A while ago, I read one of the Basecamp books about how they work. They are a remote company, and people work wherever they want and in a timezone that works for them. To make everything work in this scenario, you need a skill, the ability to work asynchronously.
In my previous job, when I was working in the office and even when we went remote because of the pandemic, we needed to be available through a period of time, that was determined by the company. That can make sense if you work for a national company, where everybody works in similar timezones. But I would say that is not productive.
People should be free to choose the better moment of the day to work or even take breaks that make sense for them. It can sound a little chaotic, but you will be good to go if you have good communication skills and don't block anyone.
Here at Notabene, we are a world team, and people live in different time zones. It would not be very nice for someone to wake up at 4 am to be on a call with somebody just because you work in the same company. Yes, we still have meetings, but we are mostly communicating through Slack and working asynchronously.
Not everyone is ready to work like this. We have a history of working in the same old way for decades. It is a bit scary when somebody comes and says that asynchronous work can be more productive than the regular work we've been doing all of our lives. I know that is a big step for companies that already exist in a more traditional way. But if you are new or already a remote company, you definitely should consider being async. If you stop for a moment and think that the best talents in the world are not restricted to a timezone, you probably will start thinking this could be a good idea.
Well, I have seven months of async work experience, and for me, it is good enough to share my thoughts on this.
Here are some tips for working asynchronously
You need to define your preferred working hours
Since you are not working alone, you need to let your coworkers know when you will be available. People will want to interact with you during your working hours, so it is good to have some pre-determined working hours. But this is not written in stone, and you can change if you move to another timezone or find another time you feel more productive.
Schedule your holidays, vacations, or day-off ahead of time
You don't need the approval to take vacations or day-off, but your coworkers need to know when you won't be available. It is not good to decide a day early that you will leave tomorrow. You can impact your team. Of course, there are emergencies and other situations, but that is not the usual.
Use your communication tool in the best way possible
Here we use Slack to work, and we defined lots of conventions to make the best of the tool. We create specific channels to deal with all sorts of things, like talking to customers, discussing code patterns or bugs, submitting merge requests to approval, and channels for fun and random stuff. It is good to know how to divide the convos into the right places to have organized communication.
Another cool thing we use here are Slack bots. We have bots that ask daily for a check-in. That way, we can know what everyone is doing and if there are any blockers for that person, and then you can help your buddy 😃.
When communicating is always good to provide context
Sometimes you are working on a task for a few hours, and everything seems easy and understandable. And suddenly, you get blocked and need help. I know it is easy just to tell the problem and ask for help, but this can cause more trouble, and it will take longer for you to get unblocked. So, it would help if you always give proper context to your coworkers. The better you describe the problem, the faster you will be unblocked because your coworker will have everything needed to work on instead of trying to understand the issue without any context.
Don't expect replies to be instant
When you send messages to coworkers, don't expect the answer to be instant. Send a well-written message, keep doing your job, and when your colleague is available, your question will be answered.
Share your personal life with your colleagues
Working async sometimes can get lonely because of the lack of in-person or video interactions. So it is always good to use channels to share things that matter to you and interact with people. Cool hobbies that you have, pictures of food, music suggestions, and sometimes just some memes to laugh at during your workday.
Well, you don't have to apply everything at once, probably this is impossible. But you should start your way into the async work style. Maybe start by allowing your team to work on different moments of the day or improve your communication across the company. This will be a huge difference already.
And remember, great people are all around the world, don't restrict yourself to finding coworkers that live near you. But to be a world company, you have to be async.