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Will employees 'work from anywhere' in a recession?

In the face of recent tech layoffs some predict the power balance will shift from employees towards employers. Even suggesting employees will spend more time in the office to increase their visibility and perception that they’re ‘indispensable’

However, during a downturn its unlikely many organisations would be willing to lose their most talented or productive people just for that sake of having them in the office.

I’m an advocate for remote and hybrid working that allows employees to be happier and more productive, the biggest challenge still appears to be synchronisation.

Asynchronous Experience

Differences between time zones and life stages (or lifestyle) mean the moments we can meet - whether virtually or physically - is few and far between. I personally experienced this during the pandemic when I unexpectedly needed to spend 6 months in New Zealand with my wife and an infant.

A balcony view of a bay, beer and book in foreground

I was able to continue in my Consulting role, working with clients in Australia, Singapore and India, and it even allowed me to do business development locally in NZ which wouldn't have occurred otherwise. The downside was that my days were typically Noon until 8pm at night, meaning I often missed dinner, but I was able to spend time with my infant and give her mum some much needed rest.

Improving Asynchronous work

Despite efforts to encourage asynchronous work, most are still adjusting, with little time to review/contribute due to workload and sometimes after contributing the outputs aren’t even reviewed thoroughly.

My tips to improve asynchronous work:

  • Give ample time to solicit feedback or responses. Don’t give people 24-48 hrs to contribute, as often they won’t or it’ll be during their own time.

  • Set reminders so your asynchronous request isn’t forgotten. Bonus points if you actually thank those that have contributed in your reminder to others.

  • Always share the raw final outputs, a meaningful summary and share reflections about the feedback and tasks ahead. This should make those contributing feel that you’re listening and their feedback is valuable.

Managing Asynchronous Teams

Asynchronous work should give employees more time and flexibility to prioritise or undertake critical tasks, though it will be more challenging for the managers.

  • Provide the necessary tools and tech: Ensure that team members have access to the necessary tools and technologies to work remotely and collaborate effectively. This includes things like video conferencing, instant messaging, collaboration tools - such as Miro or Mural - and project management software.

  • Establish clear expectations: Communicate clear expectations and guidelines for working asynchronously. This includes things like how to communicate with team members, how to handle overlapping working hours, and how to stay in sync with team progress.

  • Encourage autonomy: Trust team members to manage their own time and tasks, and avoid micromanaging. This allows team members to work at the times and in the ways that are most productive for them.

  • Create regular touch-points: Regularly scheduled team meetings, check-ins, or stand-ups can help to keep team members connected and in sync, even when working asynchronously.

  • Emphasize results over hours: Focus on the outcome and the results of the work rather than the number of hours spent working. This allows team members to work at the times and in the ways that are most productive for them.

  • Embrace flexibility: Be open to adjusting and adapting to the changing needs and preferences of team members and customers.

  • Provide training and support: Make sure team members have the necessary training and support to work effectively and productively asynchronously, such as time management, communication and collaboration skill.

A van on a beach with a man working from the back on a laptop

Work-from-anywhere organisations

As the pandemic subsided, there were many organisations that leaned in heavily towards hybrid working - where employees could work from home but were still expected at the office some time during the week. Some even offered the opportunity for 'working vacations' where employees could travel abroad whilst still working to extend a holiday.

Atlassian is heavily invested in the #WorkFromAnywhere movement, actively promoting the benefits and recruiting talent globally from other tech giants. GitHub is another pioneer with all 1,500 employees fully remote and an excellent remote working guide (link in the comments).

Do you have any #asynchronous tips of your own? Or any ‘horror stories’ where it hasn’t gone so well?


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