How Does Working in a Different Time Zone Affect Social Life?

Most people have standard working hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., which allows them to relax with family and friends in the evening or to visit cultural or sporting events. Precisely because social activities are organized according to people with standard working hours, other groups – such as those who work evening and night shifts – are gradually excluded from society unless they make a special effort to organize their social life and leisure.
In this article, we'll talk about them - the ways in which they balance their free and working time, but also the advantages and disadvantages of this atypical working time.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

timezone work

Illustration: L. T.

In Serbia, as well as around the world, working hours are often seen as a key factor shaping our lives and social dynamics. While most people in the country start and finish their work assignments in the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. framework, there is a significant group of employees whose days and nights take place according to the needs of U.S. clients and companies. They are people who have moved their working hours to atypical periods, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. or even from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. 

Live by day, work by night   

This group of workers, although often invisible in everyday life, plays a role that is essential for many American companies that use their services in areas such as information technology, customer support, or other specialized areas. 

However, these workers face unique challenges and life patterns that often exclude them from social activities that are most often directed towards those with standard working hours. Their rhythm of life requires adaptability, endurance and renunciation, which often leads them to disharmony with traditional social norms and routines. 

This is the story of workers in Serbia whose time flows in the rhythm of the American dream, and who are often invisible to a society that works in the classic 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hour frame. It is from them that important lessons can be learned about adaptability and commitment, but also on issues of balance between profession and personal life. 

Speaking for WebMind are Vanja (25) and Marko (29) who are full-time employees in two different American companies that have offices in Belgrade and Novi Sad. 

“You advance faster because people don’t stay in the company for long”   

Our interlocutor Vanja emphasizes that she started working in the current company towards the end of her studies, and that she was fine with working hours 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., which allowed her to fulfill her university obligations regularly. 

“I had the feeling that I was using the day to the fullest – during the day I would devote myself to college, and in the afternoon I would start working. The job itself is not too intellectually demanding, it involves communication with people and concentration, so it was not difficult for me to balance the two. Around 11 p.m., I’d be done, which, again, is a decent time to relax and go to sleep,” she explains. 

According to her, she did not expect to stay in the company for so long because she does not work in her profession, but over time she realized that the current setup suits her quite well, she is satisfied with her team and the opportunity for advancement. 

“I get the impression that this is a job that people are only doing short-term, until they find something that interests them more, so on average they work for a few months. I have been here for more than two years and I have advanced to higher positions because I understand all levels of work organization and know how to train new colleagues,” says Vanja, adding that, in a standard workplace, it is probably not common to progress at the same speed. 

“When you work at night, you value your free time and friends more”  

Although at first it may seem like a drastic change, changing the standard working hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. has its advantages, says our interlocutor Marko. 

“As banal as it sounds, I can sleep longer, and that’s really important to me because I’ve never been a morning person. Instead of waking up at 6-7 in the morning, I found a rhythm that suits me better. In addition, I have all day to finish all my chores, be outside before the sun goes down – this has always bothered me in my previous workplace; By the time I’m done with work, it’s getting dark,” he says. 

However, what was the biggest challenge was aligning with friends who have standard working hours, maintaining relationships and actively participating in social life. 

“Now everyone knows that during the week we can’t see each other, because I’m free during the day and they’re free at night. It bothered me at first and I constantly had FOMO – the fear that I was missing something. Then I realized that we make up for it over the weekend and that, in fact, we spend the limited time we have together better,” Marko notes. 

Unlike Vanja, who works from home, he works from the office and gets along well with his colleagues, so he emphasizes that this also “recharges his social batteries”. 

“I’ve finally mastered self-discipline and time management”   

They both agree that working in the evening and at night can be challenging, because the body and mind naturally get tired in the second half of the day, but that this is precisely why they have strengthened personal traits related to discipline and time management. 

“If you don’t make sure your day has other content besides work, no one will do that for you. And if everything you do during the day is just that – work, after a while you start to feel dissatisfied, no matter how much you love your job,” warns Marko, while Vanja adds how necessary it is to include various activities in your free time. 

“It’s very important, especially if you work from home, to get out of the apartment and spend time outside. And one more thing — everyone usually works at the computer, so if you keep on being by the screen in your free time, you won’t feel very rested and fulfilled. It sounds difficult, but it is for these reasons that I finally mastered self-discipline and time management,” concludes Vanja. 

Vanja and Marko’s experience in working with atypical working hours breaks the prejudice that this is an exclusively negative condition. On the contrary, according to their testimony, there are a number of advantages that a standard workplace could not offer them. After all, every workplace has both good and bad sides, so the most important thing is to know personal preferences and priorities, and accordingly assess to what extent the rhythm of life can be adjusted. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.