Ok, by now, it’s boring to point out that the whole world works remotely; everybody knows it. The forced transition from office-first to remote-first was surprisingly quick and smooth.
Many think, Cool, that’s it, we are modern now. It was actually quite easy, and we’re a winning team. After all, we work remotely, we do a few video conferences, and everything else runs as usual.
I’m afraid it’s not going to be that simple. COVID has also brought an enormous surge in innovation and change that is not yet really visible.
Do you think employees will want to return to the office?
Smart Employees Don’t Want to Go Back From Remote Work Into Office Detention
Well, you can see how quickly employees have gotten used to the much better state of working remotely. Most of them don’t want to go back to the office, at least, not every day from 9 to 5. That’s understandable when you look at their changed lifestyles. Finally, they can decide on their own what is important and when is the best moment to do it. Family, leisure time, and work don’t have to collide. Responsible people can smoothly integrate everything when they are in charge, as J. D. Alex expressed in his LinkedIn Post:
Some employers may think, It doesn’t matter; my employees have to do what I say. That may be true for as long as they are their employees. But other employers have immediately understood the signs of the times. They are building their companies not only “remote-first” but also “async-first”.
Good employees are now being fished out by these companies. The best employees quickly go to “async-first” organizations while slow-to-respond firms lose talent and decline in their performance.
You Can See the Powerful Async Wave Coming — for Video Conferences Too
Today, we are already seeing key opinion leaders in Silicon Valley champion the async-first wave. Here’s a tweet from Ryan Hoover, founder of ProductHunt, and a poll on whether the future of work is async:
The pioneers of this wave see clear advantages for companies that work not only remotely but also async. Amir Salihefendić, CEO and founder of Doist, emphasizes in his tweet that async work is deep work—you can go into your tunnel of focus and concentrate undisturbed. At the same time, you can integrate your family life, creating a more enjoyable work/life balance. These are two crucial factors for people who want to work successfully and have a happy family life. Async work helps people to live an complete lifestyle.
You can now find lobby groups for asynchronous working, such as We Are Async, supported by successful start-ups such as zapier, buffer, gitlab, doist, and many more.
We now have many tools to help us work asynchronously. From Slack to Miro to Gitlab, Trello, Google Drive, or Office365. Cloud computing has made it possible to design almost all work processes asynchronously.
However, there is one last bastion of synchronicity that keeps forcing us to find common time slots, be blocked for hours, and schedule entire calendar days around those time slots. Are video conferences an insurmountable barrier to the freedom of asynchronous working? Is Zoom fatigue the inevitable fate of future generations? Even our children, the pupils, have to slog through hours of video calls, as if the task of the 21st century was to adopt, unquestioningly, the processes of the 20th century, merciless frontal teaching.
The Advantages of Asynchronous Video Conferences
Fortunately, there is hope. Start-ups around the world are dedicated to making asynchronous video conferencing possible. The many advantages of asynchronous work are now becoming tangible for video conferencing. We’ll discuss 5 secrets that go beyond the obvious benefits that we already immediately recognize, which I’ll list again here.
Asynchronous video conferences…
- Are ideal for team members working in different time zones because they don’t have to sit through calls at inconvenient times of the day or night.
- Promote team members’ ownership of their daily schedule. They can coordinate their family life and work responsibly on their own and are much happier because of it.
- Promote concentrated, deep work because team members can simply dive into their focus tunnel.
- Produce better statements because team members can prepare for their response. They can think before they speak.
- Participants who are too reserved in classic video conferences also get a chance to speak.
- Perspectives are heard that would otherwise be neglected.
- Important statements can be easily forwarded to key stakeholders.
- The statements do not evaporate, as in a classic video call, where the half-life of the given information depends on the memory of the participants. In asynchronous video conferences, the statements are available in recorded form.
- The most important statements can be easily rearranged to create high-percentage clusters that convey knowledge very densely and quickly.
- Unimportant statements can be skipped, saving an enormous amount of time.
These are the obvious advantages of asynchronous versus synchronous video conferences. But there are more, and these will boost your team’s success with async video in 2021.
Secret #1: Enhance Your Team’s IQ in Async Video Conferences
If you’re an “async-first” employer, you probably already have a very smart team. However, async video conferences offer a method to integrate external specialists into the discussion at a low cost. In our highly complex world, there are always areas where a specialist’s perspective is helpful to your project.
Since your team discussion is recorded via video messages, simply forward a link to the discussion to an external specialist. They can watch the video conference when they find the time and ask questions or give answers.
In our experience, this works very well. Suddenly, new questions and suggestions appear at certain points, enriching the discussion. Since the running time of the conference and the individual contributions are available, the external specialists can be hired at an hourly rate.
