Making asynchronous work
At close to 4 years old BoatyardX has, for most of its short life, been a remote-first organisation. Our clients and teams are distributed across the globe meaning that successful project delivery relies heavily on building remote team culture and work practices that support distributed teams.
I spent almost all of 2022 working with remote teams and clients in the US.
Remote team culture takes time to build
Even in person, developing team culture on new projects can be challenging. When dealing with remote and distributed teams across time-zones this can be even more difficult.
Establishing team norms, personal preferences and ways of working should be a shared activity which at first can feel quite mechanical and forced. One of the activities we used during the project kick off was a team values canvas where we collaboratively filled out and discussed topics such as our values, communication preferences and team norms. I would definitely do this again, but in future revisiting this periodically with the team would be a useful addition. This can also be shared with new joiners to help them onboard into the team culture and ways of working.
Finding time for more social activities can be challenging, especially when the team in Colombia are having their morning coffee it’s the end of the day for colleagues in Ireland. When teams are under pressure and nerves are frayed there is a tendency to resent spending 30 minutes on a social activity but it’s probably still a good investment to do something “fun” or non-work related every month or so.
Asynchronous working is a skill which is becoming increasingly important
Time together is limited and therefore valuable especially where teams have a short overlap in their working day
Teams need to be mindful of time zones when scheduling meetings. At first it may feel efficient to try and pack short overlap window with meetings, however this leaves no space for ad-hoc sessions which are especially important when trying to problem-solve or deal with issues.
Meeting fatigue is real, especially recurring meetings that are very mechanical or routine. To free up some time we trialed asynchronous standups on alternate days of the week.This meant that the team shared their daily update in text form via Teams. This worked well and allowed anyone who missed the session to catch up with a quick summary in their own time. As the needs of the project changed, we flipped back to daily calls, but it is something I would consider doing again.
Remain flexible and keep learning
here is no one size fits all and each team will need to flex, adapt and learn along the way. However, for me I think starting the conversation and having an open discussion with your teams is the first step.