What the time?

When arranging a meeting with a colleague in a different time zone many people will send an Outlook meeting request.

Time for items in the Outlook Calendar is stored based on Greenwich mean time (GMT) sometime also known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). When you book something in your Outlook calendar - you book it in a fixed point in time. If you are in one time zone and you send a meeting request to an attendee in a different time zone, the meeting item is displayed at different local times on each person's calendar but at the same absolute time in UTC.

According to the advice given by Microsoft three factors affect the scheduling of a meeting in Outlook:

  • The computer's clock setting (time).
  • The computer's local time zone setting, which consists of an offset value to Greenwich mean time (GMT).
  • The computer's daylight-saving time adjustment setting.

All three factors must be correct on both the meeting requestor's computer and on each attendee's computer. Otherwise, Outlook cannot schedule the meeting time correctly.  However, if they are Outlook does it clever thing and adjust the time of 9 am meeting in California to 5 pm in London, for example.  For a full explaining of how the system works click here

What if you colleagues are coming to your office from a different time zone. If they have not adjusted their computer, then an invitation to a 3pm meeting will appear that you want to meet at 11pm!

As a matter of courtesy,  you may want to put the local time of the meeting in the text area of the invitation just to avoid confusion.  You can also suggest that the respondent use a little know but niffy feature of outlook “show a second time zone”. This feature will also make your life easier if you are required to set meetings that may fall in more than one time zone.

You can set this feature by

  1. Right-click the area of the calendar grid that displays the time of day, and then click "Change Time Zone".


  2. Make changes in the Time Zone dialogue box by clicking the box "show a second time zone".

Be aware that Outlook will always show your current time zone adjacent to your calendar and the additional time zone to the left of that. The reason it is like this according to Microsoft is that if you try to read time zones from left to right, you may end up getting confused. For a detailed explanation why click here.

Please note that if you change the top box in the Time Zone area you will be adjusting “your time”. This will change your time zone or daylight saving time setting in Outlook and in the Control Panel. This change affects all times displayed in Outlook as well as times displayed in other Microsoft Windows–based programs. Also keep in mind that if you connect to a corporate network, your system clock may be set by the clock used by that network, which may override changes you make to your own computer.

You can use the Swap Time Zones button in the Time Zones dialogue box when you go somewhere. With Swap Time Zones, you can quickly switch between the time for the place you are visiting and your home time. For example, if you travel to California, switch to that time zone to make it easier to schedule meetings and to show up to those meetings at the right time. When you return home, click the Swap Time Zones button to switch back.

If you have to schedule meetings with three or more time zones. It is worth using a tool like the timeanddate.com world clock meeting planner.

Please remember two things. One, this advice is based on Outlook 2010. Two, if all this seems a little confusing just remember as the Mad Hatter told Alice, “it’s always tea time”.


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