Work has changed dramatically over the last three years. Some critics believe workers should return to the office to achieve productivity, grow company culture, and meet the demands of a shifting economy. But with communication, technology, and new ways to approach work—here’s why distributed teams are here to stay.
What is Asynchronous Communication?
Asynchronous communication is a fancy term for something you’re probably already doing, whether you work in an office or remotely. It’s when you communicate without receiving an instant response. It’s also when the person you’re communicating with isn’t present when you communicate.
For example, you send someone a Slack message but they’re in a different time zone. They answer you at the time that’s best for them; that could be six hours from the time you sent the message.
At Leadtail, there’s a passion for growing a healthy and productive remote work environment. We work asynchronously—via Loom videos.
Remote Work Doesn’t Mean “Out of Touch”
If you think the “culture” in workplace culture relies upon only a brick-and-mortar building, you’re missing out on creative solutions. In a brick-and-mortar workplace, a general manager may print a mission statement and hang it on a wall. Inspiring? Sure. Actionable? Not so much.
A distributed workforce has the opportunity to decide the company’s culture with every decision. CEOs may decide that perhaps the money saved on an office lease and furniture can be better invested back into employees.
There are three things that are core to instilling and designing an intentional culture:
- Behaviors supporting those values
- Work experience to drive the behaviors that support the values
Values aren’t lofty statements but down-to-earth attributes that you want people to associate with your company. For example, if you’re a bank, you need to engender trust. When you look at behaviors for this bank’s workforce, you take security behaviors. Then, you design ways to bake those behaviors into your organization.
“How does that cultural value—and those behaviors—show up all the way through for employees and customers? So that is everything from where and how you recruit, to the interview, onboarding, and training,” says Karri Carlson, the vice president of operations at Leadtail.
“It shows up especially for employees in terms of how they’re managed, what’s rewarded, and who’s promoted. It also shows up in thinking about your customer experience.”
Employees Enjoy Working Remotely
Aside from the obvious perks of the remote lifestyle, like choosing your hours, traveling while working, and the lack of commute time, there are other hidden perks of being in a distributed workforce. When you can hire the best talent regardless of location, you build a dynamic workforce of colleagues built to learn from one another.
A remote team working asynchronously still finds opportunities for:
The ever-elusive idea of work-life balance is something many find more obtainable through working remotely. Comparably, which provides compensation and culture data on companies, hands out awards for companies achieving work-life balance annually. There are major brand names on the winner’s list.
Leadtail account manager Ed Munro has been able to work asynchronously with colleagues from a variety of locations, even meeting up with some along the way.
“The benefit of working with Leadtail is that I can work from anywhere, so having the opportunity to work from everywhere never gets dull. Any destination I want to experience where WiFi is available is a possibility,” says Munro.
“Looking up from my laptop, I can be in an airport lounge in Shanghai, an Airbnb in Lisbon, a coffee shop in Copenhagen, or a trendy hotel in Helsinki—they all make me smile.”
Solve the Biggest Problems Facing Your Customers
Instead of asking, “what can we do asynchronously?,” closely examine what can’t be done. Ask questions about what truly requires having people meet together in a synchronous fashion, while examining the goals of those interactions.
Ask what’s really a force of habit and what can be changed. Always look for ways to do something asynchronously to meet less frequently. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working this way is about shifting the company mindset about what it’s default mode can be.
For example, bringing on new team members can be a great reason to meet as a group. The important question is what truly requires gathering people together to work at the same time.
Another great example is how using Loom can be great for customer service. You can record a demo of your SaaS for a client. HubSpot offers this great tutorial on how to use it for customer support.
Serving the Bottom Line With Fun Productivity
Fun offices are cool, but have you heard about fun remote work teams? There are oddly many options remote teams can do online to get to know one another, bond, and have fun.
Socializing is a part of the job. Building rapport across time zones isn’t going to happen by accident. But you can’t force it, either.
Existing office culture won’t adapt to becoming a remote team. At the same time, as you’re hiring new people, they aren’t going to automatically grab onto your culture unless you take the time to intentionally connect them to it.
“Socializing is not an extra or outside of work,” Carlson says. “If you have work that requires collaboration, socializing is where those relationships get built. It’s where trust gets built. It’s where rapport gets built.”
So how do you do that with different time zones? Leadtail does it by creating designated times and spaces for socializing. That includes informal asynchronous communication over digital channels.
It can also include more structure like a diversity, equity, and inclusion meeting at regular intervals. There can be fun, unstructured activities like game nights, cooking lessons, or other answers to the “video happy hour.”
Socializing is an essential part of getting the work done—it’s not outside of getting work done. It doesn’t have to always be a conference or retreat.
Some things we’ve done at Leadtail to foster socializing amongst team members:
- Halloween parties
- Happy hours
- Supported one another through scary life situations, like natural disasters
- Our content team found a way to play Pictionary
- Match new employees with seasoned employees
This doesn’t mean employees can’t or won’t meet in person. Often, our employees and clients meet in person in a variety of places from Portland, Oregon to Barcelona, Spain.
All these ideas end up serving the company’s bottom line.
About the Author
Heather Larson is a content creator at B2B social media agency Leadtail.