Monochronic vs. Polychronic Time: Cultural Differences in Time Management

Polychronic time refers to a method of managing time, where many events occur at once. This multitasking approach can be attributed to the importance of professional relationships, as cultures that use polychronic time tend to value relationships over schedules because time is less predictable.

Time is a fascinating concept, and while some people follow the clock and demand promptness, others don’t place as much importance on being on time. Even though chronomic culture might not be on your travel to-do list, learning about monochronic and polychronic culture is crucial. Before starting your journey to work abroad, you need to be cautious and aware of how time is perceived, valued, and managed by different people around the world.

These variations may make it difficult to comprehend what the other person is doing. In the US, a firm handshake with little pause conveys confidence and masculinity. A man’s wilted handshake may be interpreted as being weak. However, a wilted handshake is appropriate in most of Africa. Additionally, prolonged handshakes are customary in Africa, whereas in the US, brief handshakes are seen as signs of awareness, warmth, and possibly attraction.

The function of time in interaction is known as chronemics. It is one of the many subfields of research into non-verbal interaction. The way people spend their time can affect their daily routines, speech speed, activities, and how much they’re willing to listen. Time discernment is crucial for the development of nonverbal communication across cultures. Interaction can also be impacted by how different cultures perceive time. Typically, cultures are categorized into two types of two-time structures: monochronic and polychronic cultures. This article delves deeply into these two ideas to comprehend their implications for time management. Some examples are also included to further understanding.

Monochronic and Polychronic Cultures – Manage Time Across Cultures

What is monochronic time?

The term “monochronic time” describes a way of organizing time in which things happen in a linear or sequential order. Time is valuable in the monochromic workplace, so it’s crucial to plan in this time. Businesses based in North America are notorious for using a monochronic timeline, where events take place immediately after one another rather than simultaneously.

Employees typically use a clock to measure their time when there is monochronic time. Monochronic time has the following characteristics:

What is polychronic time?

In a system of time management known as polychronic time, multiple events can take place simultaneously. Since professional relationships are valued over schedules in cultures that use polychronic time because time is less predictable, this multitasking strategy can be attributed to the significance of these relationships.

Instead of using a schedule, maintaining a schedule for networking or interacting with coworkers frequently involves a concrete timeline. Polychronic time has the following characteristics:

Monochronic vs. polychronic time

Even if you personally prefer monochronic or polychronic time management, one style is not necessarily superior to the other. It’s critical to comprehend the distinctions between them whether you manage a project in a setting where people value polychronic time over monochronic time or work in a multi-work style environment.

Cultural meaning

Different cultures may place different values on the significance of time, whether they are local or global. While polychronic work styles may place more value on building relationships than being on time for meetings, monochronic work styles place more value on being prompt in meetings.

An individual who arrives late for a business meeting may be viewed as unprofessional in a monochronic workplace, but not in one that uses polychronic time. While those using a polychronic time management system tend to be more flexible, someone using a monochronic time management system might encourage the timely start of meetings.


Scheduling meetings at specific times may not be as crucial in a polychronic workplace as it is in a monochronic one. Flexible scheduling, in the eyes of those using monochronic time management, can have a waterfall effect, causing people to miss or postpone meetings for the rest of the day. In contrast, a polychronic work culture might place more emphasis on the connections made during meetings.

Work environment

While those in polychronic workplaces typically work on multiple tasks or projects at once, monochronic workplaces encourage the completion of one task at a time.

Polychronic time management tips

Using polychronic time to manage a project has a number of advantages, including fostering teamwork and enabling multitasking. To meet the needs of their multilingual team members, some project managers might also need to employ polychronic time management. Here are a few tips for using polychronic time:

1. Understand different work styles

Understanding the variations between the two time management techniques can help you comprehend the various team members’ behaviors, such as punctuality in meetings or a focus on business relationships. Additionally, it’s crucial to remember that actions that might be viewed as less professional using one method might be considered to be standard using the other. Making assumptions about your team can result in a lack of understanding of the culture and values that influence each member’s unique working methods.

2. Ask questions

You can use the knowledge you gain about the cultural differences on your team to identify needs and make sure they are being met by asking questions. Choose the tactics you’ll implement to guarantee a productive working environment for various work preferences or styles.

3. Focus on building relationships

Building relationships is advantageous in either work style to enhance collaboration and communication. You can foster a more welcoming work environment by being open with communication and asking lots of questions.

4. Be open to change

While it is possible for team members with different working styles to collaborate, it is also crucial to respect those differences. Your workplace or position may require you to switch between different time zones depending on the circumstance.


What is Polychronic time?

An individual who completes their part will move on to assist others because everyone works together to complete the tasks of the day in polychronic time. Although tasks might take longer to complete, the slower pace also benefits employees’ mental health.

What is the difference between Monochronic time and Polychronic time?

Compared to polychronic cultures, monochronic cultures prefer to focus on one thing at a time. They value a certain level of organization and the idea that everything has its proper place and time. They do not value interruptions. People in polychronic cultures enjoy doing several things at once.

What does it mean to be Polychronic?

Adjective. Happening at various times; polychronic (comparatively more polychronic, adj. most polychronic) (of a person) Able to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. A polychronic person can multitask by watching television, using the Internet, and talking on the phone.

Is the US Polychronic or Monochronic?

People from the US, UK, Canada, and Northern Europe have monochronic cultures, while those from China, the Middle East, Arabic-speaking countries, and Africa are more likely to have polychronic cultures.

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