Async Offsite – 3 Core Takeaways

With rare exceptions, in-person offsites are a no-go these days. Sitting on Zoom for a full day (or days) is basically the last thing anyone wants to do as an alternative. That being said, we still crave that face-to-face time with teammates. Present circumstances challenge everything about what life used to be, but constraint is the mother of creativity. Many people and companies are bursting with creativity and resilience right now. As for Voodle? Last quarter, we opted for an async offsite.

To sum up: Our leadership built this exercise out of a desire to collaborate and get alignment from an event that could not occur in person. Collectively, we shared voodles reflecting on the pro’s and con’s of the dominant remote tools in the work world today:

  • Slack (aka text)
  • Zoom (aka synchronous video)
  • Other Async Tools (aka go nuts)

Then, we broke up into three themed groups on Voodle to approach the three biggest dropoffs we saw for collective work post-remote shift: Coffee, Moments, and Commit. We lost our coffee chats, those personal opportunities to connect and collaborate. Our team also craved the powerful in-person moments where we felt in-sync with colleagues in the workplace. Lastly, Team Voodle cherishes our ability to commit to a team plan, whether or not we initially were on the same page. On Voodle, the groups reflected on these occurrences and processes when we were in the office. Then, we imagined how we could leverage and cultivate the elements that drove those in-office elements in our current circumstances. Our team learned a tremendous amount with almost no synchronous work. Here are our big takeaways from our async offsite:

1. We Miss Each Other

No, this is not a shameless cash-in on the sweetness factor. (Ok, maybe a little…) But seriously. Voodle after voodle in our async offsite team bemoaned the loss of days when we could hit up someone who was a few yards away in the office to go for a walk instead of letting a Slack discussion drag on. This challenge particularly hangs over newer teammates. A few of us on Team Voodle (myself included) haven’t met outside of Zoom. Our team grows increasingly dispersed across the country, so even COVID-safe distanced hangouts remain elusive. That being said, voodling allowed us to grant our teammates windows into our worlds through short async video. Video captured our home offices, neighborhoods, favorite foods, and personalities in ways that were totally under our control.

2. Choosing an Async Offsite Leveled The Playing Field

Everyone was seen and heard. Literally. Multiple times. While this definitely can happen during an in-person offsite, the odds are definitively lower. Instead of a forced Zoom attempt at an off-site, with some people clamoring to be heard over each other while others sit silently for x amount of hours, people posted and watch voodles over the course of a designated period of time. As mentioned in the previous point, async short video allowed us to individually share in our own time and place. We viewed, liked, and replied to each other’s voodles, building upon and branching off of the ideas and interactions we saw. We also made choices based on what worked best for our work/life balance, our personality style, our communication preferences. Voodle put that agency squarely in our hands. What resulted was a more inclusive overall process and end result. We got to know everyone a little better and saw where both trends and unique takes popped up across the board.

3. Artifacts

Last, but certainly not least: the importance of artifacts. In the initial remote tools exercise, the concept of an “artifact,” or a concrete thing that demonstrates the work done and can be accessed later, dominated our favorite tools. Across the team, people called out Google Docs, Trello, Frame.io, Github, Jira, Docker, and more. All produced artifacts. In any and all collaborative work, we want to be able to reference clearly and quickly the outcomes and learnings from said work. We want the quick photo of the whiteboard after the brainstorming session or the record of back-and-forth communication over a project challenge. Zoom and other synchronous video platforms can be great for in the moment collaboration between a few people that authentically relays the emotional context of team communication. But nobody wants to rewatch hours of video meetings to get a few core outcomes or tasks. Short async video, however, gives us both the emotional context and visual assets of video plus the speed and search-ability of a quick text message. Don’t settle for just one.

Async Offsites & Beyond – Where Voodle Goes From Here

We don’t know what the other side of COVID will look like. The world has changed and teams will not simply snap back into the norms of pre-COVID work life. Businesses everywhere have experienced the benefits of remote work. Tools like Voodle can ensure that the detriments that come along with that don’t hold your team back. Use short async video like we did for your next offsite. Better yet, give it a shot on a regular basis to allow alignment, productivity, and human connection to flourish from wherever and whenever your team works. Happy voodling!

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