How to Use Async Comms to Avoid the Danger of “Always On” Mentality

We’ve all been there. That moment during the workday where it feels like there are 7 things that demand your attention. Your phone is ringing, a conference call is about to start, you’re still in the middle of the agenda during a one-on-one meeting with your manager, and the tea kettle you put on 8 minutes ago just went off like the whistle on an old steam engine. The dog starts barking. It’s tense and your gentle work music feels like it might as well be Iron Maiden.

Even in the comfort of your home office, these moments in the day can be overwhelming. However, there’s been a subtle workplace transition happening that has been greatly helping with workday stress. It’s a shift you might not have even noticed. This change has given us back our personal freedom and autonomy at work—arguably even more freedom than the home office and working remotely gives us overall. Any guesses?

I’m talking about the recent transition to async comms platforms for work. It’s been taking place throughout 2020, and the remote work revolution has definitely sped up the process. The prevalence of async tools and the remote work boom go hand in hand, and both are here to stay. So, what is async communication and how is it bringing more calm to the work world? 

What is Async Comms:

Async communication started ages ago with the very first postal mailing system. Today, it shows up in our workplace as Slack, WhatsApp, and Email. It’s essentially any communication that takes place over an extended period of time. You receive a message and respond at your leisure. 

As Buffer puts it in one of their remote work blogs, “This concept simply means that work doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone.” You might have folks working from different time zones. You might have team members who work better in the evening. You might have just brought on an Australian, Croatian, or new Vietnamese team member. In all of these scenarios, async communication is the savior. For our overall mental health, it’s a godsend.

Now, let’s go back and imagine that same stressful day in your home office that we started with, but all of your work is based on slack, email, and async video options. Essentially, It’s all based on async platforms and you can get to it when it’s best for you. In that async-based workday, you simply turn off the tea kettle, pet your dog, and decide what you want to tackle first as you sip your chamomile. Sounds nice, right? 

The transition to async work has done wonders for workplace productivity by giving individuals the liberty to work their absolute hardest when they feel most motivated to crush it at the computer. However, what is most overlooked about the transition to async platforms and the future of remote work—the wonders it does for our collective wellbeing and mental health. [Sips Camomille, again.]

Mental Health Benefits

In a synchronous working world, everything feels urgent. You’re asked a question at a meeting and you’re meant to respond—no time for deliberation or deep consideration. You’re asked to contribute in a brainstorm, but saying “I’ll get back to you” feels like a cop-out. Synchronous work gives us the false impression that everything is urgent. Everything must happen NOW.

As Levity (a remote work productivity software company) puts it, “in today’s office environments, most things on a normal day are not that urgent after all. They may be important and need to be done but they are not urgent.” Giving your employees the flexibility and freedom to look at all of their async based tasks and deliverables—then prioritize them—that’s the secret sauce. Allowing your team to approach their work in a thoughtful order with proper energy, that’s why async-based work results in greater productivity. Even being able to take a 30-minute nap after lunch, guilt-free, before returning to your list of priorities could be the key for someone’s success. 

Sometimes people need to recharge. Working with genuine energy and a clear head ultimately benefits the end result. This transition to centering work on async communications tools can not only lead to a team that’s more effective and productive—it allows for proper rest, it provides real peace during the day, and it makes people happier at work. 

A More Flexible Remote Work

According to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work Report, compiling responses from over 3,500 remote workers from all over the world, “the ability to have a flexible schedule” was the number one rated benefit of working remotely. Most digital nomads around the world credit their flexible work schedule to “remote work” in general, but part of the real reason we have the freedom is this shift to async platforms. 

Even if you worked from the same office every day, if your work was all based on async platforms, you could show up and contribute wherever you were needed. Basically, it’s not the fact that you work remotely that’s giving you the sense of freedom, it’s the async shift. Working remotely and async work go hand-in-hand, so we falsely attribute this sense of freedom to “not having an office.” The office never controlled your calendar or when you had to set your alarm—synchronous work did. 

Can’t be late for the 9 am all-hands meeting! Let’s start giving credit where credit is due, and let’s keep pushing this transition to async work because our happiness and mental health depends on it. 

A New Async Comms Tool 

We all want to contribute and feel valued at work, but we also want to maintain our personal freedom. This is all possible in our async remote future. Well, the future is here, and it’s going to look a little different than it did even 15 years ago. (We didn’t even have Slack or Zoom 15 years ago, imagine that!)

One of the newest ways async remote tools that we believe will help shape the future of work is by combining the best of both Slack (async written comms archive) and Zoom (video-based for human connection). We recommend incorporating an async comms platform that takes advantage of the many benefits of async work, but in the most human way possible for a remote team—with video. In a written message, nuance and meaning can often be lost. With a voice message, you get a better sense of the sender’s sentiment. In a video, you really understand. You can feel the energy through the screen. You can’t get any more intimate or more connected than a video message, without being in the same room.

We’ve established these two truths 1. Async work is good for our overall wellbeing and mental health; 2. video makes us feel more connected than text or voice alone. Combining these results in a true game-changer. Async short video tools not only allow you the freedom to contribute at work when you want, but it also lets you contribute as YOU—your best three-dimensional human self—through the power of video. The future of work is changing and we’re here for it—the naps, the chamomile tea, the schedule freedom, and video-based async power.


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