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As organizations move to the remote-first future and grapple with their own versions of hybrid work models, they face several challenges. First, they need to learn to communicate effectively with team members across different time zones and cultures. Once they master communication, their productivity increases – but how can they effectively measure productivity?
Remote working began reshaping the global workforce long before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the spread of the virus accelerated the adoption of remote working for many companies that may not be ready. In the face of a new threat, companies sent their employees home in droves, pushing workers, managers and leadership teams into uncharted territory.
Some companies with remote-first philosophies easily adapted. Others weren't so well prepared. People who had never worked remotely before struggled with unclear processes, while managers struggled to keep production stable. In almost all cases, the old standards for measurement and productivity no longer applied.
After the worst of the pandemic subsides, we see companies choose a formal remote position or not. Many companies like Slack, Twitter, and Square have already announced that they will allow their teams to work remotely for as long as they want. Organizations trying to limit the freedom of their remote workers will see their best and smartest ways to participate in more understanding workplaces.
Related: Remote Work Is Here To Stay: Are You Ready For The New Way Of Life?
This shift marks the beginning of a new era of work, in which time flows differently for each employee. People around the world will collaborate on projects in different time zones and cultures. Some people start their day late in Asia and work well into the evening, while others in the US get up at dawn to check out an hour or two after lunch.
With so many people working on their own schedules, companies can either become more flexible or collapse under the strain. Companies that force their global workforce to adhere to a set schedule will drive away talent, while companies that acknowledge the reality of the situation will adopt the obvious solution: asynchronous work.
Asynchronous workflows allow teams to work independently without sacrificing speed. Since remote work increases the distribution of working hours for employees, asynchronous work makes perfect sense for remote-first companies.
How to do the asynchronous move
Firms with remote teams enjoy a number of advantages over those with traditional office-based workers, but these advantages are by design. Distributed teams that follow asynchronous processes need to maximize their productivity and eliminate the possibility of misunderstanding.
Trust in the documentation
In offices with the same working hours, employees constantly ping each other with questions and updates. It doesn't work so well when colleagues live and work on opposite sides of the planet. To take advantage of asynchronous work, teams have to become fanatical about accurate documentation. From sales to engineering, everyone should be able to see what others have done and pick up the work from there.
Related: 4 Ways Remote Communication Makes A Better Workplace
Elimination of meetings
Organizations hold too many meetings regardless of time zones and schedules. Remote-first organizations are realizing that not everyone is available for meetings at the same time, which forces them to think more proactively about when, with whom, and why they are meeting. In asynchronous teams, the regular recording and storage of virtual meetings enables other interested parties to find out more about content in peace.
Standardization of time zones
Distributed teams work in multiple time zones at the same time, which can be a headache when scheduling appointments – and not just for meetings. For example, marketers need to plan campaigns across a variety of tools. Engineers need to plan starts and updates at optimal times. Remote first teams should switch to UTC or Coordinated Universal Time and communicate their needs based on this time zone.
In a truly asynchronous workplace, nobody can hide work in an inbox. The pace is moving too fast and coworkers always need to know what their coworkers are doing so teams can prioritize their actions to maximize productivity. Workers need to trust each other and use tools that allow transparency in communication.
Respect other cultures
Asynchronous work doesn't care if someone leaves the office. In some parts of the world, people prefer to leave work several times a day to attend to other business and work in bursts throughout the day. Elsewhere, people prefer to work right through to lunch and cram all their productivity into a shorter timeframe. With team members around the world, people can take time off for various cultural holidays. Rather than forcing team members to keep track of a global calendar, asynchronous work allows them to focus on the work ahead.
Judge quality over quantity
Employers should not require employees to install time tracking software and other spyware on their work computers. This just makes employees feel like their supervisors are judging them for how they spend their time, which negates the benefits of remote asynchronous working. Instead of being obsessed for hours, leaders should judge employees only on the quality of the work they have done.
Establish target measurement
A great way to maintain asynchronous collaboration in an organization is to introduce Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). The OKR methodology is a collaborative, goal-setting framework that helps teams and organizations achieve their goals through identifiable and measurable results. The OKR framework works from the ground up across teams to create a standard that the entire company can adopt. OKRs give organizations meaning and help asynchronous teams pursue meaningful goals.
Remote-first companies need asynchronous workflows to realize their potential and give their employees the perfect conditions to be successful. The OKR framework enables employees to work in a targeted manner. Companies like Intel, LinkedIn, and Airbnb have had amazing results with OKRs, but OKRs don't just exist to increase bottom line. When done correctly, OKRs working asynchronously can create a more comfortable, inclusive, and effective environment for teams.
Related: Why Remote Working Makes Teams (and Managers) Better