Right now, my company is now entirely remote and will be so for the foreseeable future. This is not something we planned for. In fact, prior to this we didn't have much of a work from home culture, and in the past I've publicly said that I we deliberately are an "in-office" company and plan to keep it that way.
In spite of this, I believe my company is as productive as ever as we've made the shift to remote work. We've also rallied together to support each other, found ways to connect from afar, and worked together to produce positive results for our customers and team.
But it cannot be denied that this is not a usual work from home situation. We are not working alone, without distraction. Most of us (as our Zoom calls show) are working with roommates, spouses, kids and pets. So we've had to adjust to a new normal-- and that means that real-time communication just isn't always possible. We had to come up with a plan to make up for this.
So what do you do in order to keep productivity up while allowing your teams the flexibility they need to take care of their families and themselves amid everything that's going on?
Increase your use of asynchronous communication.
To put it simply, asynchronous communication is sending a message and not expecting an immediate response. I think asynchronous communication is important because of the above reasons, but also because it allows you to have more time to take action and reflect.
Don't get me wrong, I am in the business of conversations. And I think that real-time communication is critical. But you need both and I think now more than ever, we need to all think about non-real time communication.
If you don't know where to start, here are a few things I use with my team, that you can adapt as well.
Zoom is great. But guess what? Zoom fatigue is real. Instead, if you have feedback on a slide deck, want to answer questions, or share some news, think about recording a video of yourself. That way, you can record it when it's convenient for you, and allows your team, customers or whoever to watch it on their own time.
When we are all working from home, it can be difficult to find time to take a break or do deep work because interactions that would have taken a minute or less in person now require scheduling a call and includes back-and-forth small talk before you finally get to what you wanted to talk about.
Asynchronous video allows you to show your face and expressions (so it's more personal), quickly send something through what's on your mind and keep in touch in a real way.
While I'm working from home now, I typically travel a lot and am not always in the office, so I send a lot of voice notes. I think of it as, rather than calling someone and interrupting them, I can leave a quick audio message with my thoughts and feedback and they can reply on their own time.
Next time you want to call someone to share a reflection, feedback or an idea, consider sending a voice note instead. If it's not urgent, why make it feel that way for the other person?
I argue that Slack is actually a synchronous tool. I love Slack. But at least in our organization, it is often used as a tool that requires a quick and timely response. So about a year ago, I wrote a note to our team and said I was bringing email back. I'm using email even more now, in conjunction with things like video. So rather than just sending an important update or thought in Slack, I'll send just a text email, or an email with both video and in text. I'd encourage you to think about the same. For all of these, consider "do I need an immediate response?" and "am I respecting people's time?"
My goal is to ensure that during these uncertain times we are communicating with each other and our customers in a way that allows for people to do their deep work, take care of what needs to be taken care of, while staying informed about goals, priorities and the state of the business.
This work from home time will not last forever. But while it does, it's imperative that we all figure out new ways to communicate and adapt our work styles to fit this new environment.