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Asynchronous work and culture

By Karen Gubb

A question that is often asked is how do you keep an organisations culture intact when the organisation begins to work in an asynchronous way. I wonder if perhaps this is the wrong question, and whether it wouldn’t be more helpful to think of the move to asynchronous working as an opportunity to recreate and define the organisation’s culture.

For asynchronous working to be successful, it is important that everyone knows that that way of working is not merely grudgingly accepted, but it is in fact encouraged at all levels of the organisation. If leaders are seen to have fully bought in, there will be much more willing acceptance from others. That would result in those who choose to work in that way not feeling like outliers, but full members of the team. This will go a long way to creating a fully asynchronous working culture.

Following from that clear messaging, it will also be important that clear examples are set of people working that way. The crucial factors about those examples is that the individuals should maintain clear boundaries (and not be tempted to reply to messages at all hours), the organisation should respect those boundaries (so no comments about asynchronous workers not being visible or ‘working half day’ etc). Most importantly, though, it needs to be clear that you have as many career opportunities as everyone else if you choose asynchronous working.

Once those ‘macro’ levels are in place clear expectations about this way of working need to be set as this will allow a culture of trust to develop. Everyone needs to be clear on what is expected from them and by when. Dependencies need to be checked and thought about so that no bottlenecks form. Acceptable response times need to be agreed to.

Asynchronous work depends on clear communication to be successful. It is important to consider both the what and the how of communication. The what involves the details just mentioned above. The how includes things such as the platform used to communicate as well as what is included in each communication. This is a very good place to define and build on culture.

An organisation can decide that communication can include information such as what has been completed, what is outstanding, and what is the next person being asked to complete. Templates and examples are great ways to not only express what is expected, but also to develop a unique organisational ‘flavour”.

All decisions should be agreed to by the entire team who should work to hold each other accountable to what was agreed.

If your team is ready to begin the transition to asynchronous and to really look into the culture it wants to build as well as the unspoken rules that it has and which might need to be questioned, Teamery can share our ideas and expertise with you to help to make the transition to being a better team.

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