Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Truly International Company

Our great puzzle-solver, Steve Goodman also known as SteveGoodman18 in the business world, was asked by an unnamed company to open a few offices around the world. The goal was to spread customer support all around the globe so that there would be someone answering the phone at any point in time. Each employee should work for no more than 8 hours, 9am-5pm their local time, and it is desirable for the employee who is finishing his/her shift to have at least one hour overlap with the next employee for information sharing purposes. Steve bought a globe and started playing with a few ideas, placing little post-its at the prospective office locations.

He decided that he can't let people work from a boat in the middle of the ocean, but islands may work. He was contemplating whether it is possible at all as so much of the earth is covered by water. Do you think he came up with a solution? If yes, where are these office locations?

Top image by Alfora, distributed under CCL.

Answers accepted all day long on Friday and Saturday, on our Family Puzzle Marathon. They will be hidden until Sunday morning (EST) and everyone who contributed something reasonable will get a puzzle point. Please, explain your answer.


Tom said...

Yes he came up with a solution

I guess the question is really how FEW offices can he open and get the coverage he desires? My world map shows NO time zones without a land location. Unless the map is wrong. Open one office in each time zone.

So, requiring the overlap described...3 offices probably won't accomplish it, but 4 should easily, 6 or 7 hours apart. For instance (proceeding westward), Rio, Anchorage, Sydney, and, maybe Moscow.

Tom said...

Tom adds: WAIT, are we trying to get local employees to give customer service in the local languages? Or (must be) do you mean customer reps who speak English well enough to handle me as a customer?

If it's just English I'd stick with my first answer. If it's gotta be native speakers covering most of the world's languages (like UPS might need), that'll be a much larger number.

Bean said...

Three 8 hour shifts wouldn't give the overlap we need, so we'll need four locations. They need to be no more than seven hours apart for overlap. I'm going with 6 hour shifts, just to keep them even.

So the following four cities would allow shifts to begin six hours apart: Honolulu (GMT-10), Halifax (GMT-4), Helsinki (GMT+2), X'ian (GMT+8).

SteveGoodman18 said...

Yes, I think I can do it.

With 24 hours worth of time zones and people working 8-hour shifts, 3 cities evenly spaced around the world could ensure that someone was always answering the phone. However, to have an hour of overlap on each end of the 9 to 5 shift would require at least 4 cities.

If someone starts work in Auckland, New Zealand at 9 AM Monday morning, it's currently 3 PM on Sunday in New York. Two hours later, the New York office closes. By the time it's 3 PM in Auckland, the Bangkok office opens as it's 9 AM Monday there. Those two offices will be open for two hours until Auckland checks out. When it's 3 PM Monday in Bangkok, the Paris office is opening at 9 AM Monday. Bangkok and Paris can be open for 2 hours together until Bangkok closes. At 3 PM Paris time, the New York office opens again, as it's 9 AM there.

So, 4 cities, each 6 hours of time zones apart, working for 8 hours each gives a coverage of 32 hours in a 24 hour day, meaning that 8 of those hours are covered by 2 offices together (the last 2 hours of one shift and the first 2 of another).

-lex- said...

I am not sure why this puzzle is puzzling. Every timezone has some region that uses it:
So I start from London (GMT) and place agent in 6 hour distance then ther will always be an hour overlap even when the daylight saving perturbs the order like in the next two weeks.
London (GMT) Novosibirsk (GMT+6) Baker Islands (GMT+12) El Salvador (GMT-6) is one possible solution.

Dalek Luna said...


anne-marie said...

The timing of each person overlaps the timing of the preceding person and following one of one hour so the employee on duty has to cover 8-2=6 hours.
Looking at a map with time zones, I choose Canada, Greenland, Somalia and Japan.

Carrie said...

Yes, it is indeed possible. The places that I would place the offices are Sydney, Port Louis, Mauritius; London, Denver.

Another option would be Manila, Madrid, São Paulo, Papeete.

Maria said...

Yes, even the largest chunk of water (Pacific ocean) spreads over less than 8 hours and has some islands on it, allowing to place offices on the islands or each side of the ocean. Just 4 offices will suffice for this task.

I personally love puzzles that force us to look at the globe and see the "bigger picture."

This puzzle was inspired by my observation of the advatnages of the time shift between employees working on the same task or different components of the same task. This is very relevant in our global economy. For example, instead of 4 people working together we may have one positioned in Asia designing the algorithms for some device, one in Europe implementing them, one on the East Coast testing this device and one on the West Coast writing user documentation of this device.

A puzzle point for: Tom, Bean, SteveGoodman18, -lex-, anne-marie, Carrie.

Sophia - please provide some explanation for your answer.

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