In the early days of quarantine and the COVID-19 lockdowns, teams relied heavily on video calls and other collaboration tools that required everyone to be doing the same thing at the exact same time.
That means a remote worker on the West Coast would have to get up early for a 9 a.m. call on the East Coast and parents would have to find a quiet room away from kids, pets and other distractions in synchronous harmony with every other team member.
As we’re starting to learn, that is nearly impossible as we juggle our work lives and our home lives. Now, teams need to adopt an asynchronous communication and collaboration workflow and focus less on the legacy 9-5 workday, collaboration experts say.
A dispersed workforce can’t communicate simultaneously
For Badri Rajasekar, co-founder and CEO of spontaneous collaboration app Jamm, has team members spread across the globe in San Francisco, Sydney and Barcelona.
For a typical structured workday with set hours, the Jamm team usually only has about an hour when everyone is working at the same time.
“We rely very heavily on asynchronous workflows and a lot of very bursty ad hoc conversations because it’s not practical for us to have meetings,” Rajasekar says. “That’s what we think works really well for us and I think we’ve seen it work pretty well with a whole bunch of other remote teams as well.”
Rather than an all-hands video meeting, each employee records a short video of themselves talking about what they’re working on. They do this, of course in Jamm, but remote teams can do this using virtually any of the dozens of collaboration apps on the market, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and more.
Ever find it hard to find the right time to speak up during a video call? Asynchronous communication levels the playing field and gives each person an equal opportunity to get their ideas across.
“I think we’ve only scratched the surface of video in the workplace,” Rajasekar says. “Right now all of the video is just a boring 15-minute Zoom call, which nobody wants to be a part of.”
According to Rajasaekar, the more season a company is at remote and hybrid work, the more they adopt asynchronous communication and collaboration methods.
“I think the worst thing you can do from a mental health perspective to force everyone into some rigid schedule,” Rajasekar says. “What you want is your team to have flexibility and to get stuff done when they have the time to do it – not necessarily when you want them to.”
When to switch between asynchronous and synchronous collaboration
For quick-hit short meetings or team-building exercises, remote and hybrid work teams should be considerate of their employees’ time balancing work and home life. However, more important conversations should take place synchronously.
Dan Pupius, co-founder and CEO of team success platform Range, says organizations should be more fluid in how they decide what warrants a video meeting and what could be done asynchronously.
Anything that doesn’t need to be done in person shouldn’t be done in person, Pupius says.
“Deep collaboration, decision making or a conversation or a conversation that you can’t have over those other channels [should be done synchronously],” Pupius says.
However, those video meetings should still have limits, and even during those longer meetings, leaders should find a way to incorporate team-building exercises.
“It’s also about building those relationships with your team and making sure you feel comfortable with each other,” Pupius says.