In my last article here, I explained why freelancing internationally, from Israel, makes a lot of sense.
On one leg:
The international market is a lot bigger; it’s interesting to work with international cultures; sometimes (field-dependent) project rates are more buoyant; and really, it simply isn’t all that hard.
Besides the issue of getting paid (two words: Paypal and Transferwise) the other issue that stops people from thinking outside the merkaz is time zones.
In this article, I want to give a quick run-through of which international time zones are ‘Israel-friendly,’ which are less so, and which are almost downright impossible to work with.
What Is Israel Time?
Given that Israel is a tiny country it unsurprisingly has only one time zone: Israel Standard Time).
This is two hours ahead of UTC (coordinated universal time). Israel Standard Time (IST) changes to Israel Daylight Time (IDT) on the Friday before the last Sunday of March. The time zone revers to IST on the last Sunday of October.
The differences with Europe’s daylight savings time, and those of the rest of the world, are slightly jagged. Ireland, for instance, turned over to daylight savings time on the 29th of March this year — two days after Israel. It returns to winter time on the same date, however.
These minor differences aside, the offset for Europe is therefore:
- 1 hour ahead of the European continent / Central European Time (CET)
- 2 hours ahead of Western European Time (WET)
- On the same time zone as Eastern European Time (EET)
Time Zone Overlays
And the source data:
The Hard Ones: Time Zones Without Overlapping Business Hours
Thinking about working with a client in Auckland, New Zealand?
New Zealand is currently on New Zealand Daylight Time (NZDT) which is UTC+13.
This means that:
- 09:00 in Aukland is 22:00 in Tel Aviv.
- 17:-00 in Aukland is 06:00 in Tel Aviv.
Thus, office hours do not intersect at all.
And if you want to work with a client based in New Zealand that needs same day responses, you’re going to have to start working night shifts and stocking up on midnight snacks.
Likewise, the difference with Australia is extremely difficult to work with.
Australia has three major time zones:
- Western: UTC+8 (same as China)
- Central: UTC +9.5
- Eastern: UTC +10 (southern hemisphere winter), UTC+11 (southern hemisphere summer).
It’s usually easier to remember this by notable cities. So:
Melbourne is currently on UTC+11 (they’re on summer-time!). Which means:
- 09:00 in Melbourne is 00:00 in Tel Aviv.
- 17:00 in Melbourne is 08:00 in Tel Aviv.
So if you’re at your desk early you can catch somebody at the end of their workday just before you get into yours.
Difficult But Doable: Pacific Time / The West Coast of the US
A much more common time zone for Israeli businesses to have to plan around is that on the West Coast of the USA —correctly termed Pacific Standard Time (PST) in the winter and Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) during daylight saving’s.
Lots of Israeli companies are based in Silicon Valley — and many have teams both in San Francisco and Tel Aviv.
While not quite as bad as the almost impossible New Zealand differential, working with PST/PTD from Israel can still be rather unkind on one’s circadian rhythm — and social diary.
Unlike New Zealand, California is also in the Northern hemisphere — and therefore is also on winter time.
Pacific Standard Time is currently UTC-8, while Israel is UTC+2, so the difference is 10 hours.
Therefore, at the moment:
- 09:00 in San Francisco is 19:00 in Tel Aviv
- 17:00 in San Francisco is 03:00 in Tel Aviv
Even if you want to hold calls up to midnight Israeli time, that will only take you to 14:00 in California.
As any Israel-based support rep dealing with clients on the West Coast will tell you: it’s a tricky one.
How To Work With PST And Retain Your Sanity
A few weeks ago, I was holding near nightly calls with the West Coast, near morning-ly calls with Israeli ones, and feeling like I was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown as a result.
- If you don’t have a specific reason to target the West Coast, you might find Europe / the East Coast more manageable.
- Limit your calls with the West Coast to two evening per week at most. Sivan suggested Tuesdays and Wednesdays as people aren’t fond of conducting business development calls on Mondays and I’m fond of not spending the equivalent of my Friday night working (Israel runs on a Sunday-Thursday workweek).
- If you’re on call with the West Coast, cut your usual workday a little short, take a rest (or go to the gym) and then begin your calls.
- Don’t let clients to push back your meetings to times that aren’t manageable for you. Set yourself a firm limit (stopping at 22:00 to 22:30 IST) and stick to it.
Working with Other US Time Zones (and Canada)
Obviously, the further East you travel from the West Coast of North America the smaller the time differential with Israel becomes.
Discounting Alaska and Hawaii, the other major time zones you’re likely to come across are Mountain Time (UTC-7), Central Time (UTC-6), and Eastern Time (UTC-5).
The UTC offsets, again, are applicable only at the time of writing. Daylight saving time in Israel, the US and the rest of the world is not coordinated. So for a few weeks of the year, the difference will be reduced by one hour.
But currently and for most of the year:
- 09:00 in New York is 16:00 in Tel Aviv.
- And 17:00 is midnight (00:00).
As Israeli offices tend to work to a 09:00 to 18:00 working day, this means that there are a couple of hours overlap with the East Coast which can be worked without having to get on late night calls.
Canada has six time zones.
You’re probably unlikely to be working with a client in Gander (Newfoundland Standard Time, UTC -3.5).
Halifax, and Novia Scotia, is on UTC-4.
Working With Europe and the Near East
By comparison to the US, working with Europe is relatively straightforward for Israeli companies.
Ireland, the UK, and Portugal are the three countries on UTC — so the time difference is two hours. (Time zones can get a little confusing. If you want to know the difference between UTC and GMT read this; but, in a nutshell, when GMT-keeping countries move to daylight savings time they are on UTC+1).
Central Europe is on Central European Time (CET) — which is UTC+1 during the winter, creating a one hour time difference with Israel.
Eastern European Time (EET) (the area in purple above) has no time difference — and that’s the time zone that Bulgaria, Greece, Estonia, Finland, and most of the Middle East is on.
This is convenient for Israeli companies because there’s been a huge trend in recent years to outsource software development to some of these countries, particularly Bulgaria and the Ukraine.
Parts of Africa, most notably South Africa, are also on this time.
Note that, incongruously, Turkey is hour ahead of Israel (UTC+3) despite the fact that some of its territory is further West. And finally, there are a few Near Asian territories on UTC+4 (Azerbaijan).
Working With Asia / The Far East
Of course these days Israeli businesses are looking Eastward almost as much as they are looking to the West — seeking to do business with established Asian superpowers as well, more quietly, with countries such as the Gulf States that are discretely shoring up bilateral trade ties.
To give a quick run-through:
- Russia has a mind-boggling 11 time zones. But most significantly its capital, Moscow, is one hour ahead of Israel.
- Dubai (United Arab Emirates / UAE) is 2 hours ahead of Israel.
- India, despite being a subcontinent, only has one time zone: India Standard Time (IST — we share an acronym!). It’s at UTC+5.5, which means that they’re three and a half hours ahead of Israel.
- China likewise is on a single time zone: UTC+8. This places them six hours ahead of Israel. Hong Kong SAR is on the same time — as is Singapore.
- Japan is on UTC+9.
Let’s break down China, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore — because of their significance and the fact that they’re all on UTC+8.
- 09:00 in Beijing is 03:00 in Tel Aviv
- 17:00 in Beijing is 11:00 in Tel Aviv
This means, of course, that Israeli businesses can begin their day early to overlap by a few hours with the Far East.