“Man Shares Hack To Appear Online During WFH”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have seen variations of this headline ad nauseam over the last two years. Mouse tied to Roomba to appear in motion, GIFs of people perpetually nodding to make them seem like they’re paying attention. A quick internet search will reveal tons of these hacks, including viral TikTok content (reviewed by YouTubers chasing, you guessed it, virality). As the boundaries between work and home blurred, the line between work and life grew tenuous, leaving less time for life already stressed by a raging pandemic. And forced to show up, employees rose to the occasion to develop innovative ways to cheat the surveillance systems keeping tabs on them.
While these stories are hilarious, the joke leaves a sour taste if you take a moment to think about the implications. During the great pandemic of “Work from home like its office”, social feeds were awash with surveillance techniques being used by companies to monitor their employee’s work hours. Possibly paranoid that everyone was off slacking, companies implemented measures that tracked login and logout times, eyeballs, keystrokes, presence on Zoom calls, and so much else. If only they spent some of that time and energy innovating ways to create a work from home environment that allowed their people to do their best work.
Some companies realised that their employees were far more productive when they didn’t have to spend their workday performing for their screens. If you’re one of these and looking to permanently implement a remote or hybrid work environment, this post is for you.
Bee can’t recommend asynchronous work enough. The work we do – help customers navigate the perilous world of customer joy – is intensely collaborative and requires us to be entirely in sync internally and with customers. From the outside, asynchronous might not seem like the best fit for our company. But it really is the best thing we’ve ever implemented.
But what does it mean?
Asynchronous has always been one of our favourite bits about Remote. Our asynchronous format allows us to work to our own preferred schedule. We’re all managers of one and hold ourselves accountable to mutually agreed-upon timelines with colleagues, managers or clients.
What does Asynchronous look like?
While asynchronous might look different for each organisation, some of the key characteristics are:
You can choose your work schedule. At Bee, we all work an 8-hour shift, but those 8 hours vary from person to person. Harsha and Pai, for example, are night owls, while Karina likes to get her start really early. I prefer to mix and match depending on how I feel and the work I have at hand.
There is no monitoring or policing of when you are online. At Bee, we have a 2-hour window when we’re all expected to be available in case of the occasional or unexpected team or client meeting to save on endless scheduling.
We emphasise written communication over calls and meetings. You know that “This could have been an email” meme? Yeah, we’re fierce proponents of the written word over meetings at Bee. We believe putting your objectives and requirements down in writing forces you to detail your thought process. It also gives your colleagues the time to absorb and respond rather than offer the usual knee jerk reactions that dominate meetings.
There is a clear delegation of tasks and channels to address questions and an escalation protocol. We use Basecamp to allocate tasks, share documents and updates, and communicate with each other. Basecamp lets us make separate segments for projects, do lists, memos, documents and files, and have various communication channels for group work and one-to-one interactions. We also have calendars to help us keep track of our work.
Deep respect and understanding for your colleagues’ time and space. At Bee, we have an unwritten rule – your lack of planning should not constitute my emergency, so reasonable response times are always built into tasks assigned. Occasionally though, something will come up that demands an immediate response – and when that happens, we don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call the person we need.
Hire for fit. Something that works well for Bee is our emphasis on hiring managers of one. We do our best to bring in people who are comfortable working independently, have a collaborative mindset and bring a deep sense of ownership to all they do.
Now that you’ve got the basics in place, it’s time to make asynchronous your own. Yes, you will fumble, you’ll have doubts and regrets and frustrations too. You’ll make really awful mistakes. But if you stick to it and create your own approach around these basics, asynchronous is going to make your life So. Much. Better. You won’t have to choose between work and life – you CAN eat your cake and have it too.
For more insight on how you can keep eating your cake (and your muffins and your pastries and pies) and having it too, keep an eye on this space.
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