What if meeting virtually is better that in-person, most of the time?
What if working asynchronously in a distributed team works better than being together in one place for most work?
What would that mean for how you structure your organisation and how you do your work?
For so long the default has been to get people together in a room, or in an office. After COVID, there is a realisation that it’s the expensive and complicated option. It’s often faster and cheaper to get everyone to jump on a Zoom or Teams call for routine stuff, especially for dispersed teams. But soon it’s going to the preferable way to do it – the new default.
Microsoft Teams Premium is already showing glimpses of this future. It will take notes, caption and translate speakers in real time, and be recorded for those who can’t attend. All the admin is also automated, replacing all the to-in and fro-ing with a few keystrokes. Having run global teams, I can see how this would be a godsend, saving time and improving communication.
For so long, we’ve relied on the serendipitous conversations, the bumping into each other that comes with working in the same office. After COVID, people have realised how those serendipitous moments, those desk drop-by’s, were costly distractions that stopped them doing the deep work that delivers value. They also recognised for the first time the real costs of the ‘office 9-5’ on employee performance and satisfaction.
By working asynchronously, not only can you give people autonomy over their time, you also enable the team to progress projects more quickly because the work is not held up until a synchronous meeting can be organised (always a nightmare). It can progress at its own pace, with people working on it whenever and from wherever they choose, at the optimal moment for them. It’s becoming the preferred way to do projects because it’s more efficient and effective.
Work is increasingly becoming a series of projects as the routine stuff is automated away. People are no longer defined by their role, by their function in the workflow, but by the projects they are engaged in. More and more of that engagement with the project is doing deep work, as the co-ordination and recording work is automated.
Global companies are already well on the way down this path. They’ve been running teams that are distributed across offices, countries and time-zones for many years. COVID has caused them to accelerate the trend, as part of their digital transformation.
Remote-first companies are building this into their DNA, their defaults are already virtual and asynchronous.
The question is, what’s going to happen to the rest?