3 Ways Async Tools Unlock Your Teams Autonomous Potential

As young children, we start to develop our autonomy as we realize we are separate from our parents. We begin to realize that we own our own body, that it’s ours to control. It’s ours to protect, to nurture, and to move about the planet. 

In maturity, our autonomy takes on new layers of importance beyond our relationship with our physical bodies. We strive to be autonomous in our lives. We desire the ability to take care of and control our finances, time, health, and everything that makes up our own unique existence. The sense of independence and self-assuredness that comes from knowing you’re an autonomous being is a goal we all pursue. It’s the foundation we seek to build for our lives so we can stand up straight with sure legs. So we can know what to expect from tomorrow. 

Autonomy in the Workplace

In work, autonomy is equally as valuable. We all want to feel trusted and in control of our time and energy as much as possible at work. In other words, we all want to feel more autonomy than the corporate micro-managing culture of old allowed for.  Numerous studies have proved that there’s a direct link between levels of autonomy and workplace satisfaction. According to an article in Chron, “work environments that are more autonomous in nature have not only higher job satisfaction, but also better productivity.” The article goes on to claim “Autonomy has also been shown to increase motivation and happiness, along with decreasing employee turnover.” Autonomy is something we’ve strived to develop since we were in diapers, and just like in life, autonomy in the workplace gives us greater confidence, self-assuredness, and even motivates us to prove ourselves.

The question begs—if employee autonomy is key to creating a productive and happy workplace, why do we still see so many top-down organizational charts and why do we tie up so much of the workday with meetings and check-ins? With the right tools and processes in place to measure outputs, individuals, and entire teams can increase their autonomy. The tools I’m talking about are largely async. Async-remote-work is the future. Are you ready for the future? 

What is async work (and async tools) and why is it growing? 

You could place a graph of the rise of async work structures, processes, and tools directly on top of a graph depicting the rise of remote work. As buffer puts it, async work simply means that work doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone. Now that we’re primarily not even working from the same physical spaces—or even the same time zones—our work schedules, our workdays, our alarm clocks, all have more freedom than ever before. 

The remote revolution is forcing managers and leadership to trust that their employees aren’t just at home watching Netflix in a robe with a bowl of cereal, but rather—that they’re relying on async tools and platforms to do work when they feel most motivated. To get just as much done towards the organization’s goals, whether they’re working from Bangkok or Brooklyn, regardless of how many meetings are forced into the week. What time zone is best for everyone? In the end, productivity seems to be on the rise with more remote work—with more async tools and platforms. According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days a month than their office counterparts. 

We clearly see the benefits of remote work, of greater autonomy, so now let’s discuss three specific ways async tools and work processes can increase your team’s autonomous potential.

1. Trust Begets Trust

Async Remote work gives more freedom, freedom increases personal responsibility, and it turns out that with this new level of personal responsibility—employees really want to do right by their employers. It turns out that most use it as an opportunity to show that they could handle even more freedom. It’s a never-ending, positive spiral. By increasing autonomy you’re creating a cipher of increasing trust, happiness, and productivity. 

This is a lesson we all learn at a very young age. If you follow directions, if you behave when you’re given an opportunity to prove yourself, you’ll be given new and greater opportunities to earn an authority’s trust. As a child, this might take the form of cleaning up after a sleepover, coming home on time, or returning the car safely. At work, in this new remote work async world, it simply takes the form of kicking ass at your job. 

We inherently know, unconsciously referencing these lessons of our youth, that if we do well with an opportunity, we’ll get more opportunities. If we prove ourselves with a certain amount of freedom, we’ll demonstrate that we can be trusted with even more. Now, we’re not only more productive—we’re more free, happy, and in control of our lives than before. We’re way more autonomous—we’re finally growing out of our work-diapers. 

2. Let My People Go Surfing

Ever since the industrial revolution, we’ve conceived of work in “shifts” and we’ve accepted that work should be a “toil.” The start-up revolution, the remote work revolution—they are challenging these long-held assumptions and ways of doing things. 9-5 is definitely not the best time for everyone to work, according to the seminal sleep book, Why We Sleep. People have different internal rhythms and cycles of energy and focus. 

If you want to wake with the sun, check in with your team, advance a few projects, send a few emails, then go surfing—async work allows for that. You can come back to the work after the saltwater has dried. Then, you’ll be a more energized, committed employee when you do. Or, simply put by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard with the name of his book, Let My People Go Surfing. Your employees will be happier, stay longer, and live a better life if they are given that level of freedom. In an async world, the work will be waiting there whenever the waves die down and you get dried off. 

Async work platforms and processes mean that projects are always advancing—there is no on or off switch. Whatever time you want to contribute, you’re able to. Managers can easily articulate your expected workload and the timeline in which you need to complete work. Then, you’re free to structure work into your life in the way that serves you best. This allows for a much greater work-life balance. Your work “on/off switch” is fully in your control. When managers set up systems like this – putting the switch in the employee’s hand – they’ll find much more impressive outputs. Use async tools to put more trust and autonomy in your team’s hands. Then, sit back, wait, and let them blow you away. 

3. Keep Everyone Connected 

The most common workplace async tool, something we’ve been growing increasingly reliant on over the past 20 years, is email. Email doesn’t demand an immediate response. It allows you to clear it whenever the right amount of caffeine is swimming in your brain. The newest async platform to take the remote working world by storm is Slack. Slack is basically a more dynamic form of email. It’s a text-based messaging platform that organizes conversations in channels and archives everything in a searchable database. Slack has some fun plug-ins and allows for some creativity of use for remote teams, but something is definitely missing. 

On one hand, we all deeply value our autonomy in both life and work. However, too much autonomy and independence can easily lead to isolation. So on the other hand we need to balance our pursuit of autonomy at work with the feeling of genuine human connection. We love the freedom we’ve gained through the remote work revolution, but many feel lonely. The 2020 Buffer State of Remote Work report demonstrates this clearly. The greatest benefit of remote work, according to the 3,500 remote workers polled from all over the world, is the “ability to have a flexible schedule. That said, the greatest struggle with working remotely is “loneliness.” 

The Game-Changer of Async Tools: Voodle

Voodle to the rescue. Voodle is a new async platform that takes the async benefits of Slack and combines it with the genuine feeling of connection that only video provides from a distance. It’s a short-form video platform, where remote team members can share 60-second videos for any number of reasons. You could start a thread for people to contribute to a brainstorming session, to give reflections about a meeting, to share their home office set-up, to give a shoutout to a coworker, or even to just share “Friday Sunsets” every week. 

Imagine seeing your co-workers, wherever they are in the world, wishing you a great start to the weekend as the sun sets in Bali, Croatia, Brazil, and San Francisco. In the remote working future, most teams will be spread out across the globe. Most work will be done asynchronously. Voodle allows dispersed teams to feel a sense of closeness and intimacy, all through a platform they can utilize on their own time. We’re complicated creatures, we want both freedom and connection in equal parts. Luckily, Voodle is here to help us achieve our most connected, yet autonomous, work environment in history. 

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