Get The Most Out of Your Async Offsite
Async Offsite? What is that? If that was your first thought after reading the title of this blog, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Async offsites are a fairly new concept, propelled into greater consideration and importance through the pandemic. Asynchronous work, or “async work” for short, simply refers to any work that doesn’t require you to be together, in the same physical space, at the same exact moment. An async offsite is essentially attempting to host an important leadership or company-wide event, aimed towards a particular outcome, in an asynchronous fashion.
Holding an “Async Offsite” now gives us the option of working together towards a particular outcome or goal while maintaining the safety and freedom that working remotely provides. Old-school thinking suggests the only way to properly “brainstorm” or “ideate” is in a cramped board room with a huge whiteboard. However, that’s actually thinking inside the box—or boardroom, as it were. Brainstorming, fresh ideas, progress on a concept—those things can all happen across async platforms. Good ideas often take rounds of ideation and time to gestate—to consider all the variables related to the change—before implementation.
There’s a good chance you’ve made it this far in your career and never participated in an async brainstorm or an async event. It’s a very new concept, but I’m willing to bet that once you do—you’ll feel and truly understand the benefits. Enjoy the natural breaks and find they give you time to process. You’ll sense a swell of progress around certain goals and ideas. You’ll love engaging with your team from the comfort of your home on your own timeline. In the end, you’ll wrap the event thinking, whoa—I never thought we could pull off such a productive offsite without actually getting together in person.
Start Your Async Offsite with Why
Any good offsite, asynchronous or in-person, needs to be based around specific goals and outcomes. Teams need a clearly defined purpose for holding the offsite. Without a clear purpose, without knowing the why, there is no point.
For example, Voodle recently entered into an async offsite. The objective was to evaluate the pros and cons of the current tools that dominate remote work (Slack, Zoom, etc.). They wanted to pull apart the three biggest dropoffs they were seeing for collective work following our universal shift towards remote work, as they related to these dominant tools. They landed on three main areas of concern, which they called: coffee, moments, and commit.
- Coffee: Those unofficial brief points of connection with coworkers
- Moments: The strong sense of being totally in-sync with your team
- Commit: The sense of collectively committing to a way forward
Once they had this goal and the points of drop-off to dig deeper into, there was a focus for the offsite. Starting with the why the entire team can make a concentrated effort around furthering a specific company-wide goal or achieving a precise outcome.
When it comes to goal setting and establishing the purpose for an offsite, another interesting option to considerer is leaving some amount of the “why” up for the group to determine. In the first async session of the offsite, everyone can suggest specific goals related to a predetermined overarching “why.”
For example, if the big why is “how to operate remotely more effectively,” you can have your team suggest specific elements around the broader why that they would like the offsite to address. In relation to this hypothetical offsite, team members could suggest:
- Remote company culture
- Video call best practices
- Remote work tools and platforms to add or remove
- Time-off, “working hours,” and other policies
- Recurring call cadences and purposes
This approach will really assure that your team is invested in achieving the goals of the event. It’s human nature to care more and try harder when we think our inputs are valued. We are more invested when are included in every aspect of the mission. Invite your team to contribute to the why, and they will certainly bring their full effort to your async offsite.
Pick Your Async Offsite Tools
Any good async offsite needs to be build and organized around tools to facilitate sharing, ideation, and collaboration. When it comes to choosing your platforms and tools, consider the medium of communication. If everything comes via text, you lose meaning, and struggle to maintain active engagement. Having some tools be text-based, others video-based, others mixed-media, will give you the best chance at creating an engaging async experience.
The two primary tools we’d suggest starting with are Slack and Voodle. Slack allows for fluid communication as a multi-faceted text-based platform. You can set up an “offsite channel” that serves as the primary notice board and chronological archive of the event. You can post and pin the schedule and even create polls to achieve a majority consensus.
Voodle is a video-based async platform. On Voodle, team members can share 60-second videos, organized and archived into specific threads. This tool will allow you to feel truly connected throughout the event. You can share fresh ideas or contribute to brainstorming sessions—using your actual voice and real emotion. Voodle will allow you to feel as though you’re with your team from anywhere. You can even brew your own coffee and engage with the offsite from your couch.
Vary Between Small and Large Group Communications
Lastly, one of the most important variables in an async offsite is breaking up actions and conversations between large and small groups. Ideally, an async offsite is composed of a good balance of both sized groups. There might also be a reason to have one-on-ones be apart of the structure.
For example, if your offsite is focused on how to operate remotely more effectively, and your team has helped to select and a number of the sub-bullets that they think are most important, you can create smaller brainstorm groups for each topic. Assign groups of 4-6 team members to a particular topic. They can create both a Slack channel and a Voodle short-video messaging thread, specifically for them to ideate on the sub-bullet. Imagine, you’re in a small group that is trying to advance ideas around “remote company culture.” Think of all the ideas that could be shared in either written or video form.
Once each small brainstorm team has had time to gather findings and to reach a consensus around conclusions, they can bring those back to the full team for a larger full group conversation. Within the full group, feedback and concerns can be brought to the table, and the way forward becomes more and more clear.
Never Try, Never Know
In the end, this concept is brand new, and if you host an async offsite for your team—you’re absolutely pioneering the future of work. Remote work is becoming the new normal, and through that transition, most of our work has transitioned to async platforms. It only makes sense that traditional aspects of work culture, like the annual offsite, transition to async platforms as well.
Pick an important overarching theme and tools, have team members contribute and buy into the goals of the event. Then go! You’ll most likely make significant advancements around the offsite’s primary topic, and you’ll certainly learn a lot in the process. This is a brand new concept, but the future of work demands new ideas from us. It demands that we try new things. Pioneering advancements for the future of work isn’t easy, but it can be a whole lot of fun. So get your team excited for their async offsite, and remind them—never try, never know!