For many, remote work is the ultimate goal for work freedom—freedom to work wherever you want. But for Bethany Goldson, a People Operations Specialist with Remote Technologies Inc., remote work should not and cannot come without the ability to also work asynchronously. After all, they’re both equal parts of what makes a job truly remote in offering you the flexibility to live wherever you want. This means not being tied down to one timezone or having to work hours that don’t work for your body and lifestyle. It also means not being stuck in Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting to make sure you’re on the same page as everyone else. But this great freedom that comes with working remote and thus asynchronously is not for everyone. So, what traits do asynchronous workers need to truly thrive, even when working alone at home?
After interviewing Bethany Goldson on the topic, we can finally say! But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
What Is Async Work?
Simply put, asynchronous work (async for short) is that which is done at separate times than other team members and managers. And this, Goldson argues, is what remote work naturally is.
Certainly, a team could solely work nine to five on Zoom calls, but, as Goldson recognizes, Zoom fatigue is very real. As well, a team could constantly chat online while doing their work from home, but perhaps the whole point of working from anywhere is the ability to go places outside of the home or prioritize certain hours of the day for taking care of family.
So, when a job can be done at odd hours of the day from a beach in the Caribbean, why must it be done at an office from nine to five? While we—and Goldson herself—are huge advocates for remote, async work, we both also recognize that not everyone thrives in such working conditions.
As Goldson says, “it’s not the same as when you’re in an office and you’re absorbing the energy from the people around you.” Instead, often, remote work involves working alone or having meetings occasionally, but those meetings can become very draining very quickly.
And even with frequent Zoom meetings, many teams face communication troubles because it’s easy for workers to lose information when not offered face-to-face. But, as Goldson says, this does not have to be the case.
She and the team at Remote specialize in on-boarding and training remote workers so as to avoid any miscommunications that may happen down the line. But it’s not just workers who make missteps with remote, asynchronous work; it’s also managers and employers!
What Not To Do in Async Work
Just as Lance Robbins does in his blog on remote work, Goldson says she is a firm believer in trust in remote positions. That is, employers must trust their employees will get their work done and will do so without being watched like a hawk.
That is to say, “Micromanaging is really not the way to go these days.” Instead, Goldson suggests vetting candidates earlier in the hiring process and only hiring those whose work ethics and passion you can truly trust.
In addition to starting an employee off with a thorough and comprehensive hiring process, then, Goldson also suggests offering employees the following:
- Year-round, regular feedback
- Performance reviews
- Written agendas for meetings and recorded meetings (so they can opt-in or -out of meetings)
The trick, then, is not forcing employees to do their work out of fear or pressure, but rather, keeping employees engaged and connected. Here, Goldson offers some examples of what really works at Remote, especially with team members from all over the world.
For one, Goldson suggests taking advantage of all the tools one can use to stay connected. She suggests companies use platforms such as Slack, Zendesk, and Lattice to allow employees to keep up with one another, even across departments. Especially, Goldson recommends always filling in profile information, including a profile photo, so coworkers can put a face to a name. And, crucially, so employees feel encouraged to reach out and chat amongst themselves, even asynchronously.
For another, Goldson recommends having social activities that encourage employees to meet and get to know their coworkers even when living in separate countries. Here, Goldson recommends monthly synchronous game nights or coffee chats with prompts to inform discussions to let conversation open up naturally and instantaneously.
Top 3 Traits for Successful Asynchronous Workers
While the aforementioned activities are great solutions for keeping employees engaged when working remote, many still argue that nothing feels quite as comfortable and natural as group activities in-person rather than online. In many ways, remote and async work (and play) requires resilience among many other traits to really work well in the long run.
As Goldson says, “As many positive conversations there are online—and as much as I agree with all of that—I think oftentimes we miss that remote and a-synch work is a skill that you have to develop.” So, in addition to finding patterns and work habits that work best, employees looking to work best remote and asynchronously should also consider how well they might fit the following crucial traits.
Curiosity is one of the most important traits independent remote, asynchronous workers can have. Of course, while it is important in many workplaces for self-motivation and passion, curiosity is especially important for async work to maintain momentum in everyday work activities.
As previously mentioned in our blog on rebuilding remote work models on trust, many employers these days struggle with maintaining remote work out of fear of quiet quitting and low productivity. And while this problem is a complicated one—involving power politics and compensation as key factors—many instances of quiet quitting also happen when workers are uninspired and bored. But when provided with the right tools and freedoms to explore the work given to them, many async workers thrive.
That is, with enough freedom to move away from everyday tasks to look at how other teams are working and problems may be resolved comprehensively, async workers will feel fulfilled and want to keep up their work momentum.
Because of the nature of asynchronous work, often when an async worker comes across a question or concern in their work, they won’t be able to reach someone about it right away. And depending on the timezones and working hours expected of others, much of their work will eventually come to a stand-still if they are always relying on others to resolve problems in their work without trying to do so themself.
So, in addition to having an inclination to find answers instead of always relying on others, async workers should also feel confident and motivated enough to trust in themselves.
Workers should be able to, for example, skim through information quickly and thoroughly to make sense of things before reaching out to others. That is, they should feel confident in their abilities to synthesize materials and follow instructions offered to them without constant reassurance.
And crucially, this trait can speed processes up and make work more creative, unique, and comprehensive for problem-solving across departments.
Adaptability and self-reliance, especially with asynchronous work, truly go hand-in-hand because having strong self-reliance often requires certain working conditions. And while working from anywhere at any time should feel freeing, it can also feel overwhelming in its flexibility. So, being able to find and secure an environment/environments and working hours that allow workers to feel focused are key.
The Future of Work, All Thanks to Asynchronous Workers
While many employers are mandating a return to the office, eager to get back to pre-pandemic working conditions, Goldson says remote, async work is here to stay. In fact, the opportunities remote, async work offers will further start to encourage hiring globally.
“I think the world will continue to become more remote and find more remote opportunities… People deserve to live where they want to live and have a really good opportunity and also have the freedom to travel if they’d like to!”
– Bethany Goldson
She estimates that async work will become even more popular as more workers and employers alike discover its pros that largely outweigh any cons. As such, Goldson suggests that the ways in which we manage teams will change, as well.
We may, for one, see more positions focusing on people operations. This will be crucial for managing teams abroad and ensuring all work is in compliance with the local work laws. But people ops are also crucial for managing work culture in both remote and in-person positions.
After all, culture is not just important for those working remote to maintain healthy and productive work-life balances. As Goldson says, “Culture is important everywhere.”
Summary: After meeting with expert in the field Bethany Goldson, in this article we conclude that curiosity, self-reliance, and adaptability are the most important traits an asynchronous worker should have. But remote, async work also requires effort from management and people ops teams. Start by establishing a team you can really trust and don’t feel the need to micromanage. Then, set those workers up for success with help from pros in the field like Bethany Goldson who can help onboard and establish expectations and good, healthy practices when working remotely and asynchronously.
Special thanks to Bethany Goldson for the expert advice here. For more information on remote, async work, check out Bethany Goldson’s LinkedIn page.