While it's great to be able to live in an area like Raleigh-Durham and work for Microsoft, it does have its complications. To schedule meetings that include staff from both Raleigh and Redmond you have to keep the time difference in mind and, while Outlook has some features to facilitate this, it's not totally straightforward. So, here are some tips to help you juggle meetings across multiple time zones:
Use Outlook's Dual Time Zone Support
If most of your meetings are limited to participants in two time zones, this will go a long way towards simplifying your scheduling tasks. From Outlook's main menu select Tools, Options. Then click Calendar Options, then Time Zone. Here you can set a second time zone and switch back and forth between the two.
Use the Day or Work Week Calendar view to see the two time zones in the left margin. The corresponding context menu (right click on the time) gives you quick access to the Time Zone dialog where you can swap time zones.
Note that swapping time zones in Outlook changes the time zone in Windows as well.
Bracket your Work Day with placeholder Appointments
Create two recurring appointments for weekdays. The first should begin at midnight and end whenver you normally start work in the morning. The second should begin when you leave work at the end of the day and end at midnight. You can set the "Show time as" property to "Out of office". This will make your office hours much more obvious to those trying to schedule appointments with you.
Use Microsoft Time Zone
From the Microsoft Download Center:
Microsoft Time Zone installs as a small tray icon that allows you to specify as many as five cities to watch the time on while you are working on your computer. In order to schedule meetings and trip the Microsoft Time Zone application also lets you compare times at different places in the world without changing your system time.
This is a handy utility to refer to before you call someone in a different time zone to make sure that it's a reasonable time to call.
Use Office Communicator
It's handy to check someone's status on Communicator before giving them a call. It will give you a quick (though not always accurate) indication as to whether they are available, in a meeting, on the phone, or away from their desk. When I want to talk with someone in Redmond (as opposed to just sending them an email) I'll wait until they are Online in Communicator then IM them to see if they have some time to talk before calling them. It's not the same as strolling by their office and catching them at their desk, but it comes pretty close when I'm 3,000 miles away.
Have any scheduling tips for teams spanning multiple time zones? Please share them by posting a comment here.