Working European hours in Asia

Working as part of the product team at Deel means collaborating online with colleagues in Europe, regardless of your location. If you’re up to 8 hours ahead in East Asia, this means fundamentally rethinking your work day.

Is this not the same as booking for a holiday?!

As a morning person, the prospect of working until midnight didn’t fill me with excitement. Yet after 4 months working across 5 countries it opened my eyes to an entirely different way to structure your weekdays, with some substantial benefits.


I work for Deel as a Lead Product Designer. In my role I have a mix of managerial duties, strategic projects and occasionally some IC contributions. I collaborate across multiple teams, which gives me more flexibility in structuring my day and fewer routine meetings. For any time zone comparisons referenced, I will use Bangkok's time during the winter months (ICT) against Central European Time (CET). Under normal circumstances, I am a devout morning person. In my usual routine, I would get up at 6AM and be in bed by 10PM.


There were fluctuations to this schedule depending on which country and city I was in, but after trialling a few variations this was how an average day was structured.

8:45 AM  - 🛌 Wake up

(Time in Europe 02:45 AM)

No matter what time I went to bed the previous night, I'd always try to be out of bed by 9:00 AM. Even though I wasn't starting work for several hours, beginning the day at that time allowed me to do whatever I wanted that morning in a non-rushed and relaxed manner.

9:30 AM - 🚶🏼Make the most of your free time

(Time in Europe 03:30 AM)

This period is your newfound freedom. You have around three hours of being mentally refreshed and entirely isolated from work, which can be impossible to find during a normal workweek.

There is no shortage of options for how you may choose to spend this time. Think of it as an extra 5 Saturday mornings per week at your disposal.  

In Bangkok, I would explore the city under the morning sun before it got too hot. In Ho Chi Minh and Kuala Lumpur, I would head out for a coffee and find a place to read. In South Korea and Japan, the late Spring temperatures were ideal for hikes and runs.

Most modern apartment complexes in Asia have on-site access to a gym and a swimming pool, which are likely to be quiet the morning. Whatever you choose to do, it should leave you refreshed, motivated, and eager to start work later in the day.

12:30 PM - 🚿 Get ready for work

(Time in Europe 06:30 AM)

After a leisurely brunch, I would head home, shower, gather my work items and head to a coworking space.

Wherever I am working from, I always prefer heading to work from a dedicated space to have some distinct separation from work and personal time. I would suggest that this compartmentalisation of your day is even more important if you are following a later work schedule.

1:30 PM - 💻 Work day starts

(Time in Europe 07:30 AM)

At this point, I would be refreshed and energised, ready to start work in a much better state than if I were rushing to begin at 9:00 AM.

For the next two to three hours, you have an uninterrupted window to focus on whatever you need to get done before Slack inevitably lights up with activity for the rest of the day.

This is a powerful period of the day, which is practically impossible to replicate under conventional hours.  

This is when I would aim to tackle all of my proactive and creative tasks that require the most attention to detail and concentrated thinking.

8:00 PM - 🏠 Head home

(Time in Europe 2:00 PM)

Being at an empty coworking space until 10:30 PM can start to feel late. Additionally, commuting back close to midnight reduces your appetite for doing anything after you've finished work.

I aimed to be within a 30-minute distance from wherever I was working. At this time, I would pack up and head home to wind down for the day, grabbing dinner on the way.

8:30 PM - 📆 Meetings and reactive work

(Time in Europe 2:30 PM)

I would spend the last two hours working from home. The latter part of my day was usually filled with more reactive items: meetings, catching up with teammates and responding to messages on Slack.

Even with the most optimised schedule, it's unlikely you will produce your best detail-oriented work after 9:00 PM.

For such tasks, I would push them to the following afternoon when I know I'll have a clear mind and can complete them before anyone else in Europe wakes up.

10:30 PM - 🍛 Get out of the house and enjoy your evening

(Time in Europe 4:30 PM)

One of the joys of being in East Asia is that even by midnight, most things are still open. After work, I'd clear my head by heading out to a late-night food or grab a beer.

A three hour gap between finishing work and going to sleep felt like the minimal to create sufficient distance.

The temperature at this time also drops considerably, making it a much better time for a run compared to the mornings.

There are still a couple of hours of activity left in the workday in Europe, so I would keep an eye on Slack and make notes of anything I needed to tackle the next day.

