During COVID, the news was flooded with conversations around companies large and small shifting from in-person to remote work. Yet, often the conversation stopped there. In reality, not all remote work environments are the same. Allowing employees to work from a location other than the main office is a small part of the puzzle.
When moving to a remote work environment a key factor is the communication model that works best for you. There are two key types of remote work communication models: synchronous and asynchronous-first. What is the distinction between these two? Synchronous is characterized by employees committing to consistently communicate in real time during specific hours throughout the workday with the expectation of receiving near to real time responses. In contrast, asynchronous-first is characterized by employees fulfilling their assigned role responsibilities wherever and whenever works best for them, with the expectation that they will reply to communications when they are able to do so.
Here at Camber, we strongly believe in giving our team of experts the freedom to do their best work when and where it’s most convenient for them to do so. This has allowed us to attract and retain top talent and has been our team philosophy from our inception. Safe to say, we lean heavily in the asynchronous camp. Here are a few of the reasons why.
Benefits of Asynchronous-First Remote Work
There are several benefits to adopting an asynchronous communication model. Here are a few of our favorites.
No Systemic Stressors
Often employee stress derives from small annoyances that result from being bombarded with communications in the wrong place at the wrong time, or sitting in meetings for multiple hours during the day which prevents employees from getting any actual work done. Promoting an asynchronous communication model eliminates many of the systemic stressors and allows employees to focus on what’s important — the actual work!
Elimination of systemic and process-oriented stressors allows employees to carefully plan out their work schedule in advance and stay focused on completing the task at hand, while responding to communications from team members or external clients at the times when it is most convenient for them. Reducing the frequency of interruptions reduces the need for employees to frequently switch between tasks, which enables them to complete higher quality work and reduce stress in the long run.
Clear Task Ownership
When in an office or synchronous work setting, team members often become accustomed to being overreliant on their colleagues to help them work through key problems and issues that arise. Working asynchronously encourages employees to think through issues in more depth independently, which stretches their mental capacity and encourages them to do all they can to troubleshoot issues before turning to other people for help. This mentality helps organizations to develop strong, competent employees in the long-run.
An asynchronous communication model also helps with task and role clarity. Rather than frequently passing responsibilities back and forth between team members on a recurring basis, asynchronous work encourages employees to really take ownership of their work and see it through to completion. Knowing that you’re able to independently complete major tasks often increases employee satisfaction and makes them feel that they can be confident in their ability to do the work at hand and have a portfolio of work that they can speak to.
Builds Team Trust
When your managers are checking in with you every five seconds in a synchronous environment, it often makes employees feel that they are not sufficiently trusted to get their work done. In contrast, the type of communication associated with remote work encourages teams to build trust and to empower one another to complete high quality work without being micromanaged.
There are several ways that asynchronous work facilitates the development of trust and team building within an organization. First, it enables employees to first and foremost focus on the work at hand with the removal of many external distractions. Second, it allows team members to think more deeply about the work they are doing and think through issues to the best of their abilities. Third, it enables employees to proactively reach out to team members for help at the times when they really need it, enabling them to collaborate and to continue to build upon their skill sets.
Strategies to Build an Effective Asynchronous-First Remote Work Environment
If an asynchronous-remote work environment sounds good to you, well, we’d have to agree! As an organization, we’ve reaped the benefits from the get-go and haven’t looked back. If you’re a manager looking to develop an asynchronous communication model from scratch or to optimize your current remote work environment, then this next section is for you! Follow these tips to build a remote culture that keeps your team members satisfied and allows them to continue to learn and grow.
Set Clear Expectations
One of the key factors in setting up a successful asynchronous communication model is to help employees understand what they can expect, when they need to be available (days and times), and in what capacity. Clarify how you’d like your team to communicate for different purposes. Ambiguity in processes or communication mechanisms is never a good thing in an asynchronous environment.
You want to make sure that your employees understand when, how and in what capacity they need to be showing up to do their best work on a daily basis. This will free them from tactical stressors and allow them to engage in deep thinking to really do their best work. It will also make them feel that they are free to do work when and where it’s most convenient for them to do so, rather than making them worry if they’re not free at certain times.
Use the Right Communication Tools
In order to help set your employees up for success in this environment, you need to give them the tools they need to do their job and to do it well. Identifying the right software tools is only half the battle. Once you identify the tools you’re going to use to set up your remote work environment internally, you’ll need to provide employees with extremely clear instructions regarding how they need to use the tool, what purpose the tool should be used for, and in what ways they should be using the tool to make them the most effective.
Putting the right tools in place and giving employees the guidance they need to use those tools in the right ways will give them the capacity to communicate with team members as needed. This will help team members feel empowered to reach out and get the feedback they need and to collaborate in an efficient and effective way.
Hire the Right People
One of the best ways to ensure success when implementing an asynchronous communication model is to hire people who are independent and you believe have the skills necessary to succeed in an asynchronous remote work environment. While certain people do well working primarily asynchronously, others don’t feel comfortable with so few calls and such little face time with their team members.
Therefore during the interview process, it’s important that hiring managers clearly articulate what the work environment is like so candidates can fairly assess if it’s a good fit for their personality and preferred work style. You ultimately want to make sure you hire competent people who are able to manage their own time and get high quality work done independently. An asynchronous-first environment works really well when you hire a team of experts who have some prior training and experience in their respective fields.
Establish Clear Processes
In this type of work environment, clear processes tied to onboarding, logging hours, and the daily workflow are critical to keep the ship moving forward. Given that you need employees to have the capacity to work efficiently at a fairly independent level, you need to do all in your power as the management team and team leaders to proactively set them up for success.
This entails mapping out all internal processes and procedures clearly so there is no ambiguity or confusion regarding how they should be handling business as usual on a daily basis. For example, onboarding processes, processes for logging hours, and processes for accessing and storing documents should be written out clearly and made easily accessible to all employees. Additionally, managers should work to carefully document more in-depth internal business processes such as processes associated with client management and customer engagement so the team is fully aligned in terms of what they expect from one another, despite having fewer synchronous engagements.
Why this Model Has Worked Well for Us
As an asynchronous-first organization from the start, we’ve been quick to identify and capitalize on the gains from managing a productive asynchronous work from anywhere environment. In our team satisfaction surveys that we’ve conducted internally, we’ve found that our asynchronous-first remote culture is one of the things that our team members like most about working for Camber, so adopting this style might be a good strategy to help your business attract and retain top talent in the long-run and can also help your organization to reduce overhead costs.
Based on our team, service offerings, and business model, this environment tends to work particularly well for us, but it doesn’t work for everyone and largely depends on your value proposition and product/service offering. So before you invest in setting up this work environment and the associated processes to make it work well, you need to make sure it’s going to be an efficient strategy for your business and will allow you to continue to make your employees, customers, and clients happy on a daily basis.
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