Companies and organizations were forced to adopt remote work when the world shut down during the pandemic. Since then, more and more companies are continuing with this style of work, whether on a hybrid setup or a fully remote setup.
January 2023 data shows the rising rate of remote and hybrid work. 28% of workers are primarily on a remote setup, while 18% are on a hybrid schedule – combined together, they comprise almost half of the workforce (46%).
Asyncronous work is rising in popularity as employees exercise the ability to work anywhere and at any time. However, this is mostly happening organically. Most organizations are failing to create intentional async work strategies and the tools and processes needed for these strategies to be effective.
With all of these changes, how do managers and leaders keep up? Some leaders find themselves in a rut on how to manage asynchronous or async teams efficiently. The usual 9-5 schedule is increasingly becoming a thing of the past and leaders find it hard to conduct daily meetings or get immediate answers. How can you lead and monitor team members when you can’t see them?
To help managers and leaders, let's identify the existing leadership principles, mindsets and expectations weighing them down. We can also see if these principles are still applicable today, and what leaders can do to effectively manage teams as we go into the future of work, filled with global remote workers and tech innovations.
In this day and age, it is unreasonable to expect all employees to stick to a 9-5 schedule in the office. People have different productivity levels and preferred working times. Morning people thrive in early mornings until noon, while night owls have high creativity and drive in the afternoon until evening.
While organized workers can appreciate the structure and routine of an office, creative employees need a change of pace and scenery, and they will feel confined and muted in the office.
Companies pushing for the strict 8-hour, in-office work day are, in most cases, limiting themselves. Office environment can be distracting when focusing on a task (i.e. office dynamics and politics, socialization, excessive meetings etc.). Workers are also subject to costly and time-consuming commutes to work. Overall, these affect productivity and efficiency.
Industries like construction and public utilities can benefit from the 9-5 work schedule as these sectors require predictability and trust. But for other sectors, it is not applicable anymore. Productivity nowadays is defined not by how many hours you worked, but by how much output you produced in a certain period of time.
An async work setup needs a “company hub” which acts as a data center hosting documentations, operations manuals, policies, and any other data needed to complete their tasks.
Aligning and communicating through collaboration tools and clear development cycles becomes increasingly important. This ensures that everyone is on the same page without the needed for daily standups and regular check-ins.
Since companies are gradually moving towards a fast-paced and optimized async work environment, leaders cannot expect real-time communication, daily meetings, and immediate responses within the hour on a daily basis.
With people working at different times across different time zones, there will be reduced communication. It may take some time for them to respond to questions and concerns. Demanding immediate responses may distract a worker’s focus in carrying out tasks.
Rather than immediate responses, leaders must establish intentional communication. They can set schedules for weekly meetings, detail agenda, and make sure that every member is on the same page and are clear on their tasks.
If there are questions, it is better to compile the questions and ask the person in the next meeting or send it through email. Leaders can also message employees, but it is best to give them 1-3 days to respond if the issue is not that immediate. This is more organized and time efficient, and will give breathing space for employees to focus on their work, distraction-free.
Leaders must also create a channel for emergencies and urgent matters. This is where teams can air issues that need immediate action, and where others can go to help resolve issues or forestall any disaster.
Managers with enterprise background tend to think that verbal communication is the best method for leadership. This is a good way to communicate and connect, but it is inefficient and time-consuming. People also tend to forget the important details of the conversation.
In recent years, people are bombarded with information and tend to forget easily. Verbal communication is only applicable in scheduled work meetings, followed by written records or data of the meetings and action points. Other than that, it can create inefficiencies.
Writing down instructions, policies, rules, and guidelines can be helpful in communicating essential information. Leaders can write information about the company, put it up online and share it. This is efficient and saves a tremendous amount of time doing knowledge transfer.
It’s also good to use data mining tools such as artificial intelligence to easily access files and documents stored in the cloud, even the ones from six months to a year ago. It’s common for companies to answer current problems with suggestions and ideas recorded months to a year ago, or give them insights and ideas at minimum.
It is outdated to think that leaders are the only ones who can decide for the company. This antiquated mindset slows down the growth of an organization.
With this method, people may not follow through as they tend to be misaligned or feel that they are not part of the process. People either don’t understand what is going on, or they don’t agree with the decision as the best solution to a problem.
This kind of thinking from leaders can make workers feel like robots, not like thinking humans that can greatly contribute to a company’s success. If this is a company’s culture, it can lead to lower morale, low engagement, and worst, it can lead to quiet quitting.
Leaders need to give up their privilege to make decisions. The saying “two heads are better than one” is more applicable today, as companies are pressured to deliver with high quality, be agile and be innovative.
The management can rely on their employees to generate innovative concepts and ideas for the good of the company, especially younger generations. Younger generations, or the Gen Zs, get fulfillment from their jobs, and have fresh new ideas to offer. It will be good to involve team members in the decision-making process. This can also improve ownership of tasks and accountability among team members.
Leaders can also write down solutions to a problem, share it to the team, allow people to collaborate on the document, finalize and draw conclusions. It can take time to do this, but by fostering an open and collaborative culture, employees will feel fulfilled, engaged, empowered, more active and become high performing workers. Strategic wise, this is also advantageous to arrive at the best possible solution in a short amount of time, and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
A linear chain of work is where workers await for management orders, and data from different departments and teams to be able to do their work. Traditional work models foster these linear organizations – a cause-and-effect system – which slows down operations and delivery of services.
By creating clearly defined workflows for distributed teams, members can work on their tasks simultaneously and continue to stay aligned and connected through the use of team collaboration and messaging tools.
This way, operations can run smoothly, deliverables can be done on-time or faster than deadline, and the company can grow and scale operations horizontally.
The future of work is changing rapidly, shifting towards asynchronous work. Companies and leaders need to adapt to innovative styles of leadership to effectively manage employees and move their organization forward. With the right tools and leadership approach, asynchronous work can lead to improved delivery of services, better scalability, and growth potential for companies.