It has never been so easy and cost-effective to increase the team IQ through external specialists.
Secret #2: Bring In Diversity
I have yet to see a team that is not in danger of being too homogeneous. It doesn’t matter if you work in the medical field and you’re all PhDs or if you make software and you’re all nerds. Homogeneity is a phenomenon that happens automatically because of common projects and interests.
But innovation research has been proving for decades that diversity is an important factor in actually breaking down dangerous thought patterns and coming up with fresh ideas. Diversity is interpreted in terms of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation in this professional article on the subject. (I explicitly do not refer to the term “race”, which is also mentioned in the article, as I fundamentally reject it.)
As with the external experts in Secret #1, it makes sense to intentionally integrate diverse stakeholders into the team discussion. In asynchronous video conferences, this is very easy. These stakeholders can be experts, key opinion leaders, or simply users and customers who help break down rigid thought patterns.
It is technically very easy and logistically straightforward to integrate customers and users or other diverse personas into asynchronous conferences. This way, you can target and strengthen the innovative power of your team, which is a successful strategy in the medium and long term.
Secret #3: Enrich the Mental Experience of Your Core Team
I mentioned above that team members who have sovereignty over their daily lives are probably happier than people who are forced like slaves to do certain activities at certain times in certain places. We can assume that people with an integral horizon of experience create more interesting products that really matter.
Asynchronous conferencing allows people to have that integral lifestyle that a modern employer wants their team members to have. No one has to sit through synchronous calls for hours at a time each day.
We have a client who specializes in swarm intelligence as a service, who started doing team workshops in forests in 2020. But now their teams are spread halfway around the world from Eastern Europe to Canada and in different time zones. Their solution: asynchronous video conferences. Team members still go into the forest to talk about specific products and processes while in the powerful presence of nature, but they each do this at a time of their choosing.
Successful teams specifically stimulate an integral experience among their members to positively influence results. Let’s not forget that asynchronous conferences as a whole help participants have a more integral experience.
Secret #4: Filter by Digital Savviness and Remote Readiness
Maybe you’ve experienced this too. Sometimes you’re in a team where members say, “No, I don’t like Slack that much, and Trello stresses me out; I don’t get it. Can’t we just write emails and attach documents like we always did? And, by the way, I don’t record videos of myself.”
But sometimes you’re in a team where everything runs smoothly, and everyone just works together and uses all the tools available as a matter of course. If there’s one they don’t know, they just spend a few minutes learning it. The more tools you know, the more you develop your digital savviness, and the easier it is to learn a new tool. That will never stop for any of us.
You can use asynchronous video conferencing as a digital savviness and remote readiness filter because it’s so new that everyone has to get comfortable with it. At the same time, onboarding is very easy. You send the potential team member an invitation link to an onboarding call. If that goes well after a few statements, you invite other team members or the new team member to the important meetings.
Secret #5: Relax Your Definition of Team
Intrinsic motivation to work on a project is perhaps one of the most important success factors. As a team leader, however, you sometimes don’t even notice who is truly intrinsically motivated to participate and who is more likely to sit around bored. Especially in synchronous video conferences, this is often very difficult to find out.
Asynchronous video conferences, on the other hand, have a much higher activity coefficient. Participants have to be much more active in clicking on statements and examining the context, but they also have to deliver valuable contributions. The team leader immediately sees who is active and who is not. The stats help.
Now you may find out through an asynchronous meeting that some team members’ activity is not that high. You might try again with a synchronous meeting, but there you will also find out that the highest speech shares are once again with yourself or the usual suspects.
You might invite other interested candidates to the asynchronous meeting and discover that their activity is much higher. These people can then perhaps contribute in a flanking or supplementary manner, or you can actually change the team composition.
With asynchronous video conferencing, you suddenly have a tool where you can assess the activity of participants. We’ve already addressed this in our article about the atomization of human conversation. Every business owner or team leader wants active members and, at the same time, to live a relaxed and autonomous life. This is exactly what asynchronous video conferencing enables you to do.
If you want to set your team up for success, focus consistently on “async first” now. However, this insight is meaningless if you only use the classical cloud functions, as you have done for a long time.
“Async first” means you give your team members maximum freedom to decide for themselves when they work and how they organize their daily routine. But at the same time, as a team leader, you want them to actively collaborate and engage. Many people today do not yet have the remote readiness to act in this way.
With asynchronous video conferencing, you encourage and challenge their ability to create value in an asynchronous team. Or you continue to force them into synchronous video calls for every little thing.
We recommend you reserve the synchronous calls for the very important things; perhaps you will eventually give them up entirely.