12:00 AM - 🛋️ Unwind at home

(Time in Europe 6:00 PM)

At this point, I would stop monitoring my phone. Slack messages will inevitably continue throughout the night, but it's rare that something cannot wait until the next morning.

01:00 AM - 🌙 Get to sleep

(Time in Europe 7:00 PM)

As most people in Europe begin to focus on dinner plans or what to watch on Netflix, you can nod off with some degree of reassurance that the day has come to an end.

👍 Positives

There is more to your day than just work.

I actually love going to work, but there is no escaping that when working a conventional schedule, it ends up dominating your day. Before 9:00 AM, there's only time for a short piece of physical exercise. After 6:00 PM your ability to focus and concentrate is on the wane. Add a commute into this and it can be impossible to carve out meaningful slots of time away from work. This new period of free time you have in the mornings can be an invaluable addition to your weekday, without cannibalising your capacity at work.

It creates unique periods for intense focus.

Having two or three uninterrupted hours at the start of your workday before your colleagues are online, gives you a lot of clarity and mental space. Being able to isolate yourself from the noise of activity on Slack is practically impossible once the day starts in earnest

It creates an ideal structure to explore a new city.

If you want to make the most of your time in a city like Tokyo or Seoul, then having the mornings free gives you more freedom than if you were working a 9-5. Attractions are more likely to be open at 10:00 AM than 6:00 PM and during the weekdays you can make the most of reduced crowds wherever you go.

👎 Negatives

You are somewhat out of sync with the world around you.

Not finishing work until 10:00 PM or later means you will inevitably miss out on some evening events. I would weigh up whether the additional free time in the morning compensates for this. Personally, I found that making better use of mornings was more beneficial, as even at midnight in Asian cities, theres plenty of options for food and drink.

It's got the potential to turn into a really long day.

If you have to adhere to a rigid 9-5 schedule aligned with UK working hours, it can be a really long day. I was fortunate to have the flexibility to start earlier and finish earlier, while still spending the bulk of the day online with the team. However, there were inevitably some nights when I couldn't finish when I'd like to, and working until or past midnight is never ideal.

✅ Tips

Place yourself in a working city.

Throughout this period, I always remained in large, bustling metropolises. For this structure to be a success, work should always remain your primary focus. I felt there was a risk of blurring those lines by going to more holiday-oriented destinations like Bali or the Thai islands with less of a typical working culture.

Wait until you start work to start looking at Slack.

Avoid the temptation to look at any Slack messages until the afternoon. Whatever is waiting can wait a few more hours. Enjoy being fully separated from work during the morning and tackle everything with your full attention in the early afternoon.

Find the right evening work environment.

If you're in a quiet and dark office from 6:00 PM onwards, it can make the evening really drag. Instead, find somewhere with natural lighting and some ambience late into the evening. This can greatly impact your perception of how late it actually is.

The best place I found for this was the Workflow Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, which has a fully functioning cafe and kitchen open until 9:00 PM with plenty of people to give it sufficient ambience. WeWork provides hassle-free access during conventional working hours but the A/C units are generally shut off at 6:00 PM, making them less than ideal for working late

Be intentional with how you spend your mornings.

You really want to arrive for work at 1:30 PM feeling refreshed and ready to be productive. Avoid overexerting yourself in the mornings. Activities like hiking or long-distance running in the heat can drain your energy and enthusiasm for when you'll need it. Limit your caffeine intake during this period as well, as you'll need that to fall back on.

Don’t burn the candle at each end.

Since you can quite feasibly start your work day at 4:00 PM, nothing is stopping you from staying out all night. However, you really need to be in a good continuous rhythm for this routine to not feel taxing or burdensome. A hangover will still be waiting for you the next day and is even less-welcomed when finishing work at 11:00 PM.

Commit to it for at least one month.

There's no doubt that it will take a couple of weeks to fully get into the swing of this later working schedule. If you're serious about trying it, book somewhere for a month and give it sufficient time to assess.

Have suitable accommodation to work from.

Ensure you have an adequate desk, chair, and lighting in your Airbnb so you can comfortably get work done when needed. Even with the best preparation possible it's inevitable you will need to get some work done super late or in the morning.

❓Is it worth it?

If you set yourself up correctly, then 100%. There's no reason you can't maintain your  standard work output, whilst enjoying an incredible part of the world. Commit to it for one month and you'll be surprised at how quickly you can slip into this new routine, as well as the benefits it can bring.

Destinations visited: