lunch. But he was leaving home at 07:30 a.m. And coming back home at 07:00 p.m.. So for him, it was like whole day outside. So he thinks that for sure, the biggest advantage of working from home was that he could adjust his schedule, which means that when he feels like he’s not focused enough, he can take a short break without anyone watching and thinking like, oh, he’s lazy. Why he’s not working, right? And he can also work in the evening. So for him, for sure, it’s now more productive than it was when he was working in the office. Yeah. Exactly.
I think if you are well organized and have this good routine and you know yourself, when is the time that you are best focused, then you can really do in four or 5 hours, much more than you used to do during eight or 9 hours in the office.
That’s for sure. You just know when you are focused and don’t have to force yourself to work when you feel that you’re somewhere else not here and focus on work.
All right. So I think we can wrap up this episode. So Emilia tell me what day is tomorrow.
What day is tomorrow?
Tomorrow is Mighty Friday.
Friday. So make it might Friday, as Emilia said, because on Mighty Fridays, we do our weekly review. We plan priorities for the next week so we can start the next week already focused on our priorities and not looking for something to do. And we use the rest of the time on Friday to learn something new. But we probably use in the following weeks in work to deliver better results. So I encourage strongly to all to do the same, to sell this idea to your boss. So Friday is for weekly review , planning your priorities for next week and learning something new.
And in Nozbe Teams, it is so easy to make a weekly review.
You go to your Activity, make sure there is nothing there, Incoming, then set your priorities and everything is clear. Yeah.
So on Monday, you open your Priority view in Nozbe Teams and you just start with those tasks.
All right. So.
That was no office podcast and we had a great pleasure to hear from Emilia. So Emilia say goodbye to our listeners in Chinese.
This episode has not been created in the office because in Nozbe there is no office. Your hosts were Emilia Borza-Yeh and Rafal Sobolewski. All the links and show notes you can find on NoOffice.FM/29. Sign up for a free account in Nozbe Teams and invite your team members to support us. Audio Version and visual Identification and video version produced by Marco Couto. Proofreading and Marketing Magda Blaszczyk. The whole production process of this episode has been coordinated in a project in Nozbe Teams app. Work is not a place to go. It is a thing that you do. Thank you and see you in two weeks. Remember to have a mighty Friday.